Colorado State Bestows Highest Honor of University Distinguished Professor on Four Professors

Colorado State University President Larry Edward Penley today bestowed the title of University Distinguished Professor – the highest recognition awarded for outstanding accomplishments in research and scholarship – on four professors at the annual "Celebrate Colorado State" luncheon.

Together the honorees have taught students for nearly 100 years, published and presented hundreds of papers and received tens of millions of dollars in research grants. They are:

– Jan Leach, professor of plant pathology in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, College of Agricultural Sciences;

– Karolin Luger, professor of biochemistry, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Natural Sciences;

– Jorge Rocca, professor of electrical engineering and physics, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering; and

– John Sofos, professor of animal sciences, Department of Animal Sciences, College of Agricultural Sciences.

"These fine individuals join a very small, prestigious group of University Distinguished Professors because of outstanding accomplishments in their respective fields," Penley said. "The quality of our research and teaching is driven by the talent of our faculty. They ensure that we contribute to the development of new and useful knowledge – in keeping with our mission – but also expand recognition of Colorado State. We congratulate them on their achievements."

A maximum of 12 current faculty members at the University may hold the rank of University Distinguished Professor, which is a permanent designation that carries into retirement. To obtain the rank, faculty members are nominated through an extensive review process and must be approved by the current University Distinguished Professors. Penley approved the selections and secured endorsement from the University’s governing board.

Each University Distinguished Professor receives a special medallion and a permanent base salary increase of $7,500. Some have retired. Current members are Barry Beaty, Patrick Brennan and Edward Hoover, all in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology; George Seidel, Department of Biomedical Sciences; Holmes Rolston and Bernard E. Rollin, Department of Philosophy; Louis S. Hegedus and Robert Williams, Department of Chemistry; Graeme Stephens and Thomas Vonder Haar, Department of Atmospheric Science; Gary Smith, Department of Animal Sciences; and Stephen Withrow, Department of Clinical Sciences.

"Distinguished University Professors have received national and international competitive awards, prizes and honors for their scholarly research while providing invaluable learning experiences for students," said Tony Frank, senior vice president and provost, who is the highest ranking academic officer at Colorado State. "They are preparing a workforce that will tackle – and hopefully someday solve – some of the greatest global challenges of our time."

About the honorees:

Jan Leach

Jan Leach joined the university in 2004 after serving as a University Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology at Kansas State University. A microbiologist and plant pathologist, Leach is an authority on the molecular biology of how plants and pathogens interact; she studies how plants defend themselves against pathogens.

As demonstrated by her status as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Leach has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors. She chairs the Association for the Advancement of Science agriculture section and is president of the American Phytopathological Society. She is a member of the American Society for Microbiology Committee on Agriculture and Food Microbiology and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and of the American Phytopathological Society. She served as president of the International Society of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions from 1999-2001, and she was a member of Sen. Pat Robert’s Task Force on Biotechnology. From 2000-2004, Leach served as an advisory board member for the US Rice Genome Sequencing Project.

In the past four years, Leach has been invited to speak at scientific meetings including international engagements in France, Korea, Japan, Russia and the Philippines, and more than 30 national meetings. She serves as an honorary scientist for the Rural Development Administration of Korea

Karolin Luger

Karolin Luger joined Colorado State in 1999 and is one of the world’s foremost authorities in nucleosome structure, which is the basic unit for compacting DNA. Luger’s research focuses on the structure and function of eukaryotic chromatin. She led an extraordinary scientific breakthrough that effectively solved the three-dimensional structure of the nucleosome. The nucleosome is a spool-like basic building block of chromatin, the material in which possibly billions of DNA base pairs are compacted in an individual cell nucleus. This work is now cited in nearly every modern textbook of biochemistry and molecular biology.

In her first year alone at Colorado State, Luger was awarded five grants totaling nearly $1.5 million for her research, including a major, five-year National Institutes of Health grant and the prestigious Searle Scholar Award (Luger is the only Colorado State professor to have ever won this award). She also was named a Monfort Professor, one of the university’s top honors, in 2004. The award was established through a gift from the Monfort Family Foundation to help recruit and retain top-quality faculty.

In 2006, she was one of only 43 scientists chosen as investigators by the Chevy Chase, Md.-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute, an appointment that honors the nation’s most promising biomedical scientists.

Jorge Rocca

Jorge Rocca is a world leader in the development of compact X-ray lasers and their applications. He serves as director of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Science and Technology, which is based at Colorado State but is a collaborative effort with the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of California at Berkeley. New laser technologies developed out of the center impact numerous applications such as the development of the next generation of integrated circuits, nanofabrication, high-resolution imaging, spectroscopy and the diagnostics of dense plasmas. The NSF originally awarded the five-year, $17 million EUV Engineering Research Center (ERC) in October 2003; in April, NSF renewed it for an additional $12 million until 2011.

Most recently, Rocca’s team, working with its counterparts at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, created the world’s highest spatial resolution extreme ultraviolet tabletop microscope that can see objects more than 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

In 2005, Rocca was awarded a fellowship in the American Physical Society, which recognizes a very small percentage of members who have made advances in knowledge through original research and publication or made significant and innovative contributions to the application of physics to science and technology. Rocca, who obtained his doctoral degree in electrical engineering from Colorado State in 1983, also is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

John Sofos

John Sofos is internationally recognized for his research in food safety including detecting and controlling bacterial pathogens in food as well as addressing resistant bacteria. Sofos joined the faculty at Colorado State for a second time in 1987, after working for several years as a research associate and associate professor before becoming a senior adviser for the Food and Drug Administration.

Sofos presents research findings extensively including numerous international speaking engagements in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He has discussed internationally the question of who is responsible for food safety and hygiene, microbial resistance to food preservation procedures, and methods to control pathogens during food processing.

He has served extensively on committees and panels as an authority on food safety. For example, he recently served as a member of a panel to evaluate proposals for the selection of a Food Biosecurity and Defense Center for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He is a member of the Scientific and Policy Advisors board for the American Council on Science and Health and has served as co-chair and chair of the American Society of Animal Science’s Committee on Food Safety.

A prolific author, Sofos is among the most cited researchers on his topic and has published more than 220 refereed journal articles, seven books, 54 book chapters, 144 research reports and extensive abstracts and bulletins.