A Faculty of Discoverers and Teachers

A University's vitality grows from its faculty's accomplishments in combining groundbreaking research and inspired teaching. Throughout this University -- in laboratories, lecture halls and offices lined with books and scholarly journals faculty members apply their creativity, their insight, and their experience to uncovering new knowledge and then to conveying these findings to their students and their colleagues across the nation. At the University of Virginia, we value the life of the mind because it leads ultimately to action.

Recognized for Uncommon Excellence

Collectively, the University faculty -- some 1,760 strong -- represent a national resource. In fields as varied as eighteenth-century novels, developmental psychology, molecular biology, and biomedical engineering, they are the nation's pacesetters. One indication of the quality of their work is the honors they receive. This year, poet Charles Wright, the Souder Family Professor of English, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a select group of 250 nationally prominent artists, architects, writers, and composers. Wright, who has taught poetry at U.Va. since 1983, has published more than a dozen books and is a frequent contributor to The American Poetry ReviewThe Nation,  and The New Yorker.

Robert M. Berne, professor emeritus and former Alumni Professor of Physiology, and William A. Wulf, AT&T Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, joined seventeen other members of the University of Virginia faculty as members of the American Academy of Arts and Science. The academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams and other national leaders to recognize distinguished contributions to science, scholarship, public affairs, and the arts. Sandra Scarr, Commonwealth Professor of Psychology and a fellow of the academy since 1989, was elected to its governing council and was also chosen as president-elect of the American Psychological Society.

Answering Questions That Cannot Wait

Working individually or collaborating in teams across disciplines, University scientists are uncovering knowledge through their research that will have a direct effect on the quality of life. Uncovering new knowledge is an exacting endeavor, yet our researchers will tell you that there is little more thrilling or satisfying than discovery.

Elias Towe

In a laboratory not far from Scott Stadium, Elias Towe uses a highly specialized, computerized technique molecular beam epitaxy to create a new generation of semiconductors using photons (light) instead of electrons (electricity) for information processing. Towe, an associate professor of electrical engineering and recipient of the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, believes this new, light-powered computer chip will usher in an age of faster, smaller, and more powerful devices.

Richard Guerrant, the Thomas H. Hunter Professor of International Medicine and chief of the Division of Geographic and International Medicine, is one of the world's leading experts on cholera and other gastrointestinal ill nesses. With support from the Kellogg, Rockefeller, and Clark foundations as well as from the National Institutes of Health, Guerrant and a team of researchers from U.Va. and collaborators in Brazil are studying the underly ing processes by which gastrointestinal and other parasitic diseases attack cells. The goal is to identify the impact of these diseases on health and nutrition, and develop new diagnostic tools, vaccines, and therapies to reach them. These advances will have a beneficial effect on the developing world, but they also have important applications for patients in the United States. With the aid of U.Va. chemistry professor Timothy Macdonald, Guerrant and his colleagues are developing a new oral therapy that will promote rehydration and nutrition in patients in U.S. intensive care units.

Richard Guerrant

Julia Hsu

The questions researchers can pose are limited only by the range of their imaginations, but their ability to answer them is constrained by the quality of their tools. Electron microscopes and spectroscopy have made it possible for researchers to deduce information about extremely small materials, but until recently they could not observe optical properties like color and reflectivity. Julia W. P. Hsu, an assistant professor of physics and a National Science Foundation Young Investigator, has solved this problem by pioneering the near-field scanning optical microscope, which channels light through a specially prepared optic fiber. With this microscope, Hsu and other researchers can view objects 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

Efforts to protect the environment are underway in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, where professor Giorgio Carta and his colleagues conduct research on environmentally conscious chemical manufacturing. With the help of a University grant, they are devising inexpensive, nonpolluting alternatives for technologies that require costly waste treatment or environmental restoration. Their work has broad applications in industries that produce chemicals, drugs, paper, textiles, and plastics.

Funding Inspiration

University researchers have been extraordinarily successful in gaining support from public and private sources. In 1994-95, the University of Virginia attracted a record $136.5 million for research, an impressive validation of the quality of research underway on Grounds during a period when grant funding has become increasingly scarce.

The Board of Visitors established the Academic Enhancement Program (AEP) to give unusually promising research and teaching efforts an initial boost or to encourage them to reach the next level of inquiry. The first AEP projects, funded in the 1980s with $10 million drawn from the endowment over five years, attracted an additional $20 million in external support as the projects gained the attention of government agencies, corporations, and private foundations.

This year the Board of Visitors received seventy applications from faculty members and approved a $5.3 million investment over three years in ten projects. Among the projects funded were grants to physics professor S. Joseph Poon and materials science professor Gary J. Shiflet to explore the fundamental properties of aluminum glasses, which the two discovered in 1988; to Herman H. Shugart, Jr., the W. W. Corcoran Professor of Environmental Sciences, to establish a Global Environmental Change Program to develop and test a dynamic global vegetation model to predict changes in the terrestrial surface; and to Richard Rorty, University Professor of the Humanities, to create a visiting lecture program on the topic of theory in the social sciences and humanities.

National Leaders Among our Own

Because of their long and continued record of outstanding achieve ment, members of our faculty have been chosen for national leader ship. Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English, just completed her second year as Poet Laureate of the United States. University President John T. Casteen, III, chairs the Commission on Colleges for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and heads up the President's Advisory Council of the Association of Governing Boards. Professor of computer science Anita K. Jones is in her second year as the director of defense research and engineering within the U.S. Department of Justice.

Poet Laureate Rita Dove, whose book, Lady Freedom Among Us, was selected as the four millionth volume acquired by the University Library last fall.

Inspired Teaching From Classroom to Cyberspace

This year, U.S. News & World Report   included a new ranking of schools where the faculty "has an unusually strong commitment to undergraduate teaching." The University of Virginia was listed eleventh in this commitment among its peer group of top national universities.

A pressing problem for students and educators alike is the explosion of knowledge. Students must master a body of material that is unprecedented in its scope, complexity, and depth. Appropriately, the University has turned to information-age technology to address these trends. The Grounds-wide TeleTutoring System, under development by computer science professor Jorg Liebeherr, will create a number of on-line alternatives to the traditional classroom. The virtual classroom, for instance, will allow instructors to include video, data displays, and graphical images in presentations to students working at computer workstations around Grounds.

Other faculty members are creating multimedia programs to im prove classroom presentations and textbooks. Larry G. Richards, director of the Center for Computer-Aided Engineering and associate professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, is designing a multimedia program to illustrate material properties and balances, conservation principles, and electrical circuits. Jeff P. Rafensperger, assistant professor of environmental sciences, working with colleagues George M. Hornberger and Patricia L. Wiberg, is creating a CD-ROM-based textbook for physical hydrology. These projects, and nine others, are being supported by the University's Teaching and Technology Initiative.

Linda K. Bunker, a faculty member at the Curry School of Education since 1973, was presented with the Thomas Jefferson Award, the University's highest honor, at Fall Convocation. President Casteen cited her "courage, strength of character, and steadfast commitment to her beliefs."

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