Colorado State University Announces World-Renowned Researchers as Two Newest Monfort Professors

Colorado State University today announced two new recipients of the prestigious Monfort Professor Award, one of the university’s top honors established through a gift from the Monfort Family Foundation to help recruit and retain top-quality faculty.

N. LeRoy Poff, associate professor in the Department of Biology, and Tomislav Rovis, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, each will receive $75,000 yearly for two years to support innovative teaching and research activities. The award is provided in addition to the salary and support the professors already receive from the university. The awards were presented at the annual Celebrate Colorado State! luncheon.

"Dr. Poff and Dr. Rovis set high standards of excellence in teaching and research – and they well-represent the world-class faculty found at Colorado State University," said President Larry Edward Penley. "We are especially grateful for the ongoing, generous support of the Monfort family. Their gift has been critical in helping Colorado State University enhance its academic programs and attract and retain faculty of this caliber."

The selection of Monfort Professors was the result of an in-depth nomination and selection process that included input from all eight colleges at the university.

"The new Monfort Professors highlight the wide-ranging scholarship, dedication and vision of the research and teaching that are hallmarks of Colorado State University," said Anthony Frank, interim provost and senior vice president. "These outstanding professors skillfully integrate cutting-edge research, discovery and creation into the classroom, offering Colorado State students unparalleled learning opportunities."

The Monfort Professor program is the centerpiece of a $5 million gift given to the university in spring 2002 through the Monfort Family Foundation to create a series of enhancements to the university’s faculty, students and educational experience. The gift, which also supports the Monfort Scholars program, raised the total donations from the Monfort family and its foundations to Colorado State to more than $13.1 million.

"Our family believes in the excellence of the university’s faculty, students and the overall academic experience. We have been supporters of higher education for three generations," said Dick Monfort, member of the Monfort Family Foundation. "Through the Monfort Professor’s program, we are very pleased to support and build upon the exceptional faculty at Colorado State. These world-class faculty will create meaningful and rich educational opportunities and experiences for the university’s students."

N. LeRoy Poff, who received his doctorate at Colorado in 1989 and joined the biology department faculty in 1997, is considered a pioneer in the field of hydroecology. His seminal research in riverine and freshwater ecology focuses on testing how the structure and functional organization of biological communities such as invertebrates and fish are shaped by the natural, dynamic variation in patterns of water flow in streams and rivers. The research provides a basis for predicting how species populations and whole aquatic communities respond to landscape-scale alterations of the hydrologic cycle, such as land-use change and damming of rivers, as well as to regional climate changes.

Poff’s publications include more than 60 peer-reviewed articles, which have been cited nearly 1,700 times. He is a frequent speaker and presenter at national and international meetings, including the Plenary Presentation at international conferences in Korea and Spain last year. He also has an outstanding record of competitive research support and currently has active grants from four different federal agencies.  

Poff was inducted as an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow by the Ecological Society of America in 2004. That same year, he was also awarded a Land & Water Australia fellowship for a sabbatical visit to Griffith University, and he was selected a Kaesar Visiting Scholar by the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin.  

Poff, who is known on campus as a dedicated teacher and supporter of undergraduate research and graduate student training, plans to use his Monfort award to support additional postdoctoral and graduate research assistants to advance an international collaborative project among many leading river scientists to address questions of how river ecosystems can be sustainably managed in the face of growing human population pressures and climate change. His work will help enhance Colorado State’s international reputation as a locus of expertise in freshwater ecology and sustainable river management.

Tomislav Rovis, who joined Colorado State in 2000 after earning his doctoral degree from the University of Toronto in 1998 and serving as a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University, leads the Rovis Organic Chemistry Research Group at Colorado State. The research group focuses on the use of asymmetric catalysis in tackling problems of molecular complexity.

In March, Rovis was selected to receive the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship, the oldest and one of the most competitive fellowship programs in the United States. The fellowships are awarded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to honor and promote the science of outstanding researchers early in their academic careers.

In 2004, Rovis was awarded the Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, Award that supports the early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century, and the Amgen Young Investigator Award. He was honored with the GlaxoSmithKline Young Faculty Award in 2003.

Rovis, who is considered an effective and highly regarded teacher, has received several other awards and accolades including the Johnson & Johnson Focused Giving Grant and the 2004 Eli Lilly Granteeship. Since joining Colorado State, he has received four Merck Laboratories grants as well as grants from the American Chemical Society and the National Institutes of Health to support his research.

He has published more than 25 peer-reviewed journal articles and has given more than 35 invited seminars with about a dozen more scheduled for this year.

Rovis plans to apply his Monfort Professor award to advancing studies and finding more economical, value-added processes to address carbon dioxide fixation, an important research area for ecological as well as economic reasons.

Poff and Rovis join previously named Monfort Professors including John Belisle, associate professor of microbiology; A. Scott Denning, associate professor of atmospheric science; Karolin Luger, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; Kathleen Pickering, associate professor of anthropology; Yian Shi, associate professor of chemistry; and Ranil Wickramasinghe, associate professor in chemical engineering.