Distinguished Professors and the Broad Impact of Innovation
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 47 seconds
An upcoming event on my calendar reminded me of some of KU’s many gifts.
I am continually amazed by the exceptional talent and intellect embodied in KU’s assembly of distinguished professors. The special title isn’t conferred lightly upon faculty members —there are fewer than 100 of them on our campuses — and it reflects substantial scholarly contributions in their respective fields. KU’s distinguished professors deliver impact. They bring it to the classroom, refine it in the laboratory or studio, share it with our society, and infuse it in our economy.
While all these contributions are truly significant, the connection to business and industry is particularly timely in this era of tight funding.
Distinguished Professor Cory Berkland, whose upcoming inaugural lecture struck a chord, is among several distinguished professors who have entrepreneurially harnessed their scholarly talents. Prof. Berkland has a joint appointment in the departments of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering and Pharmaceutical Chemistry and oversees work taking place in KU’s Therapeutic Particles & Biomaterials Technology Laboratory. He holds multiple patents that have been licensed to a handful of companies he founded. His most recent venture, Bond Biosciences, is developing a drug to bind dietary iron and prevent absorption for patients that suffer from iron overload.
Growing Body of KU Innovators
Prof. Berkland’s scholarly and entrepreneurial and industry contributions aren’t the first KU successes and surely won’t be the last. Other KU standouts include School of Pharmacy Distinguished Professor Emeritus Val Stella. Among his many drug developments at KU is Captisol, which improves solubility and dosing of active pharmaceuticals. His startup CyDex is now part of Ligand Pharmaceuticals.
Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering Bala Subramaniam, who oversees the KU's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, founded CritiTech, a Lawrence-based company that specializes in optimizing the delivery of challenging drug substances for the human and animal health markets. Distinguished professors Subramaniam, Stella, and R.V. Chaudhari were recently inducted as fellows in the National Academy of Inventors for their varied advances.
Steven Soper, a Foundation distinguished professor with joint appointments in Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry, moved his startup BioFluidica from North Carolina to the Bioscience and Technology Business Center on KU’s West District. Distinguished Prof. Soper, along with Prof. Andrew Godwin on the KU Medical Center campus, is working to establish the Kansas Institute for Precision Medicine, which intends to generate mentoring and infrastructure support for young researchers. He also recently launched a new startup, Digital NanoGenetics.
Distinguished Professor Prakash Shenoy in the School of Business has worked with industry giants Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Raytheon Missile Systems, AIG and others, including KU Hospital, on artificial intelligence and analytics solutions. Distinguished Prof. Shenoy helped found the School of Business’ Center for Business Analytics Research.
The ability of distinguished professors and other faculty to turn their scholarly talents into industry assets provides huge advantages for others in the KU community, too. Our students get first-hand opportunities to be involved in the next generation of discovery and development. They also get a front-row seat to essential entrepreneurial activities — networking with investors and interacting with great management talent — that give KU students enormous perspective as they begin to launch their own careers. Our faculty successes also increase KU’s ability to attract top-tier graduate students and post docs, and ensure KU remains a magnet for other rising and top faculty.
However, scholarly virtuosity isn’t the same as business acumen, and KU Innovation and Collaboration has resources and guidance to help all faculty realize the full potential of their discoveries and intellectual property. A growing number of faculty startups are taking advantage of KUIC’s new Swift Start-up License program. While the number of start-ups so far has been small, KUIC is on pace to increase SSL participants by 50 percent this year. And KUIC’s tools and services aren’t just a good fit for faculty, researcher staff, and students in engineering, pharmacy, and the sciences. KUIC has also helped faculty launch ideas tied to financial tools, educational technologies, and more.
An Inspiring Future, Right Now
I couldn’t be more excited about what’s happening across our campuses. As our distinguished professors eagerly address new challenges and opportunities, and additional stellar faculty are invited to join the ranks, we can expect other important and intriguing contributions in the years to come. Faculty are engaged in research that enhances society and our lives. They are creating jobs, enriching our culture, building our communities, and delivering timely solutions to environmental and life challenges and providing life-saving cures.
This is much more than the start of something big. All our faculty, and especially our distinguished professors, are gifts that keep on giving.
News and Notes
The Office of the Provost has launched two internal searches for vice provost positions. Complete details for the Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity and the Vice Provost for Faculty Development can be found online. Review of candidates for each position will begin in early April.
Members of the Lawrence and Edwards campuses are invited to two KU Climate Study Report Back sessions on Wednesday, March 29 in Alderson Auditorium of the Kansas Union. The first session, geared for faculty and staff, will be from noon to 1:30 p.m. The second session, primarily for students, will be from 3 to 4 p.m. Consultants will share findings from the fall Climate Study survey and field questions. Both sessions will be livestreamed.
KU Student Senate will host an expanded campus conversation on April 5 surrounding the implementation of concealed carry laws on the KU campus. The conversation begins at 6 p.m. in Alderson Auditorium with a presentation from KU Chief of Police Chris Keary and Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications and past University Senate President Mike Williams.
April is Graduate Student Appreciation Month and several events coordinated by the Office of Graduate Studies will celebrate the contributions of KU graduate students as well as assist with professional skill development. See the full list of events.
This year’s KU Common Book “Between the World and Me” is still a hot ticket. The Common Book Film Series continues this week with a showing of “Agents of Change” at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 30, in Budig Hall, Room 130. In addition, first-year students in the “Life Through a Lens” Learning Community curated an art exhibit in response to the book. The exhibit American Dream is on display in the Larry and Barbara Marshall Family Balcony at the Spencer Museum of Art until Sept. 3. Students will lead a talk about the exhibit at 2 p.m., April 2 at the museum.
The 2017 KU Powwow and Indigenous Culture Festival, organized by the First Nations Student Association, will be from noon to 10 p.m., Saturday, April 1 at the Lied Center. All are welcome to attend this free event which includes presentations, workshops, a bark lodge built by volunteers and activities for children.
The Center for Undergraduate Research is accepting job descriptions from faculty and research staff interested in mentoring a student in the Emerging Scholars Program during the next academic year. The center will host hour-long Emerging Scholars Mentor information sessions at 10 a.m., March 31, and 1 p.m., April 6 in The Commons of Spooner Hall.
The Langston Hughes Project will feature former KU Jazz Studies Director Ron McCurdy in a multimedia concert performance of Langston Hughes’ Jazz Suite at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 7 in Swarthout Recital Hall of Murphy Hall.
Cory Berkland, the Solon E. Summerfield Distinguished Professor, will deliver his Inaugural Lecture “A Few Lessons in Entrepreneurship” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, in the Jayhawk Room of the Kansas Union. All are welcome.
Congratulations to students in KU Naval ROTC. The student team placed second overall in a recent drill meet in Boulder, Colo., and brought home additional honors for strong performance in a variety of events.
KU students can now download a free personal safety app that offers them a variety of messaging tools for friends, family and safety personnel. The tools include a timer that notifies a student’s network when a student doesn’t arrive at a specified destination and “tip texting” to safety personnel.
KU is one of 65 institutions nationwide honored by Phi Theta Kappa for creating supportive pathways from transfer students from community colleges. Programs like KU’s degree partnership program with Johnson County Community College helped put KU on PTK’s 2017 Transfer Honor Roll.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
This issue of Strong Ties as well as past ones can be found on the Provost Strong Ties web page.