University of Illinois System

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

2022 University Scholars

Mary V. Ashley
Department of Biological Sciences, Chicago
Professor Ashley is a world expert on long-distance pollination, working in the field of population genetics and specializing in conservation biology.  She has participated or overseen research on a surprising and impressive array of organisms, from fish to birds to mammals.  With a $2.5 million NSF grant, she has built the Cultural Immersion in Milkweeds and Monarchs Advancing Science Education program, which is aimed at encouraging Latino/a/x students to pursue STEM fields.

Joanna E. Burdette
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chicago
Professor Burdette is recognized internationally in the fields of cancer biology and reproductive health.  Her collaborative and interdisciplinary research program focuses on women’s health, and specifically the use of botanical dietary supplements for treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer.  She is collaborating with researchers at Northwestern University and Draper Laboratory to examine the physiology of and possible interventions for polycystic ovary syndrome.

Judith A. Cook
Department of Psychiatry, Chicago
Professor Cook is a widely-recognized expert in intervention research, psychiatric epidemiology, mental health services, and translational science.  She has focused on community-based care, clinical interventions, and rehabilitation systems, with outcomes spanning improvement among diverse populations across the lifecycle, including mental disorders among adults and children with serious mental illnesses; people living with HIV, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions; and older adults.

Gloriana González
Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Urbana
Professor González conducts research on mathematics education with a focus on supporting teachers in attending to how students think during problem-based instruction.  Her research encompasses three interrelated topics:  1) understanding teaching actions that use students’ prior knowledge; 2) designing teacher professional development that attends to student thinking; and 3) establishing contexts for mathematical problem-solving.

Derek W. Hoiem
Department of Computer Science, Urbana
Professor Hoiem’s research has shown that geometry can be recovered through pattern recognition and parametric scene models, enabling 3D reconstruction from single images.  He further provided methods that exploit connections between object identities and scene layout, such as size, contact, and support, leading to more accurate and complete image interpretation.  He produced the first algorithm to generate 3D models from single photos of typical outdoor scenes.

Prashant K. Jain
Department of Chemistry, Urbana
Professor Jain’s research lab studies the interaction of light with matter, designs nanoparticle catalysts, and develops methods for mimicking plant photosynthesis.  His recent work shows that energy can be harvested from plasmons to forge energy-rich chemical bonds.  Under visible light excitation, energetic electrons can be extracted from plasmonic nanoparticles and utilized for driving chemical reactions that involve electron and proton transfer.

Orly Lazarov
Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, Chicago
Professor Lazarov’s nationally and internationally recognized research program focuses on neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease with particular emphasis in the field of neurogenesis.  Her work has emphasized the importance of the generation of new neurons – an area of science that has only recently been accepted.  She also has contributed substantially to understanding the relationship between neurodegeneration and diseases of the cardiovascular system.

DoKyoung (D.K.) Lee
Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana
Professor Lee’s research centers on the discovery, improvement, and optimized production of crop plants (biomass feedstocks) for delivering renewable sources of energy to a growing human population in a changing climate.  He has focused on perennial herbaceous biofeedstocks because of their enormous production potential, coupled with their ability to deliver important ecosystem services such as reducing soil erosion, sequestering carbon, and providing wildlife habitat.

Jennifer L. Martin
Department of Teacher Education, Springfield
Professor Martin is an exceptional scholar in the field of teacher education.  Her goal is “to investigate theory and practice in education through the critical intersectional lenses of race, ethnicity, social class, and gender.”  Her scholarship is particularly strong in the areas of application/engagement and teaching/learning and is significant and applicable to some of the most serious problems our society faces.  She has built a career around educational advocacy for marginalized and underserved populations

Amin Salehi-Khojin
Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, Chicago
Professor Salehi-Khojin and his research team have pursued fundamental studies on structure-property-processing correlations in 2D materials and explored their advantages over traditional materials.  They have synthesized 2D structures of graphene, phosphorene, MXenes, and several single-phase and alloyed transition metal dichalcogenides targeting specific application.  They have made major breakthroughs in energy conversion, storage, and transport.

Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar
Department of Occupational Therapy, Chicago
Professor Suarez-Balcazar is recognized locally, nationally, and internationally as a leading expert in community-based participatory research with Latinx families, especially those with children with disabilities.  She is strongly committed to social justice, action-oriented research, and the development of interventions to maximize health, well-being, and quality of life for all people, populations, and communities.

Carol Symes
Department of History, Urbana
Professor Symes is a well-respected leader in the fields of Medieval History, Classics, Theater, and Medieval Studies, an interdisciplinary field that includes all aspects of the Middle Ages.  Her research focuses on histories of communication and transmission:  the means by which people of the past exchanged ideas and information and the processes by which artifacts and understandings of the past are transmitted to future generations.

updated August 2022