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Outstanding researchers recognized
through new research excellence awards
June 22, 1998
Four faculty members were recognized during the graduate commencement ceremony on May 17 as recipients of the inaugural Chancellor's Research Excellence Awards.
The awards were presented to Gerald Dunne, associate professor of physics; William Fitzgerald, professor of marine sciences; David Kenny, professor of psychology; and Ruth Millikan, professor of philosophy.
The awards were established this year to recognize outstanding researchers at any stage of their career, from senior researchers to young investigators, with at least one reserved for a faculty member who is within 10 years of receiving the Ph.D. degree.
Gerald Dunne is a theoretical physicist whose research specialty is low-dimensional field theory, a branch of quantum field theory with applications to fundamental particle physics and condensed matter physics. It is a field of study that has potential implications for future technologies, including solid state devices.
Dunne has become an acknowledged authority on the quantum Hall effect and on Chern-Simons theory, two theories that provide insight into the topological structures thought to lie at the heart of the structure of elementary particles. His book, Self-Dual Chern-Simons Theories, has been described as a seminal work and has become a standard reference.
Since 1985 he has published 61 scientific papers and lecture notes. Several of his articles have received numerous citations in the scientific literature, including one cited more than 100 times.
As one of a group of UConn researchers working on particle theory, he is a principal investigator on a U.S. Department of Energy research grant of more than $400,000, that has just been renewed for three years. In addition, a proposal he prepared in collaboration with colleagues in Italy and Switzerland has led to a NATO internationa l Collaborative Grant for research in Self-Duality in Planar GAugust Theories.
William Stwalley, professor and head of the physics department, says "Gerald is the type of young faculty member any faculty would be proud to have: a stellar researcher of extraordinary productivity and impact, reaching creatively into fields well beyond his background, as well as an excellent teacher very highly appreciated by his students."
William F. Fitzgerald is a pivotal authority on mercury as a global pollutant. His work has led to breakthroughs in understanding mercury and its effects on human health.
Regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on the marine and atmospheric biogeochemistry of mercury, Fitzgerald has been a pioneer in the development of state-of-the-art techniques for measuring mercury in the natural environment. He has been a member of the UConn faculty since 1970 and created the Mercury Laboratory. Techniques developed in his renowned lab have served as the prototype for a new generation of mercury detectors. These devices have significantly improved scientists' ability to detect mercury in the environment.
Fitzgerald's research also has had an extensive impact on the management of mercury as a pollutant. His accurate measurements of mercury concentrations in the natural environment were among the first to show that mercury contamination is high and pervasive in the world's oceans. Measurements are used to gAugust the risk to human health.
He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed articles on the cycling of mercury and the influence of human-generated emissions on this cycle.
Fitzgerald has another remarkable legacy - all of his Ph.D. students now hold positions at major research and academic institutions .
David A. Kenny, an internationally known social psychologist, has contributed both to the understanding of person perception and to the development of data analysis procedures for research conducted outside of the laboratory.
Kenny, a member of the UConn faculty since 1978, focused his early work in the area of the analysis of nonexperimental data. His more recent work has focused on the perceptions that people have of each other. Prior work had limited perceptions to those of hypothetical, artificial people. Kenny pioneered the development of methods that allowed for the study of actual people.
Among the questions he has investigated are factors that lead people to agree and disagree in their perceptions of others, accuracy of perceptions, and the degree to which people know how others see them. To answer these questions, he developed an elaborate statistical model that is now used by investigators throughout the world.
Kenny has had a significant effect on the University's graduate program. He has taught data analysis to students in more than 10 different departments, and has been a pivotal figure in attracting and developing top-notch graduate students and faculty.
Kenny has numerous publications in prestigious journals and has written five books. His work has been cited by other scientists more than 4,000 times, and one of his papers has more than 1,000 citations. He has given more than 100 talks at other universities and conferences and is frequently invited to give workshops all over the world on his research.
Ruth Millikan is internationally recognized for her work on the implications of the theory of evolution for our understanding of language, mind and psychology.
Her 1984 book, Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories, published by MIT Press, is regarded as a pioneering work that brought a fundamental reorientation to the philosophy of psychology and mind. Her work has offered insights into how people are able to think and talk about matters in the world that lie beyond our nerve endings.
"Other philosophers have explored the biological approach to thought and language but none began with a vision as complex and carefully worked out as Millikan's," says Crawford Elder, professor and head of the philosophy department.
Austen Clark, professor of philosophy, says "I have the impression that Ruth right now is working on problems that the rest of us will start to appreciate five or 10 years down the road ... She is way ahead of us," he says, "... blazing new trails."
Millikan joined the faculty at UConn in 1977. From 1993-1996, she held a joint appointment at the University of Michigan. She has published two books, with a third forthcoming, and numerous articles.
Millikan is much sought after as a speaker. In the past 10 years, she has given more than 100 invited talks in the United States and Canada, and more than 75 talks overseas. She has been invited to give several prestigious addresses, including the Gareth Evans Memorial Lecture at Oxford in 1991 and the 1997 Patrick Romanell lecture, one of only two named lectures sponsored by the American Philosophical Association. Two recent international conferences have been devoted entirely to her work.
Renu Aldrich & Elizabeth Omara-Otunn.