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Seven CALS faculty receive college and department professorships

At CALS, we have the good fortune to be able to offer a number of college and departmental professorships and chairships. These titles, with accompanying funding, are a way to acknowledge faculty members for doing outstanding work, while encouraging and inspiring excellence across the college.

This academic year, seven CALS faculty members were selected to receive CALS or department professorships/chairships. The recipients are listed below.

Sam Butcher, professor of biochemistry. Butcher has been appointed as the Steenbock Research Professor in Biomolecular Structure, an appointment that includes salary and research support for five years. The Steenbock Research Professorship in Biomolecular Structure was established in 1965 when Evelyn Steenbock allocated an endowment from the Steenbock WARF accounts for its creation. Butcher’s research program combines x-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy and cryo-electron microscopy techniques to gain insight into the structure and function of RNA and ribonucleoprotein complexes in cells.

Zac Freedman, assistant professor of soil science. Freedman has been appointed as the O.N. Allen Professor in Soil Microbiology, which provides research and scholarly activity support for five years. The professorship was founded in honor of the late UW–Madison bacteriologist Oscar N. Allen and is designated for a faculty member in the Department of Soil Science doing work in the field of symbiotic nitrogen fixation or soil microbiology. Freedman’s research group explores the ecological, environmental and evolutionary forces that govern the composition of soil microbial communities and the ecosystem functions that microbes mediate, with a current focus on soil microbes in agricultural land and forests.

Katherine Henzler-Wildman, professor of biochemistry. Henzler-Wildman has been appointed as the Jean V. Thomas Professor in Biochemistry, which provides research and scholarly activity support for five years. This professorship was established through the estate of Jean V. Thomas, a UW–Madison alumna who enjoyed a 40-year career, becoming a successful leader in science and business. Henzler-Wildman, director of the National Magnetic Resonance Facility at Madison (NMRFAM), utilizes solid state NMR techniques coupled with in vitro and in vivo assays to provide critical insights into the function of ion channels in biological systems.

Aaron Hoskins, associate professor of biochemistry. Hoskins has been appointed as the Wasson Professor in Biochemistry of Higher Animals, which provides research and scholarly activity support for five years. The Wasson Professorship in Biochemistry was established through the estate of Louis W. and Laura S. Wasson to support research in the field of biochemistry with particular emphasis in the field of nutrition. Hoskins’ program focuses on expanding our understanding of gene expression in eukaryotic cells, including through the development of novel techniques to explore new questions. The single molecule assays developed by his team has allowed new insights into spliceosome complex assembly and function.

John Lucey, professor of food science. Lucey has been appointed as the Owen R. Fennema Professor in Food Chemistry, which provides research and scholarly activity support for five years. Fennema was a professor of food science at UW-Madison from 1960 until his retirement in 1996. He served on numerous committees, including the American Chemical Society, the Council for Agriculture Science and Technology and the Institute of Food Technologists. He was widely recognized for his seminal book for food science scholars, “Fennema’s Food Chemistry.” Lucey’s research interests cover a wide range of dairy technology and products including cheese texture and chemistry, gelation of milk, cultured products like yogurt, and the production and functionality of milk protein ingredients.

Laura Schechter, professor of agricultural and applied economics. Schechter has been appointed as the Olav F. and Elsie de Noyer Anderson-Bascom Professor in Agricultural Economics, which provides research and scholarly activity support for five years. The professorship was established by the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics through a gift from the estate of Olav F. Anderson. Olav received his bachelor’s in agricultural economics from UW–Madison in 1936, and Elsie her bachelor’s in mathematics from UW the same year. They lived in Washington, DC and both eventually worked for the USDA. Schechter studies topics related to risk and insurance, reciprocity and trust, vote-buying, sanitation, and technology adoption, with a focus on how social preferences change economic outcomes in low- and middle-income countries and how those preferences can be harnessed to improve outcomes.

Named Bascom Professorships
One faculty member was selected to receive a Named Bascom Professorship this year. These professorships are supported by donors as well as the UW Foundation through the Named Bascom Professorship program, administered by the Provost Office.

Tim Donohue, professor of bacteriology. Donohue has been reappointed to the Fetzer-Bascom Professorship, which provides research and scholarly support for five years. The professorship is named in honor of Wade Fetzer III, a UW–Madison alumnus who made many contributions to the university. Donohue’s research program focuses on analyzing pathways and networks that microbes use to grow, generate biomass, or produce alternative fuels from sunlight or other renewable sources of energy. Since 2007, he has served as the director of the UW-Madison-based Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, one of three bioenergy research centers established that year by the U.S. Department of Energy.