At the annual fall convocation, Case Western Reserve formally welcomes first-year students to its academic community. Since 2010, the ceremony in Severance Hall has acquired an additional significance as well. On this occasion, President Barbara R. Snyder announces the selection of outstanding faculty members as Distinguished University Professors.
The recipients of this title—the highest honor CWRU bestows on members of its professoriate—are recognized for exceptional achievements in research and scholarship, teaching, and service. All have brought international recognition to the university, and all continue to make important contributions both to Case Western Reserve and to the world beyond academia.
Three faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences are among the 14 Distinguished University Professors named thus far.
Cynthia M. Beall, the Sarah Idell Pyle Professor of Anthropology, is renowned for her pioneering research on human evolution and adaptation. For the past 30 years, she has studied populations that live at high altitudes, identifying biological adaptations that enable them to thrive in oxygen-poor environments. Through her comparative fieldwork in the Andes mountains, Tibet and Ethiopia, she has shown that these populations do not all adapt to their surroundings in the same way. Her discoveries about their genetic and physiological characteristics have opened up a new area of research in evolutionary biology and environmental physiology.
A Guggenheim Fellow for 2011-12, Beall has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Philosophical Society, and a recipient of the Human Biology Association’s Franz Boas Distinguished Achievement Award.
Beall is the founding director of the college’s Evolutionary Biology Program. In addition to offering advanced courses on such topics as Darwinian medicine, she teaches an introductory course on human evolution. Beall is also dedicated to promoting public understanding of science. She gives talks on evolution at such venues as the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and was a founder of Science Café Cleveland, a popular monthly forum for the discussion of current scientific issues.
Robert W. Brown, Institute Professor in the Department of Physics, works at the forefront of both basic and applied research. His early papers on the properties of elementary particles have led to high-energy experiments conducted by international teams of investigators, while his applied research teams have made advances in such areas as radiation physics, electromagnetics, muscle fatigue modeling and sensor development.
A faculty member since 1970, Brown has mentored more than 100 postdoctoral fellows, doctoral candidates, master’s students and undergraduates. Fifteen of those undergraduates were co-authors with him on published papers. His collaborations with students often continue long after they graduate or complete their postdoctoral training.
Brown has played a pivotal role in the emergence of several high-tech companies in Northeast Ohio. Many of the scientists who lead or work for these companies are former members of his research groups. By securing grants from Ohio Third Frontier and from federal agencies promoting economic development, he has brought significant funding to the university and to local startups.
Brown is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the recipient of university, regional and national awards for undergraduate and graduate teaching. He has been a leader in integrating technology into physics instruction, involving undergraduates as teaching assistants, and designing curricula to help students master physics concepts and remember them long after the exams are over. Recently, Brown has brought international attention to the university by creating flash cards for students preparing for the Graduate Record Examination. Demand for the cards, which the physics department distributes free of charge, has been overwhelming. Brown is currently working on a book titled What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know about College Physics!
Philip L. Taylor, the Perkins Professor of Physics, has had four physical phenomena and models named for him—an indication of the significance of his contributions to the theoretical physics of condensed matter. During his 49 years at the university, he has written on a remarkable variety of topics, ranging from earthquakes to fuel cells and from epidemiology to liquid crystals. A fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he received the William Fowler Award for Distinguished Research in Physics from the American Physical Society in 2003.
Taylor has mentored more than 50 doctoral and postdoctoral students, some of whom organized a symposium, Physics—A Way of Life, in honor of his 60th birthday. Equally dedicated to undergraduate education, he has collaborated with faculty colleagues in economics, history, geological sciences, political science and chemical engineering to design a SAGES seminar on energy and society. One popular feature of the course is a field trip to Taylor’s Cleveland Heights home, where he installed solar panels more than a decade ago.
Taylor’s record of service to the university includes periods as dean and as an elected member of the Faculty Senate. From 1985 to 1987, as executive director of the Michelson-Morley Centennial Celebration, he helped raise more than $1.5 million for a series of scientific, artistic and cultural events that greatly enhanced the university’s public profile. Beyond the university, Taylor is a media commentator on energy and environmental issues, offering expert analysis on such topics as the safety of nuclear power, the viability of alternative energy sources and policy responses to climate change.