Apr 302007
Authors: Anica Wong

Four professors were honored and bestowed the title of University Distinguished Professor on Thursday by President Larry Penley. This award is the highest recognition awarded for outstanding accomplishments in research and scholarship, according to a statement from the university.

“One of the major components of the value of a college degree is the reputation of the university you receive it from,” provost and senior Vice President Tony Frank said. “These people dramatically increase the reputation of CSU, simultaneously increasing the value of every CSU student’s degree.”

The four professors awarded are Karolin Luger, a biochemistry professor, Jan Leach, professor of plant pathology, John Sofos, animal sciences professor and Jorge Rocca, a professor of electrical engineering and physics.

“This is a really great honor,” Luger said. “It is a great incentive to work harder.”

Luger is doing research on the genome, or the blueprint of life, and how it fits into a cell. The ‘blueprint’ is physically large, but is fit in a very small cell.

“It is a profound physical packaging problem,” she said.

Luger teaches introduction to molecular genetics in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology and has received several prestigious grants to fund her work.

According to a press release, Leach is a microbiologist and plant pathologist who studies how plants defend themselves against pathogens.

She is a member of several prestigious science organizations and has spoken at various scientific meetings all over the world.

Sofos’ research deals with the safety of food, especially meat products and bacteria pathogens. According to Sofos, these pathogens can create major problems.

“They can cause abortions in pregnant women and other problems in the elderly,” said Sofos.

This research is particularly exciting to Sofos because of the attention it receives.

“There is interest and support by the public, the industry and the government,” Sofos said.

Sofos also enjoys teaching because he is training students who will continue to deal with issues of public health.

Rocca is researching the development of compact X-ray lasers and their many applications, according to a university press release.

He is the directory of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Science and Technology. This organization is based at CSU but is a partnership with the University of Colorado and the University of California, Berkeley.

One of the major projects that Rocca and his counterparts have been working on is the creation of the world’s highest spatial resolution extreme ultraviolet tabletop microscope. This amazing device can see objects that are 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

Only 1% of the faculty are Distinguished Professors, according to Frank.

Existing University Distinguished Professors select professors that they believe deserve the prestigious award. Nominations are evaluated and then the nominations are recommended to the President of the university, who then confirms the recipients.

“(The award) is the university saying how much we value and appreciate these professors,” Frank said.

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