Nine faculty members receive named chairs, distinguished service appointments

Eight University faculty members-Kathleen Conzen, Martin Feder, Donald Harper, Jean-Luc Marion, Carole Ober, Harold Pollack, Christopher Rhodes and Michael Schill-have received named professorships, while Frederick de Armas, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Romance Languages & Literatures, Comparative Literature and the College, had the title of Distinguished Service Professor added to his current named chair. All of these faculty appointments became effective Jan. 1, 2010.


Frederick de Armas, a leading scholar in the literature of the Spanish Golden Age, has been designated the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities.

De Armas studies the impact of Italian Renaissance art on the literature and culture of Spain during the 17th century, focusing especially on Cervantes' Don Quixote and Lope de Vega's theater. Other interests include the politics of astrology, magic and the Hermetic tradition (of veiled or indirect references); ekphrasis (verbal descriptions of visual artworks); the relations between the verbal and the visual, particularly between Spanish literature and Italian art; and the interconnections between myth and empire during the rule of the Habsburgs.

His most recent books include European Literary Careers: The Author from Antiquity to the Renaissance (2002), Writing for the Eyes in the Spanish Golden Age (2004), Ekphrasis in the Age of Cervantes (2005) and Quixotic Frescoes: Cervantes and Italian Renaissance Art (2006). He also co-edited Hacia la tragedia 'aurea; lecturas para un neuvo milenio (2008). Ovid in the Age of Cervantes is slated for publication this year by the University of Toronto Press.

De Armas joined the UChicago faculty in Romance Languages & Literatures in 2000, after serving as the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor in Spanish and Comparative Literature at Pennsylvania State University. A former president of the Cervantes Society of America, his honors include the University's 2007 Graduate Teaching Award, and three National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships.

De Armas received his doctorate in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1969.


Kathleen Conzen, an expert on the social and political history of the United States in the 19th century, has been named the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor in History and the College.

Conzen's special interests are in issues of immigration, ethnicity, religion, Western settlement and urban development.

Much of her research and writing has used the German immigrant experience to explore links between migration processes and community formation; the construction and reconstruction of ethnic identities; the relationship between religious, ethnic and regional cultures; and the political integration of immigrants into the national community.

Two of Conzen's current projects are nearing completion: a book on 19th-century German-American efforts to develop and defend a theory of pluralistic democratic nationalism, and another on German peasant settlements in the frontier Midwest. Works on America's diasporic German Catholic milieu and patterns of rural-to-urban migration in the 19th- and early-20th-century United States also are under way.

 She is the author of Germans in Minnesota (2003) and numerous articles on German immigration to the United States and other related topics.

Conzen received a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She served on the faculty at Wellesley College before joining the Chicago faculty in 1976.


Martin Feder, an internationally recognized authority on how organisms adapt to their environments, has been named the Elise and Jack Lipsey Professor in Organismal Biology & Anatomy.

A member of the committees on Genetics, Genomics & Systems Biology, Evolutionary Biology, and Molecular Pathogenesis & Molecular Medicine, Feder focuses on how fruit flies respond to the challenge of extreme temperatures through production of heat-shock proteins, which deter the aggregation of proteins damaged by heat. 

The work studies temperature stress in natural populations of fruit flies, molecular mechanisms of temperature tolerance in the laboratory and changes in the regulation of gene expression.

Recently he and colleagues discovered how heat-shock genes evolve through gain or loss of mobile genetic elements. Earlier work ranged from studies of skin breathing in amphibians, to diving of sea snakes in the Philippines. He also is a thought leader in evolutionary physiology and evolutionary and ecological functional genomics, two interdisciplinary fields.

A 1973 summa cum laude graduate of Cornell University with a 1977 Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, Feder came to UChicago as a postdoctoral researcher in Anatomy and as a lecturer in the College, joining the faculty in 1979. He continues to teach physiology in the College, and was appointed Master of the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division and Associate Dean of the Division and the College in 1988. He was named Faculty Dean for the Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine in 2004. In this role he promotes career development of faculty.


Donald Harper, an expert on ancient and medieval Chinese religion, magic and science, has been named the Centennial Professor in Chinese Studies.

The recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim fellowship, Harper is researching a book titled Occult Texts and Everyday Knowledge in China in the Age of Manuscripts. The project is based on numerous Chinese manuscripts, dated between the fourth-century B.C. and 10th-century A.D., which came to light in the 20th century in archaeological excavations and chance discoveries. Focusing on manuscripts related to the occult, Harper is examining how such recorded knowledge affected everyday life.

He also has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and from Germany's Humboldt Foundation.

His publications include Early Chinese Medical Literature (1998), a collection of translations of ancient manuscripts, and research articles for publications such as the Journal of Asian Studies, Cambridge History of Ancient China, Religions of China in Practice and the Journal of Gastronomy.

A former professor at the University of Arizona, Harper joined the UChicago faculty in East Asian Languages & Civilizations in 1999. Harper had previously held visiting professorships at UChicago, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Harper received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.


Jean-Luc Marion, who has authored a diverse range of work that has greatly influenced modern philosophy and theology, has been named the Andrew Thomas Greeley and Grace McNichols Greeley Professor in the Divinity School. A Visiting Professor at Chicago since 1994, Marion has been serving as the Nuveen Visiting Professor in the Divinity School since 2004.

 A member since 2008 of the distinguished Acad'emie Francaise, he is among the best-known living philosophers in France and is widely regarded as one of the leading Catholic thinkers of modern times.

He has published several books on Descartes' ontology, rational theology and metaphysics, focusing especially on medieval sources and using modern patterns of interpretation.

He is the author of The Idol and Distance and God Without Being; Reduction and Givenness; Being Given: An Essay on the Phenomenology of Givenness; In Excess: Studies on Saturated Phenomena; and The Erotic Phenomenon: Six Meditations.

He has recently published Au lieu de soi. L'approche de saint Augustin (first edition, 2008; second edition, 2009; English translation forthcoming). He is currently working on two books; one titled Negative Certitudes and another on the myth of Cartesian dualism.

He was awarded with the 1992 Grand Prix du Philosophie de l'Acad'emie Francaise, and the 2008 Karl-Jaspers Preis.

He received a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne in Paris, where he taught as a visiting professor.


Carole Ober, an authority on genes that influence complex biological behaviors, has been named the Blum-Riese Professor in Human Genetics and Obstetrics & Gynecology.

For the last 15 years, Ober mostly has focused on the development and testing of mathematical techniques to map the genes involved in potential disease-related traits and on the Hutterites, a genetically isolated U.S. religious community descended from about 90 people. The Hutterites, who came to the United States in 1874 and settled in small farming colonies in what is now South Dakota, provide an ideal community for genetic studies because they live communally, share resources and maintain a traditional lifestyle. Because they have similar, but not identical genomes, the genes that make a difference are easier to detect.

In a 2008 study that began with the Hutterites, but was extended to other groups, Ober and colleagues showed that a tiny variation in the gene known as CHI3L1 increases susceptibility to asthma, bronchial hyper-responsiveness and decline in lung function, a finding that connects asthma susceptibility to a new pathway at the protein and genetic levels.

Other recent studies, again focusing on the Hutterites, have uncovered connections on the relationship between human fertility and the variations in the genetics of the immune system. These studies, looking at genes related to immune system function in humans, have identified novel genes that influence reproductive traits in men and women.

Ober received her PhD from Northwestern University. After a post-doctoral training there, she came to Chicago's Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology in 1988.


Harold Pollack, an expert on public policy and public health, has been named the Helen Ross Professor in the School of Social Service Administration.

He is also faculty chair of the Center for Health Administration Studies and co-directs the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which is developing innovative strategies to deal with youth violence that can be scientifically evaluated.

His recent research has looked at HIV and hepatitis prevention efforts for injection drug users; drug abuse and dependence among welfare recipients and pregnant women; infant mortality prevention; and child health.

Over the past 10 years, Pollack has examined these issues in a series of collaborations funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Substance Abuse Policy Research Program and the National Institutes on Drug Abuse. This research demonstrates that illicit drug abuse and dependence, in fact, are rare among welfare recipients. With Crime Lab colleagues and community partners, he is now helping to evaluate violence prevention interventions in 15 Chicago Public Schools.

Pollack serves on three committees appointed by the National Academy of Sciences. His research has been published in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, American Journal of Public Health, Health Services Research, Pediatrics, and Social Service Review.

Before coming to SSA, Pollack was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at Yale University and taught Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

A faculty member at UChicago since 2003, Pollack received a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.


Christopher Rhodes, an expert on the molecular mechanisms that control the production of insulin by pancreatic beta cells and how this process goes awry in diabetes, has been named the Kovler Family Professor in Medicine.

In Rhodes' laboratory, researchers study how insulin stores in beta cells are kept at optimal levels and ready for use when needed. They focus on the metabolic signaling pathways that control this poorly understood process.

They also study key molecular events that control beta-cell growth and regeneration. Understanding this system will help explain how the loss of these beta cells contributes to the onset of type 2 diabetes, and it may lead to new ways to increase beta-cell growth or promote beta-cell survival by identifying novel therapeutic targets that could delay or even prevent the onset of diabetes.

Rhodes and his research team also provide an international service for evaluation of beta cells derived from alternative renewable sources (such as stem cells) that could be used to treat type 1 diabetes by cell-replacement therapy.

Born in England, Rhodes earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of London in 1984. He completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School and at Cambridge University. He held faculty positions at Harvard Medical School, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Washington, prior to joining the Chicago faculty in 2006.

He also has been active in diabetes and obesity research and advocacy. Rhodes served as chair of the American Diabetes Association's Council on Molecular, Cellular & Biochemical Aspects of Diabetes, and chair of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's medical and scientific review committees. He has received numerous awards for his work, notably the David Rumbough Award from the JDRF, their highest honor.


Michael Schill, the newly appointed Dean of the Law School and a renowned scholar of property law, has been named the Harry N. Wyatt Professor of Law.

While serving as dean, Schill continues to pursue his scholarship in real estate and housing policy, deregulation, finance and discrimination. He is the author of three books and more than 40 articles. He also is a co-author of the property law casebook used by more than half of all law students nationwide.

Schill was dean of the UCLA School of Law for five years before his appointment at Chicago, which began on Jan. 1. At UCLA, he successfully recruited leading legal scholars from top schools across the nation, and he launched three new legal research centers and two academic specialization programs there. Under his tenure, UCLA alumni participation in fundraising doubled and private philanthropy tripled.

A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, Schill was in private practice before joining the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a tenured professor of law and real estate. He then served as the Wilf Family Professor of Property Law at New York University School of Law and professor of urban planning at NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He also founded and directed the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.

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