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University Scholars Program

Faculty excellence is the cornerstone of any university of high quality. There is no more important task at the University of Illinois than attracting and retaining the very best teachers and scholars. The University Scholars Program recognizes outstanding members of the faculty and provides each with a funding allocation to enhance their scholarly activities.

University Scholars awards are not made for a specific project or proposal; rather, they represent recognition of the recipient’s excellence and the University’s commitment to foster outstanding people and their work. Therefore, the awards are made through nominations, not by application.

As of 2013, each award consists of an allocation of $15,000 per year for a period of three years. Recipients may use the funds at their discretion to enhance their scholarly work through travel, equipment, research assistants, scholarly materials or other uses that support their university-related teaching or research. University Scholars funds cannot be used toward the recipients’ base salary but can be used to support a summer salary of up to two-ninths of base salary.

Eligibility to the University Scholar Program is limited to members of the University of Illinois faculty, as defined in the University Statutes, i.e., members of the academic staff who are tenured or receiving credit toward tenure.

Each university will determine its selection criteria and process. Prior to the end of the academic year, they will submit the selection results to the President. Formal announcements of new University Scholars will generally be timed to coincide with the beginning of the academic year following selection.

University Scholars from 1985 to current year

2023 University Scholars

Merle L. Bowen
Department of African American Studies, Urbana-Champaign
Professor Bowen is recognized internationally as an Africa and African Diaspora specialist. Her research focuses on the importance of land and labor to the struggle for black freedom and self-realization. She is dedicated to charting the struggles of black people in multiple national locations to obtain and maintain access to land, to enjoy the fruit of their labor, and to lead dignified lives.

Natasha Devroye
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Chicago
Professor Devroye is a leading international expert in information theory and wireless communications. She works in two main areas:  network information theory, which seeks the “capacity” or how fast one can reliably communicate data over networks, and use of machine learning for discovery novel error correcting codes, which harness powerful learning tools to improve on the state-of-the-art techniques to overcome transmissions errors in networks.

Ying Diao
Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Urbana-Champaign
Professor Diao’s research is in molecular assembly, which is inextricably linked to the origin of life, and additive manufacturing. She innovates printing technologies that can “instruct” functional polymers on how to assemble at the molecular, nanoscopic, and macroscopic scales. The goal of her research is to understand the fundamental molecular assembly process, and ultimately, to achieve sustainable manufacturing of materials and devices for environment, energy, and healthcare applications.

Kaiyu Guan
Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, Urbana-Champaign
Professor Guan is an environmental scientist who uses satellite data, computational models, fieldwork, and machine learning approaches to address how climate and human practices affect crop productivity, water resource availability, and ecosystem functioning. His goal is to increase our society’s resilience and adaptability to maintain sustainability of ecosystem services, food security, and water resources under the influence of climate change and anthropogenic drivers.

Shipra Gupta
Department of Management, Marketing and Operations, Springfield
Professor Gupta is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in the field of consumer behavior and sustainability. Her work focuses on three main research streams: 1) understanding psychological behavior of consumers under the conditions of scarcity, 2) examining issues of sustainability, specifically in the fashion industry, and 3) examining the role of fashion and style in constructing identity.

Robert F. Klie
Department of Physics, Chicago
Professor Klie is a renowned leader in analytical characterization of functional and regenerative materials using electron microscopy. His research accomplishments fall into three areas: 1) development of techniques for atomic-resolution imaging, 2) study and development of materials involved in electrochemical reactions that support new forms of battery technology, and 3) functional biomaterials science that seeks to develop new materials for medical and bio-engineering applications.

Cecília Leal
Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Urbana-Champaign
Professor Leal is a pioneer in biomaterials, researching lipids, peptides, and nucleic acid assemblies to advance understanding of their function as well as to design new materials for the delivery of drugs and genes to cells. She has developed liposomal formulations to efficiently release cancer drugs as a response to acoustic stimulus. She also studies oxygen transfer in diseased lung tissue to measure permeation.

G. Elisabeta Marai
Department of Computer Science, Chicago
Professor Marai is a scientist, researcher, and inventor whose main research interests are in visual computing and analysis, an area of computer science that handles images, 3D models, and the interaction between humans and data that can be represented visually. Over half of her work within visual computing has been on biomedical visualization, visual computing research inspired by problems coming from medicine or the underlying biology.

Brian G. Ogolsky
Department of Human Development & Family Studies, Urbana-Champaign
Professor Ogolsky is an internationally recognized leader in the field of relationship science with specific emphasis on romantic partners. He examines how relational partners maintain healthy romantic relationships across the life course as well as ways in which law and policy influence daily family life. His work has the potential to inform practitioners and promote policy initiatives designed to enhance family dynamics.

Alan Simon Pickard
Department of Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes and Policy, Chicago
Professor Pickard is an internationally recognized expert in patient-reported outcomes, which are essential to assess how individuals view their health and quality of life. In addition, he has contributed important scholarly work in medication safety, health technology assessment, the comparative effectiveness of treatments, and strategies to address the opioid epidemic. He is co-developer of LupusPRO which is licensed by the University of Illinois.

Karl J. Rockne
Department of Civil, Materials & Environmental Engineering, Chicago
Professor Rockne is a leader in the field of Environmental Engineering. He provided major support to the research community response to COVID as part of the CARES Act. He was invited to join the National Sewage Surveillance Intergovernmental Leadership Committee for wastewater-based epidemiology tracking of COVID. He is passionate about promoting an equitable and sustainable future and has been a strong supporter of research for underrepresented communities.

Deepak Shukla
Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Chicago
Professor Shukla is a leading molecular virologist with expertise in herpesviruses. He contributed to the discovery of HSV-1 entry receptors and establishing a link between the receptors and HSV-1 induced ocular diseases such as keratitis and retinitis. His work has developed proof-of-concept of a new design for a nanoparticle vaccine against herpes simplex virus, which may provide a novel therapeutic approach to treating herpes infections.

updated August 2023