This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage.
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page.

Four outstanding faculty to be recognized for excellence in research
May 10, 1999

Four faculty members with exceptional records of research will be recognized for research excellence during the graduate commencement ceremony on May 16.

The 1999 Chancellor's Research Excellence Awards will be presented to Richard Brown, professor of history; Howard Lasnik, professor of linguistics; William Stwalley, professor of physics; and Xiangzhong Yang, associate professor of animal science.

The awards 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.

  Richard Brown has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and a Center for the History of Freedom Fellow. He has been honored by the New England Historical Association, which he led in the early 1990s, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, and many others.

Next weekend, he will be honored again, this time by his colleagues, as he is feted during commencement with one of the 1999 Chancellor's Research Excellence Awards.

"Clearly, Richard Brown is a researcher of profound impact and distinguished national and international reputation," says Bruce Stave, a history professor and director of the Center for Oral History, in a letter nominating Brown for the prize. Stave says Brown's 1976 book, Modernization: The Transformation of American Life, 1600-1865, "marked Professor Brown as a leading and pathbreaking analytical historian of the processes that transformed American society and made America modern. His most recent books ... have opened new vistas for scholars."

Brown for 35 years has studied the politics, society and culture of early America, especially New England. He has used his research to author five books, including The Strength of a People: The Idea of an Informed Citizenry in America, 1650-1870, and Knowledge is Power: The Diffusion of Information in Early America, 1700-1865. He also has written about revolutionary politics in Massachusetts and, in 1978, was commissioned to write Massachusetts: A Bicentennial History.

Brown also has edited five books, including Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution, a textbook used at more than 170 colleges and universities, and has been chair of the editorial board of the William and Mary Quarterly, the leading journal of early American history and one of the top five history journals in the United States. He is a member of the Society of American Historians.

Currently, Brown is collaborating with his wife Irene, a professor in the School of Family Studies, on another book, a study of family violence and community justice in the early Republic. He also is completing a major revision of the textbook.

Brown joined UConn in 1971 and was chair of the history department from 1974-1980.

  Howard Lasnik is internationally recognized for his work in linguistic theory. His contributions to the field during the past 30 years have led to further understanding of language and language acquisition.

A member of the UConn faculty since 1972, Lasnik is a leading scholar on the theory of syntax or sentence structure. His work develops the program of investigation of language started by Noam Chomsky in the mid-1950s that is known as transformational generative grammar. One of the goals in linguistics is to account for precisely what it means to say a speaker "knows a language." Lasnik's research is aimed at discovering the formal principles that can be used to explain the abstract, non-conscious knowledge that a speaker has of a language.

Lasnik has made proposals for analyzing the structure of human language that cut across the particular characteristics of individual languages, and characterize universal properties that all languages share.

He was involved in some of the formative work in the generative framework, making proposals that have had a long-standing impact on the field, particularly in areas including anaphora - the interpretation of pronouns - and the hierarchical relationship between elements in a sentence.

In recent years, he has been one of the main proponents of the latest theory of generative grammar, known as minimalism. Together with Noam Chomsky, he has made proposals for representing subtle and complex facts about human language in a way that invokes many fewer mechanisms than previous theories of grammar. The work has redirected the field and opened new avenues for syntactic research.

Chomsky, in his letter of support for Lasnik's award says, "I cannot think of anyone whose contributions have had such influence on my own work and thinking."

Lasnik's eight books, published or forthcoming, and more than 60 articles have had a dramatic impact on scholars of syntactic theory, bringing the University to the forefront as a center for research and teaching in linguistics.

Many of Lasnik's former Ph.D. students are now leading researchers and teachers in their own right.

  Award-winner William Stwalley, one of the world's leading experts on the spectroscopy of metal vapors, came to UConn in 1993 as head of the Physics Department, from the University of Iowa. He also directs the Connecticut Laser Facility at UConn.

Stwalley has enjoyed a productive and diverse career in spectroscopy and chemical physics.

His peers testify to the wide range of Stwalley's interests and contributions, around the theme of determining intermolecular forces, and exploring and predicting the implications of long-range atomic interactions.

"He does not hesitate to cross boundaries between sub-fields. He does this because the boundaries are meaningless; his vision of interacting atoms, ions, and molecules is global," says Robert Field, a professor of chemistry at MIT.

"Stwalley was among the first to show how to use well known atomic electronic properties to predict or understand molecular properties," Field says.

Stwalley's recent research has focused on photoassociative spectroscopy using ultracold atoms and schemes to apply laser cooling techniques to produce ultracold molecules.

He has published 273 papers and six books, and holds five patents.

He also is interested in applications of his research to industrial problems and other areas of science and has published papers on such topics as optical fiber sensors, stress-corrosion cracking of metallic electrodes, alkali vapor lamps, laser-aided debonding of orthodontic ceramic brackets, and laser detection of air pollutants.

Stwalley has been an active leader in the scientific community. A Fellow of both the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America, he co-founded the Interdisciplinary Laser Science Conference and the American Physical Society's Topical Group on Laser Science. Last year he won the William F. Meggers Award from the Optical Society of America, a major award that recognizes outstanding work in spectroscopy.

He recently landed a large multi-investigator grant to study ultracold molecules from the National Science Foundation, one of only 18 funded out of 627 preproposals.

Xiangzhong Yang, known as Jerry to his colleagues, is head of the Transgenic Animal Facility of the University's Biotechnology Center and is internationally recognized for his research in animal embryo transfer and embryo biotechnology.

Yang's research in animal reproductive biology and practical animal biotechnology has led to breakthroughs in the development of novel embryo genetic techniques.

Regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on in vitro production of embryos and embryo transfer, Yang was the first to develop the micro-manipulation techniques in breeding to produce identical twins and chimeric rabbits. He also established optimal treatments for the transfer of micro-manipulated embryos into recipient cows. These techniques are now widely used in the scientific community for testing the potency of embryonic stem cells in rabbits, mice and cattle.

Yang joined the UConn faculty in 1996. His laboratory research has attracted more than $2 million of grant support from sources including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Rockefeller Foundation and several top transgenic animal pharmaceutical companies, including Genzyme Transgenics, PPL Therapeutics (Scotland) and Pharming B.V. (The Netherlands).

Yang's laboratory is one of a very few academic facilities capable of producing transgenic farm animals. His research team is one of only two laboratories in the world to have successfully produced progeny from pre-pubertal calves.

The group was also among the first to develop an embryo genetic manipulation technique that removes oocytes, or immature eggs, from cows for in vitro fertilization in the lab, with an efficiency rate of 90-100 percent as opposed to the previous 0-30 percent success rate. This pioneering research has been widely cited in scientific publications and the paper on this original research won first prize at the 1992 International Embryo Transfer Society Meeting.

In the last 10 years, Yang has published more than 110 papers, including over 50 in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and in the past two years, he has given more than 40 invited scientific seminars at 20 universities and research institutions in six different countries. His expertise has made the UConn Transgenic Animal facility one of the best known among transgenic animal industries worldwide.

David Bauman
Sherry Fisher
Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu
Richard Veilleux