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Friday, February 25, 2011

Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2011

Five IU professors promoted to distinguished rank

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EDITOR'S NOTE: A complete list of Indiana University Distinguished Professors, along with titled professors and additional information, can be found at

Feb. 25, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Five Indiana University Bloomington professors have been promoted to the distinguished rank. They are Geoffrey Fox, professor of computer science and informatics; Michael Larsen, professor of mathematics; Curtis Lively, professor of biology; William R. Thompson, Donald A. Rogers Professor of Political Science; and David Weaver, Roy W. Howard Professor of Journalism.

The rank of distinguished professor, the most prestigious academic appointment Indiana University can bestow upon its faculty, was created by the IU Board of Trustees in 1967. The title is conferred by the university president with approval of the board.

"A great education depends on great faculty who truly transform the lives of students," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "IU's distinguished professors have devoted themselves to igniting the curiosity and illuminating the minds of their students, while giving them the knowledge, skills and experience they need to succeed in life after graduation. Through their dedication to their students, superior scholarship and creative activity, they have made IU one of the world's leading centers of teaching and learning."

Nominations are made each year by faculty, alumni and students, among others, to honor outstanding scholarship, artistic or literary distinction, or other achievements that have won significant recognition by peers. Nomination materials are reviewed by the University Distinguished Ranks Committee, whose members forward up to five candidates to the president. Upon review and agreement, the president sends the names to the trustees for official action.

"While IU is fortunate to have many outstanding faculty, the distinguished professorship is typically limited to faculty who have pioneered or substantially transformed their fields of expertise, and in the process, have garnered international recognition," said Fred Cate, distinguished professor and C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law in the Maurer School of Law, who serves on the distinguished ranks review committee.

"Successful nominations usually include a careful discussion of the nominee's work, impact and the recognition it has received; an assessment of the nominee's research or creative work by the dean or chair; copies of all of the nominee's work; and many (sometimes dozens) of letters of support from prominent colleagues in the field," said Cate.

The new distinguished professors will be recognized formally at an event this April -- along with other university teaching award winners yet to be announced -- as part of the festivities marking the anniversary of Indiana University's founding in 1820. President McRobbie will preside over the faculty recognition banquet, which includes a reception, musical entertainment and a dinner for honored faculty and their guests.

Brief biographies of IU's new distinguished professors follow. Longer versions will be available online in April, along with those of the university's teaching award winners.

Geoffrey Fox, professor of computer science and informatics

A full, tenured professor since 1979 (when at Cal Tech) who came to IU Bloomington in 1997, Geoffrey Fox has supervised more than 60 Ph.D. theses, published nearly 1,000 papers, and received tens of millions of dollars of grant funding, yet his impact at the leading edge of Web 2.0 services such as social networking, distributed computing, parallel processing, data-intensive computing, and computational science and engineering has as much to do with quality as it does with quantity.

Fox (B.A., '64, M.A., '68, Ph.D., '67, Cambridge University), in addition to serving as a professor of informatics, computing and physics, is associate dean for graduate studies and research in the IU School of Informatics and Computing, and serves as director of the Digital Science Center at the Pervasive Technology Institute. A founding member of the National Science Foundation's Center for Research on Parallel Computation, Fox produced work on parallel computation that is recognized as the start of the revolution in scalable scientific computing and thus as having influenced the design and programming of virtually every high-end supercomputer in use today.

Michael Larsen, professor of mathematics

The achievements of Michael Larsen have been described as "remarkable" and "astonishing," and he has himself been labeled a "fountain of mathematical wisdom." Most notable about these terms of endearment is that they come from two different winners of the Fields Medal, often described as the Nobel Prize for mathematics.

Considered one of the top mathematicians in the world working in the interface of arithmetic algebraic geometry, combinatorial group theory, combinatorics and number theory, Larsen is recognized, in part, for his ability to straddle diverse areas of mathematics in original and unexpected ways. A full professor at IU since 2001 (B.A., '84, Harvard; Ph.D., '88, Princeton) and associate editor of the Indiana University Mathematics Journal, Larsen in 2008 founded the Bloomington Math Circle, an after-school program for mathematically-gifted elementary school students.

Curtis Lively, professor of biology

Why species have different sexes has been an area of intense interest for scientists. Indiana University Bloomington evolutionary biologist Curtis Lively (B.S., '77, Arizona State; Ph.D., '84, University of Arizona) was the first to provide hard, scientific evidence that something unexpected -- parasitism -- spurs host species to reproduce sexually.

In making the point, Lively invoked the University of Chicago's Leigh Van Valen's 1973 Red Queen Hypothesis, which argues that in a changing and challenging environment, species must continually evolve and adapt if the members of that species are merely to maintain their present evolutionary fitness. Asexuality has its benefits. But sexual reproduction may be favorable when a host species is under siege by parasites. The reason? Parasites tend to specialize in one type of physiology. Not two. Sexes, Lively showed, present parasites with a sort of physiological "moving target."

According to Lively's peers, a hallowed place in the literature seems certain for him.

"I am sure that when the puzzle of the evolution of sex is regarded as being solved, the name of one great scientist will stand out: Curt Lively," says Manfred Millinski, professor of biology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany.

William R. Thompson, Donald A. Rogers Professor of Political Science

Thompson, the Donald A. Rogers Professor of Political Science at IU Bloomington, is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the most important and productive scholars in the field of international politics. He is the author or co-author of 24 books and more than 150 articles and has published in the top journals of political science, international relations and comparative politics.

Much of his research involves the use of quantitative methods to study long-term patterns of change in the global system. He is a pioneer and a major proponent of a school of thought called the "long waves" or "long cycles" approach. One of the world's leading experts on the importance of sea power, he has focused particularly on theories about the importance of technological change and the rise of new industries as a major factor in international and domestic politics.

Thompson (B.A., '68, M.A., '69, Ph.D., '72, University of Washington) has been on the faculty at IU Bloomington since 1991. His books include Coping with Terrorism: Origins, Escalation, Counterstrategies, and Responses, The Comparative Analysis of Politics, Seapower in Global Politics, 1494-1993, On Global War: Historical-Structural Approaches to World Politics, and War and State Making: The Shaping of the Global Powers.

David Weaver, Roy W. Howard Professor of Journalism

David Weaver, the Roy W. Howard Professor in journalism and mass communication research since 1988, has taught and researched the field for more than 35 years. He has published nearly a dozen volumes of media research examining media agenda setting and politics, public opinion, newspaper readership, social science methods in reporting and the changing characteristics of American journalists. Most still are influential today throughout Asia, Europe and the U.S.

Writing about the field and the people who work in it, his books and articles, include Global Journalism Research: Theories, Methods, Findings, Future (2008), which details the opportunities and challenges facing journalism research. He and colleagues have published three editions of The American Journalist (2007, 1996, 1986), which surveyed journalists at key points in the industry's history. Weaver's work has won many honors, including the 1983 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications' Krieghbaum Under 40 Award to recognize excellence in teaching, research and service in journalism and mass communication.

An journalism faculty member at IU Bloomington since 1975, Weaver (A.B., '68, Indiana; M.A., '69, Indiana; Ph.D., '74, University of North Carolina) also received the 1993 MAPOR Fellow Award for significant contributions to public opinion research; the 2005 Trayes Award for outstanding contributions to mass communication scholarship; and the 2006 AEJMC Presidential Award for outstanding service to journalism education. He was named a Fellow of the International Communication Association in 2000 for his research contributions.

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