Colorado State University Announces 2011 Monfort Professor Award Honorees

Note to Reporters: Photos of Christian Puttlitz and Jennifer DeLuca are available with the news release at

Colorado State University today announced Jennifer DeLuca, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Christian Puttlitz, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, as this year’s recipients of the prestigious Monfort Professor Award, one of the university’s top honors.

The Monfort Professor Award was established in 2002 through a gift from the Monfort Family Foundation. Puttlitz and DeLuca will each receive $75,000 annually for two years to support their research projects and teaching efforts. The awards are in addition to the salary and support the professors currently receive from Colorado State.

The professors received their awards today at the annual Celebrate Colorado State event.

“Each year, thanks to the generosity of the Monfort Family Foundation, we award the Monfort Professorships to some of our most innovative and promising faculty,” said CSU President Tony Frank. “These professors are on the cutting edge in their fields, are highly respected by their colleagues, and provide unparalleled opportunities for learning to their students – and these awards enable them to take their research and scholarship to the next level. The Monfort Professorships truly represent an investment in sustaining an outstanding, world-class faculty here at CSU.”

Nominations for the Monfort Professor Award come from each of the university’s eight colleges. The final selections are made by a committee that looks for individuals who embody the philosophies of Colorado State and have made an impact both at the university and on a larger scale in their field. Recipients are often nominated by colleagues from Colorado State and other universities who recognize their contributions.

Jennifer DeLuca

DeLuca’s research focuses on the process of cell division, also known as mitosis. DeLuca’s work in this field examines the molecular mechanism of chromosome segregation and provides opportunities for advancement in understanding of the causes and the process by which birth defects and cancers occur at a cellular level.

In 2009, DeLuca was named a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences, one of only 17 across the nation. The Pew Scholar Award is presented to early-career scholars who demonstrate exceptional promise in advancing research about human health. The award included a $240,000 grant for her research.

DeLuca’s research laboratory is currently supported by competitive awards from the National Institutes of Health totaling more than $2 million. She was also a recipient of the Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Award from the March of Dimes in 2007, which is designed to support scholars just beginning their independent research careers.

“When I consider the intent of the Monfort Award to recognize the contributions of our finest faculty members, Dr. DeLuca is at the top of my list of deserving candidates,” said Jan Nerger, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “Her research is well funded and she has been recognized both nationally and internationally for her work—her contributions to cell biology and her reputation in the field are impressive, especially given how early she is in her career. Her contributions to research, teaching, mentoring and service set her apart from other stellar faculty.”

In 2009, DeLuca served as a session chair at the American Society of Cell Biology’s annual meeting. She has also been an invited speaker at the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), and the Dynamic Kinetochore Workshop at the Marie Curie Research Institute. In 2009, she received the FASEB Young Investigator Award.

DeLuca has been a faculty member at Colorado State since 2007. She received her doctorate in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the University of California-Santa Barbara in 2000 and completed her postdoctoral work in cell biology and microscopy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Christian Puttlitz

Puttlitz is associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the School of Biomedical Engineering, and the Department of Clinical Sciences. He also serves as co-director of the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Research Laboratory. His research focuses on experimental and computation techniques to investigate orthopedic conditions and their treatments, specifically examining the biomechanics of the human spine. Puttlitz and his research team have developed a wireless sensor that can be implanted at the site of a bone fracture to help doctors assess whether the bone is healing properly.

“Dr. Puttlitz has demonstrated that he is very deserving of the recognition accorded by the Monfort Professorship,” said Fred Smith, professor emeritus in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who nominated Puttlitz for the award. “Not only has he demonstrated superb scholarship, he is also making a significant impact on the quality of the biomedical engineering program research and educational activities on campus.”

In the past five years, Puttlitz has obtained more than $6 million in external research funding, including successfully competing for a National Institutes of Health grant. In 2007, he was awarded a grant from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade for his work on improving a device used in cervical spine surgery. His research is currently funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health National Institutes of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, as well as the NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

In 2010, Puttlitz received the Whitecloud Basic Science Award at the International Meeting on Advanced Spine Techniques. In 2008, he was awarded the George T. Abell Outstanding Early-Career Faculty Award from CSU’s College of Engineering. Puttlitz has also been responsible for developing new master’s and doctoral degree programs in the School of Biomedical Engineering. He serves as a grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, Veterans Administration, National Science Foundation, and Department of Defense Medical Research Program. He is also the youngest applicant ever awarded membership to the Cervical Spine Research Society.

Puttlitz has been a faculty member at Colorado State since 2005. He received his doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of Iowa in 1999 and completed his postdoctoral work in orthopedic bioengineering at the University of California-San Francisco.

About the Monfort Family Foundation

The Monfort Family Foundation is a family-directed charitable organization established by Ken Monfort for his parents, Warren and Edith Monfort. The Foundation provides scholarships for exceptional students, supports outstanding faculty and funds public lectures by international leaders. More information about all of the Monfort Family Foundation’s initiatives at Colorado State can be found at

Previous Monfort Professors

The Monfort Professors program helps to recruit and retain high-quality faculty at CSU. Previous Monfort Professors include Kevin Crooks, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology; Sammy Zahran, Department of Sociology; Rajiv Khosla, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences; Venkatesan (Mani) Manivannan, Department of Mechanical Engineering; Frank Dinenno, Department of Health and Exercise Science; Jacob Roberts, Department of Physics; Randy Bartels, Department of Electrical Engineering; David Thompson, Department of Atmospheric Science; N. LeRoy Poff, Department of Biology; Tomislav Rovis, Department of Chemistry; Karolin Luger, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Ranil Wickramasinghe, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; John Belisle, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology; Kathleen Pickering, Department of Anthropology; A. Scott Denning, Department of Atmospheric Science; and Yian Shi, Department of Chemistry.