Three named University of Minnesota Regents Professors

June 17, 2015

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents has named R. Lawrence Edwards, Vipin Kumar and Michael Osterholm Regents Professors. The designation is the highest level of recognition given to faculty by the University.

"These three professors exemplify the qualities of teaching, research and scholarship that this honor requires,” said University President Eric Kaler. "Pioneers in their respective disciplines, all have made field-shaping discoveries that benefit Minnesotans, the nation and the world.”

The Board of Regents will formally recognize Edwards, Kumar and Osterholm in September 2015.

R. Lawrence Edwards, Robert D. and Carol C. Gunn Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Department of Earth Sciences
College of Science and Engineering

A world-renowned geochemist with expertise in climate history, climate change and geochronology, Edwards has played a significant role in making the University of Minnesota a globally recognized leader in climate science. 

Edwards is credited with improving the precision and accuracy of climate history through uranium-thorium (or Th-230) dating methods. He used cave deposits to understand abrupt climate change and helped draw plausible links between global shifts in rainfall patterns and major cultural changes.

Described as a dedicated teacher and mentor, Edwards teaches at all levels of the curriculum, including a core-course for undergraduate majors. He has worked with and trained a large number of students and post-doctoral fellows who have gone on to successful careers, many who are now faculty members at respected institutions.

According to ISI Web of Knowledge, for papers published in the last decade, Edwards is among the most cited earth scientists worldwide, ranking as high as second in recent years. He has authored or co-authored 270 journal articles and collaborated with over 400 scientists from more than 200 institutions worldwide. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, and winner of numerous additional national and international awards.

Vipin Kumar, William Norris Professor, Head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering
College of Science and Engineering

Kumar is world renowned for his work in high performance computing and  scientific data mining. He has played a pioneering role in bringing Big Data and earth science together to address one of the grand challenges of our times —understanding the impact of human induced changes on the earth system and its environment.

The groundbreaking use of automated knowledge discovery methods to analyze massive amounts of data is expected to produce essential information for changing international policy regarding climate change. His work is used in a range of applications including computer chip design, customer segmentation, social network analysis, and storing large geographic data sets for easy access. 

Kumar has served as a mentor and adviser to 33 Ph.D. graduates and more than 50 BS and MS graduates, many of whom are already leaders in the field at top academic institutions and industry labs. In his honor, former student, Jeff Dean, Senior Google Fellow, established a $500,000 endowed scholarship fund to support undergraduate education.

Over three decades, Kumar has earned over $80 million in grants, authored more than 300 research articles and co-edited or co-authored 11 books. Many of his papers and books are among the most highly cited articles on the topic, with over 60,000 citations on Google Scholar. His honors include Fellow of the American Association for Advancement for Science, Association for Computing Machinery and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Michael T. Osterholm, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health; Distinguished University Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health; professor, Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering; adjunct professor in the School of Medicine; director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP)
A distinguished public health scholar, researcher and educator, Osterholm has served as a pioneer and leader in the research and prevention and control of infectious diseases throughout the world. 

Osterholm is considered one of the leading public health experts in the country. He served as the Minnesota State Epidemiologist for 24 years, is a past President of the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and has been a key public health advisor to many US federal agencies and the White House. Osterholm also served as a bioterrorism advisor to the late King Hussein of Jordan and is a premier international leader regarding the use of biological agents as weapons targeting civilian populations. His New York Times best-selling book — Living Terrors: What America Needs to Survive the Coming Bioterrorist Catastrophe, — became a blueprint for the U.S. government’s response to the post-9/11 anthrax attacks. Osterholm has defined the critical concerns regarding our preparedness for pandemics, including influenza. He is among the world’s leaders in developing a global, integrated, comprehensive, flexible, and rapid response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. And, he has provided a critical leadership role to governments in the Middle East to develop effective control measures for MERS. He is considered to be one of the nation’s foremost experts on issues of food safety and the investigation and response to foodborne illnesses.

An outstanding teacher, mentor, and advisor, Osterholm has advised 92 graduate students and Epidemic Intelligence Officers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and formally mentored more than 270 other graduate students at the University. He frequently appears in the newspaper, on television, and on the radio around the world, making him one of the most prominent University of Minnesota scientific authorities in the media.

He has published on more than 35 infectious diseases and disease transmission topics. The author of more than 315 papers, including 21 book chapters, Osterholm is a frequently invited guest lecturer worldwide on the topic of epidemiology of infectious diseases.  He recently began work on a book on infectious diseases in a modern world for the general public. A member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the Council of Foreign Relations, he’s been appointed to numerous government boards and task forces and has won numerous national and international awards.

About the Regents Professorship
The Regents Professorship was established in 1965 by the Board of Regents to recognize the national and international prominence of faculty members. It serves as the highest recognition for faculty who have made unique contributions to the quality of the University of Minnesota through exceptional accomplishments in teaching, research and scholarship or creative work and contributions to the public good. The addition of Edwards, Kumar and Osterholm increases the current number of Regents Professorships to 29 and brings the all-time total to only 99.

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