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June 25, 2018    

First faculty hires from the President’s Distinguished Faculty Hiring Program announced
New, $60 million initiative will expand world-class classroom, research talent

The first seven professors have been hired under a new initiative launched by the University of Illinois System to add more world-class faculty and build on its global standing as a leader in education and innovation, President Tim Killeen announced Monday.

The three-year, $60 million initiative was created to recruit faculty of national and international distinction in a broad range of disciplines who will expand the exceptional scholarship that attracts students and research funding to the system’s three universities.

Killeen said the first seven professors hired under the President’s Distinguished Faculty Hiring Program will add acclaimed experts in electronics innovation, cancer research and treatment, stem cell and regenerative medicine, palliative care and pain management, public budgeting and finance, program and policy evaluation, and the history of science.

“Faculty are the heart and soul of every university. Great faculty define them, through groundbreaking scholarship that carves a unique identity and distinct reputation for excellence,” Killeen said. “These investments will expand our ranks of distinguished, world-class faculty, and further lift our standing as a global leader in education and discovery.”

Faculty hired in the first round of the program are:

University of Illinois at Chicago

Eben Alsberg, who will start this fall as a professor in the Colleges of Engineering and Medicine, Richard and Loan Hill Department of Bioengineering. Alsberg is currently a professor at Case Western University in one of the top biomedical engineering programs in the country. His research expertise is in the areas of advanced biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, biomechanics, bioactive factor delivery, and control of stem cell behavior. One of his primary focuses is engineering strategies to replace and/or regenerate lost, damaged and diseased tissues, and he has published over 115 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. With over $11 million in current and prior funding, he is currently principal investigator on four National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants and co-investigator on two others. He is an elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and will hold the Richard and Loan Hill Professorship in Bioengineering.

Ardith Zwyghuizen Doorenbos, who will begin this fall as a Nursing Collegiate Professor in the College of Nursing, Department of Biobehavioral Health Science. She is currently a professor at the University of Washington, and is an international expert in research on pain and symptom management. Her recent work focuses on testing integrative therapies for military service members who are at risk for opioid abuse, as well as adolescents with chronic pain. She is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and an inductee in the Sigma Theta Tau International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame. She has more than $11 million in current research funding and her work has been supported by a number of agencies, including the National Institute of Nursing Research and the National Cancer Institute.

John Stewart IV, who joined UIC this summer as a professor in the College of Medicine, Department of Surgery/Cancer Center. He was previously an associate professor at Duke University, and the chief of surgical services at Durham Veterans Administration Medical Center. Stewart is a national leader in the development of pioneering approaches to immunotherapy for late-stage melanoma. He holds several patents for new drug treatments and his research has been funded by NIH, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control. In 2013, he received the Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award from the National Cancer Institute.

University of Illinois at Springfield

Kenneth Kriz, who will start this fall as a professor in the College of Public Affairs and Administration, Department of Public Administration. He is currently a professor at Wichita State University, and one of only four Regents Professors in the state of Kansas – a designation reserved for professors regarded as especially important in their fields of study. He is a leading scholar in the field of public finance and budgeting, and his recent research focuses on the financial impact of borrowing by state and local governments on public pension funding. He has published dozens of journal articles and book chapters, and his work has been funded by numerous state and municipal agencies across the country. He also will become the inaugural director of the Institute for Illinois Public Finance at UIS, which is scheduled to be launched this fall.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Rodney Hopson, who will begin this fall as a professor in the College of Education, Department of Educational Psychology. Hopson is currently a professor and an associate dean for research in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University, and is a national expert in educational practice and policy. His research focuses on the role of race, class and culture in the evaluation of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs and other educational initiatives. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2017, he received the Paul Lazersfeld Evaluation Theory Award from the American Evaluation Association.

David Sepkoski, who will start this fall as a professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of History. He is currently a senior research scholar at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. He is the author of three books and numerous articles and book chapters that explore the history of various STEM fields. His most recent book focuses on the historical development of scientific theories about extinction and will be published by the University of Chicago Press. His work has been supported by NSF, and he will hold the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in History of Science.

Qing Cao, who will begin this fall as an associate professor in the College of Engineering, Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He is currently a member of the research staff at the IBM Watson Research Center, and is an international leader in the science and engineering of nanoscale electronic devices. He is the principal investigator of several breakthrough innovations including the demonstration of the smallest footprint transistor ever created. Cao was named one of Forbes Magazine's "Top 30 under 30" and one of the "35 Innovators under 35" by MIT Technology Review for his work on replacing silicon transistors with more efficient carbon nanotubes.

Executive Vice President and Vice President for Academic Affairs Barbara J. Wilson led development of the new program, working closely with the three provosts to ensure faculty additions bring real, tangible impact to the universities.

“As a former department head and dean, I know that recruiting an eminent tenured faculty member can be a game-changer,” Wilson said. “We are targeting those types of transformational hires – additions that benefit not just departments and colleges, but raise the profile of the entire campus and our system as a whole.”

The program is funded by system offices with matching funds from each of the universities. The offices of the president and the executive vice president provide a total of $10 million each year, and the three universities will collectively match a total $10 million-a-year for three years.

Funding is used for new faculty start-up costs such as purchase of equipment, renovation of learning and lab space, graduate student assistance and other needs associated with supporting the research and teaching of prominent faculty. Faculty salaries are not included and are covered by the universities. The goal is to recruit up to 15 exceptional faculty each year, for a total of up to 45 across the system over three years.

The program was created to help attract top professors who are engaged in leading-edge scholarship or creative activities, who are working in areas of high and/or emerging student demand, and who are able to provide transformative excellence to college, campus and system missions. Emphasis is also placed on faculty who enhance the diversity of departments and colleges at the three universities.

Each proposal requires support from the unit’s executive officer, the college dean and the provost of the respective university. Proposals are evaluated by the president, executive vice president and the vice president for economic development and innovation.


The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, and the largest educational institution in the state with more than 83,000 students, nearly 25,000 faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 22,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.