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The University of Virginia's
Distinguished Scientist Award

This award from the Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR) was founded in 2006, and recognizes faculty from the basic, medical, or engineering sciences who have distinguished UVa through a significant body of research conducted here, as judged by publications, awards and peer reviews, and have made a major impact upon a field of study, both nationally and internationally. The award consists of a $10,000 contribution to the recipient’s laboratory for enhancement of its research activities.

The VPR solicits nominations annually for the Distinguished Scientist Award from department chairs and faculty.  For more information, please contact:

Dr. Phillip A. Parrish
Associate Vice President for Research
Office of the Vice President for Research
PO Box 400301
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904
(434) 243-4023

Announcing UVa's 2011-12 Distinguished Scientists

2011-12 Distinguished Scientist Awardees














Michael Scheld

Mike earned his MD degree from Cornell University Medical College where he was also honored as the recipient of the Connie Guion honorary scholarship for his 4th year of medical studies, election to Alpha Omega Alpha, and as the recipient of the “good physician award” by vote of his classmates “as best exemplifying the intangible qualities of the good physician”. Mike did his internship and residency at the University of Virginia followed by a fellowship in infectious diseases. He has remained on the faculty at the University of Virginia School of Medicine since 1979, rising through the ranks to Professor of Medicine in nine years. His current appointments are as the Bayer-Gerald L. Mandell Professor of Infectious Diseases, Professor of Medicine, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery, and Director of the Pfizer Initiative in International Health, all at the University of Virginia Health System.

Mike has made very important, innovative research contributions to several areas of infectious diseases including meningitis, an important area in infectious diseases in which he is recognized as one of the world’s authorities.  Mike has never been one to follow dogma or “conventional wisdom.”  Like all good scientists he challenges assumptions.  In addition to his work in meningitis, he has made important contributions to our understanding of bacterial pathogenesis in the areas of endocarditis, anthrax, and sepsis, and his work has led to new understandings and to reversal of the dogma in place at the time.  As just one example, he showed that preformed antibody protects against endocarditis due to viridans streptococci and Candida species, a finding that was in contradistinction to the standards of teaching of the time.  Some of his meningitis cytokine work led to the trials of steroids for bacterial meningitis, now a routine intervention that has saved many children from deafness and has saved lives.  Recently, he turned to a new area of investigation and is making some extraordinary and surprising observations regarding immune protection in sepsis, concepts he is calling “innate immune protection, and “innate immune memory.”







Haydn Wadley

Haydn received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Reading, UK, in 1979. Haydn has had an exceptional research career, initially at the British Atomic Energy Research Establishment (Harwell) at a time at which it was one of the world’s leading nuclear research laboratories. From there he moved to NIST as the Leader of a Group specializing in advanced material characterization. For the last 16 years he has held positions at the University of Virginia as Professor in Materials Science and Engineering, as Senior Associate Dean for Research for the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and most recently as University Professor. Haydn’s scientific contributions and scholarship are both broad and deep, and span fundamental materials research and materials design, and materials synthesis and processing. He has published extensively with over 400 technical papers, which have been cited almost 4300 times in the archival literature. His work exemplifies the important merger of science and engineering which is a foundation of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at UVA, using fundamental principles to guide the design, and then the development of sophisticated processing and fabrication of materials for use in engineering applications. Based upon his research, he has developed novel methods for production at industrial scale of novel materials and structures across a range of diverse and important applications, including nanoscale simulations to guide atomic assembly and the thermochemical processes operative during growth of metals and metal oxides, including development of approaches and new systems for growth and precise mixing of elements at the atomic scale known as biased target ion beam deposition, as well as the technology of electron beam directed vapor deposition.  Key applications are the deposition of layered structures to optimize the giant magnetic resistance of materials for spintronics-based microelectronics, and thermal barrier coatings for aircraft engines. In a completely different stream of fundamental research and materials design, his research involving the merger of materials science and solid continuum mechanics is the basis of the field of multifunctional cellular materials for lightweight structures which combine outstanding mechanical properties with other functions, such as thermal management in extreme environments, for structures with combined electrochemical storage of energy, and for blast resistance and impact resistance, which has become the best approach to addressing the issue of defending against improvised explosive devices. In these areas of research, he has inspired and led large US and international scientific and engineering teams to address major societal issues. His research and innovation has resulted in 18 patents, which have led thus far to the creation of 2 new companies located in Charlottesville, Directed Vapor Technologies, Inc. and Cellular Materials International, Inc., and to IP licensing to the commercial sector by UVA.

Haydn’s service to his profession, the University and the nation is exceptional. He has chaired TMS committees and divisions, served as the Senior Associate Dean for Research in SEAS, and was also President of the UVA Patent Foundation for 4 years. During all this time, he continued to maintain a large research group. As University Professor, the University’s highest distinction, Haydn is one of a small number of professors who report directly to the President of the University.



Judith White

Prof. Judith White received her Ph.D. in Biophysics from Harvard University, and began her academic career at UCSF in 1985. After a stellar early career Judy was recruited to UVA in 1994 as a Professor of Cell Biology and Microbiology. She was an incredible catch for the institution as well as the Department of Cell Biology, and her arrival raised outside awareness of UVA in the fields of cell biology and virology considerably. Judy’s presence here had a major influence in the decisions by other faculty in Cell Biology to move to UVA. She has set high standards of scholarship, scientific achievement, and academic community and has been relied upon to grow the Department towards greater excellence.

Judy’s scientific discoveries and impact on biomedical science have been both numerous and of exceptionally high quality, as documented in the letters of reference in support of her nomination for this award (4 outside and 3 internal). William Wickner at Dartmouth, a world leader in the field of intracellular membrane trafficking and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, describes her fundamental, original, and rigorous contributions to our understanding of the problem of membrane fusion. Robert Lamb, who is a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator at Northwestern University, a member of the National Academy of Science, and a world leader in studies of viral pathogenesis, describes her important contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms of viral entry into cells and sums up with the remarks that she “is a star in her field and brings great credit to UVa”. Sondra Schlesinger is a Professor Emeritus at Washington University and a highly regarded and accomplished virologist with many honors and recognitions, including several top leadership positions at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She describes why her admiration for Judy’s numerous contributions to understanding viral entry and membrane fusion led her to nominate Judy to be a fellow of the AAAS (to which she was elected in 2009). Robert Doms, Chair of the Dept. of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania and a leader in the field of virus entry into cells, describes the importance of her work to understanding viral entry mechanisms and membrane fusion and comments that she “is the most distinguished virologist at UVA”. William Petri, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health in the Dept. of Medicine at UVA describes the seminal nature of her discoveries as the basis for development of anti-HIV and other anti-viral therapies. Two other letters are from 3 of her current colleagues in virology/infectious diseases (Gary H. Cohen; along with Roselyn J. Eisenberg and Christopher Broder) who attest to the importance of her current work on Ebola virus entry into cells.


2010-11 Distinguished Scientist Awardees

(Photos by Dan Addison)

Thomas Gallagher

Thomas F. Gallagher

Professor Gallagher is world renowned for his research in atomic physics and was awarded the Davisson-Germer Prize of the American Physical Society (APS) for his “seminal elucidation of the characteristics and collisional behavior of highly excited states of atoms” known as “Rydberg atoms”. They are of interest because they have exaggerated properties and display the underlying physics of phenomena with particular clarity. His research has been focused on the interaction of atoms with radiation fields from the very weak 300K black body radiation to fields strong enough to ionize an atom, the interactions within an atom leading to autoionization, and interatomic interactions such as the long range resonant dipole-dipole interaction. The understanding derived from this work finds application in diverse fields, including atomic frequency standards, high intensity laser physics, plasma physics, molecular spectroscopy, and quantum computing.

His book, “Rydberg Atoms” constitutes the reference in the field, and his research has had, and continues to have, enormous impact in Rydberg physics. Professor Gallagher received his A.B. from Williams college in 1966 and his Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard University in 1971. He became UVA Professor of Physics in 1984 after serving as Senior Physicist and Program Manager at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, where he served as Chair of the Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics, and a Fellow of the Optical Society of America. He was named the Outstanding Scientist of Virginia in 1997.

Patrice Guyent

Patrice G. Guyent

Professor Guyenet has brought great distinction to himself and UVa since joining the faculty in 1978 through his important contributions to two distinct fields of neuroscience – the neural regulation of the circulation and the neural control of breathing. His PhD, mentored by Dr. Jacques Glowinki, Professor at the College de France, was granted in 1976 by the Université de Paris and was followed by two years of postdoctoral study at Yale University under the direction of Dr. George Aghajanian. During these formative years Dr. Guyenet explored how the loss of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which causes Parkinson’s disease, impairs motor activity. Soon after joining the Pharmacology department at UVa in 1978, he turned his attention to the role of the mammalian brainstem in the control of the circulation. This research led his laboratory to identify several critical components of the neural circuit that stabilize blood pressure and to elucidate the mechanism of action of certain blood pressure-lowering drugs. Since 2004 his research has focused upon central respiratory chemoreception, the process by which carbon dioxide regulates breathing, thereby maintaining tissue pH constant despite the continually changing metabolic production of this gas. He identified a cluster of lower brainstem neurons (the retrotrapezoid nucleus or RTN) that are exquisitely responsive to increases in carbon dioxide levels in vivo and in vitro. The identification in 2006 of transcription factor Phox2b as a marker of the RTN neurons is viewed a notable breakthrough in his field which has enabled his lab to adapt the recently developed optogenetic methodology for the purpose of demonstrating that the RTN neurons drive breathing selectively in vivo. The discovery that Phox2b is expressed by RTN neurons also had important biomedical consequences since only a few years before, Phox2b mutations were identified as the cause of congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS), a genetic disease in which respiratory chemosensitivity is virtually absent and breathing stops during sleep. His work on RTN pioneered the concept that the life threatening respiratory deficits of CCHS could be explained by the selective loss of these few thousand CO2-sensitive neurons. This theory is now supported by a rapidly increasing body of genetic and other evidence from several laboratories in the US, the UK, France and Brazil.

Dr. Guyenet’s research on the neural control of the circulation is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH-HLBI) that will soon be renewed for the 30th consecutive year following a 10-year Merit Award. His recent application to the NIH-HLBI to support his research on breathing recently received a perfect score (first percentile).

Kodi Ravichandran

Kodi S. Ravichandran

Professor Ravichandran joined UVa in 1996 as Assistant Professor, becoming Associate Professor in 2000 and Full Professor in 2004. Prior to joining UVa, he received a degree in Veterinary Medicine from Madras Veterinary College, India, his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) in 1992, and conducted postdoctoral research in immunology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School in Boston. Over the past ten-plus years, he has ascended to the pinnacle of multiple competitive fields in medical science, especially in the fields of immunology and cellular turnover in the body. His research is focused upon mechanisms involved in specific recognition and removal of dying cells. Humans turn over ~ 1 million cells per second in the body, yet dying cells in healthy individuals are hardly seen, due to quick and efficient recognition of the dying cells by neighboring cells and subsequent disposal of the corpses. Disruption of cell clearance has been linked to developmental defects, autoimmune diseases such as Lupus and arthritis, as well as atherosclerosis. Ravichandran’s laboratory has addressed all aspects of the fundamentally important process of cell clearance, and made key contributions that have substantially advanced understanding of the signaling pathways and consequences of engulfment. His group has used tools at the molecular, cellular and whole organism levels. The results have significant implications for future therapies aimed at limiting inflammation.

2009-10 Distinguished Scientist Awardees

Rick Horwitz

Alan F. "Rick" Horwitz

Horwitz, the Harrison Distinguished Professor of Cell Biology, has conducted innovative research at the vanguard of emerging disciplines and led interdisciplinary research at the highest levels. He has made major discoveries in the fields of cell adhesion and migration and is a co-discoverer of the integrin family of proteins that mediate adhesion to connective tissues and other cells and regulate basic cellular phenomena like growth, survival and gene expression.

He is a pioneer and leader in the field of cell migration, where his papers on the role and regulation of adhesion and protrusion are considered to be classic. He is the founder and director of the Cell Migration Consortium, an $80 million NIH-sponsored "glue grant," comprising about 35 principal investigators from 25 institutions dedicated to developing new, interdisciplinary approaches to cell migration. Cell migration is central to the formation and regeneration of tissues including stem cell therapy. Abnormal migration contributes to many pathologies including metastasis, the spread of cancer cells throughout the body, and chronic inflammation in diseases like arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Donald Hunt

Donald Hunt

Hunt, University Professor of Chemistry and Pathology in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, is being recognized for his pioneering efforts to develop methods and instrumentation that set the standard for ultrasensitive detection and characterization of proteins and peptides in biological samples.

These contributions underpin proteomics, the field of research that studies proteins in the cells of the human body. The research has had a dramatic impact on studies in immunology, cell signaling, stem cell biology and the development of vaccines and treatments that stimulate the immune system to both fight and prevent cancer.

During a career spanning more than 40 years, Hunt is widely recognized for his groundbreaking contributions to the fields of mass spectrometry, a powerful analytical technique that is used to identify unknown compounds, to quantify known materials, and to elucidate the structure and chemical properties of protein molecules in cells, which play critical roles in determining the structure, function, and regulation of the body's tissues and organs.

Hunt is co-inventor on more than 25 patents and patent applications, has more than 350 scholarly publications to his credit, and ranks among the top 130 most highly cited chemists in the world. At U.Va., he has mentored more than 85 doctoral and postdoctoral students and taught organic chemistry to more than 14,000 premedical students.

Tim Wilson

Timothy D. Wilson

Wilson, the Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology in the College, has conducted groundbreaking research on reasoning, introspection and affective forecasting, resulting in new views of self-knowledge and decision-making. His 1977 publication in Psychological Review on humans' ability to report on their reasons for their feelings and choices, remains one of the most-cited papers in the field of psychology.

His 2002 book, "Strangers to Ourselves," put forth a new view of the nature of the unconscious. The author Malcolm Gladwell called it one of the most influential books he had ever read:

"In it, Wilson asks the question: what, at the end of the day, can we really know about ourselves? His answer: not much. Or, at least, not nearly as much as we think we can know. But it's a tribute to Wilson, that in giving that answer he is never disheartening or depressing."

Wilson's recent research on "affective forecasting," or the ways in which we predict our emotional reactions to future events, and the mistakes to which we are prone, was published in Science in 2007 and 2009.  He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of a 2001 All-University Outstanding Teaching Award.


2008-09 Distinguished Scientist Awardees


Richard Guerrant

Richard L. Guerrant

Guerrant, Thomas H. Hunter Professor of International Medicine, has been conducting research projects abroad with U.Va. students for more than 30 years. He founded and directs the Center for Global Health, a Universitywide initiative that addresses critical global health challenges. Guerrant's research has demonstrated that early childhood diarrhea can lead to serious physical and cognitive impairments later in life. He translated this basic research into preventive treatments that have improved the health and well-being of countless children in developing countries.

Guerrant has trained more than 150 postdoctoral fellows and students and has written more than 500 scientific and clinical articles. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. He recently received the Walter Reed Medal from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Michael Menaker

Michael Menaker

Research by Menaker, Commonwealth Professor of Biology, has focused around understanding the complexities of the circadian clock system and how it is organized within an organism. His pioneering circadian biology experiments demonstrated that a master, regulatory clock exists in a specific region of the hypothalamus. In more recent years, Menaker has been working to understand how this hypothalamic clock coordinates other clocks throughout the body.

Menaker has received a number of prominent honors, including election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Photobiology. He has published 219 papers, including several that are routinely cited. In addition, he has trained more than 50 students and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom have gone on to become leaders in the field. His seminal research and careful mentoring of a generation of chronobiologists have prompted his reputation as the "scientific father" of the field.

Tom Parsons

J. Thomas Parsons

Parsons, professor and chairman of microbiology and F. Palmer Weber Professor of Medical Research, studies cell migration. Since directed cell movement is implicated in development, tissue regeneration and disease, an understanding of these fundamental processes is critical to solving countless medical problems. Parsons opened new lines of inquiry with his discovery and characterization of several novel proteins. One of these proteins, focal adhesion kinase (FAK), was found to have a role in disease progression, particularly in cancer. Parsons' research has led to drugs now in human trials against metastatic cancer that inhibit the activity of FAK.

Parsons has published 174 papers, including six that have been cited more than 500 times. He has been very successful in attracting external funding, including the largest research grant made yet to the University, an over $80 million National Institutes of Health award for the Cell Migration Consortium,  a large-scale, interdisciplinary effort led by Parsons and Alan "Rick" Horwitz, professor of cell biology, that unites top researchers from around the globe in the quest to understand the complexities of cell migration.

Michael Weber

Michael J. Weber

Weber, professor of microbiology, Marion McNulty and Malvin C. Weaver Professor of Oncology and director of the U.Va. Cancer Center, uses cell biology, protein chemistry and molecular biology to understand cell growth and death on the molecular level. Weber launched a new field of research with his work on mitogen-activated protein kinases – a family of proteins that play a central role in normal and diseased cells. Weber's research has opened new possibilities for treating cancer and has profoundly influenced cell regulation, not only in cancer, but in inflammation, diabetes, and infectious diseases.

Weber has consistently attracted research funding from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. He ranks among the top 1 percent of scientists for paper citations in the Molecular Biology & Genetics category, according to Thomson Reuters. In addition, Weber received a prestigious MERIT award from the National Cancer Institute.


The 2007-08 Distinguished Scientist Awardees

Lester Andrews

Lester S. Andrews
Professor, Department of Chemistry

Andrews is a long-time professor in the Department of Chemistry who is well known for matrix-isolation spectroscopy research, an experimental method of studying the individual molecules of chemical compounds at very low temperatures. He has worked with every non-radioactive element in the periodic table and his work has fundamentally changed the understanding of chemical bonding in many elements, providing key insights for generations of chemists to come. 

Andrews’ research continues to expand the bounds of chemistry.  He and his colleagues recently created the first uranium-carbon triple bonded molecule.  This investigation, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contributes important insights to uranium chemistry.  Since uranium is used to fuel nuclear power plants and create weapons, a greater understanding of the element is imperative.

Ian Macara

Ian G. Macara
Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor of Microbiology

Macara is director of the School of Medicine’s Advanced Microscopy Facility. He is highly regarded for his research in two distinct areas of cell biology: nuclear protein transport and cellular polarity. His research has important implications for understanding the molecular basis for human diseases, including cancer.

Macara is recognized as a major scientific leader at U.Va. and beyond. He has been instrumental in acquiring state-of-the-art cellular imaging equipment for the Advanced Microscopy Facility, creating an invaluable resource for U.Va.’s scientists. In addition, he has over 165 publications, many of which appear in prestigious journals such as Cell, Science, and Nature. His citation index of 58 is extremely high, indicating the importance and regard his research has generated.


2006-07 Distinguished Scientist Awardees


Brian Duling

Brian R. Duling
Robert M. Berne Chair in Cardiovascular Research in the School of Medicine and professor in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics

Duling’s current work uses state-of-the-art techniques to investigate the regulation of flow in the cardiovascular system.  He has pioneered the use of the microscope in the investigation of the small blood vessels that control blood flow, and most recently his laboratory has established a co-culture system of endothelial and smooth muscle cells that will allow elucidation of the vital interactions that occur between these two cells.  This novel research has important implications for our overall understanding of the cardiovascular system as well as associated problems such as hypertension.

Hank Shugart

Herman H. (Hank) Shugart Jr.
W.W. Corcoran Professor of Environmental Sciences and professor in the Department of Biology

Shugart’s latest research involves the innovative computer modeling of forests and entire ecosystems in order to predict the effects of systems interactions and potential stresses such as climate change on forests, vegetation and animals.  At present, Shugart and his laboratory are engaged in a number of significant international and multidisciplinary research projects.  He is the chief scientist for the Northern Eurasian Earth Science Partnership Initiative, a vast research endeavor involving the collaborative efforts of 353 scientists and 186 different institutions.  In addition, Shugart’s lab is contributing to the Global Mammal Assessment—a collaborative project between U.Va. and Conservation International that entails the first comprehensive appraisal of the status of mammal species worldwide.



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