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Top Michigan State Researchers Named MSU Foundation Professors

Joey Huston, Christopher Klausmeier, Elena Litchman, Barry Pittendrigh, Michael Thomashow

Michigan State University recently named six new MSU Foundation Professors, a designation given to outstanding faculty who demonstrate excellence in research and teaching, while enhancing the prominence of the institution.

“This award recognizes the global stature of MSU scholars,” said MSU Provost June Youatt. “Their contributions to their fields exemplify a level of engagement and accomplishment MSU is proud to support.”

The MSU Foundation Professorship designation was established in 2014 through the generosity of the Michigan State University Foundation. In addition to the permanent title, honorees are typically provided with five years of scholarly funding.

“These honorees are nationally and internationally recognized researchers, and we are delighted to support their continued research and creative activity,” said David Washburn, executive director of the Michigan State University Foundation.

The new honorees are:

  • Joey Huston, professor of physics and astronomy, who is an internationally renowned expert in the field of high energy physics phenomenology, which links mathematical models with experimental particle physics. He is a member of the Higgs Cross Section Working Group and the PDF4LHC Working Group at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland. He played an instrumental role in global parton distribution fits, and in standard model and Higgs boson analyses in the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) experiment. Huston, who has been a faculty member at MSU since 1986, received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Carnegie-Mellon University and his doctorate in experimental high energy physics from the University of Rochester.
  • Christopher Klausmeier, professor of plant biology and a Michigan State University W.K. Kellogg Biological Station faculty member, is an expert in theoretical ecology, especially related to microbial and aquatic systems. His laboratory group studies the general principles that organize ecological communities and ecosystems, with a particular focus on phytoplankton and zooplankton, the microscopic plants and animals at the base of lake and ocean food webs.  His awards and honors include a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and an EU Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowship, which supported a sabbatical visit to the Danish Technical University in Copenhagen. Before joining MSU in 2005, he was a faculty member in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Biology, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University, and a National Science Foundation International Research Fellow at EAWAG in Switzerland. Klausmeier received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif., and his doctorate in ecology, evolution and behavior from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul.
  • Elena Litchman, professor of integrative biology and a faculty member at the Michigan State University W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, is internationally recognized for her research on phytoplankton communities in both freshwater and marine environments. Prior to joining MSU in 2005, she was a research scientist in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Biology, a postdoctoral associate at Rutgers University, N.J., and a postdoctoral researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology in Switzerland. She has earned the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award. Litchman received her Honors Diploma in biology from Moscow State University, Russia, and her doctorate in ecology from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul.
  • Beronda Montgomery, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and of microbiology and molecular genetics, and a member of the Michigan State University-Department of Energy (MSU-DOE) Plant Research Laboratory, conducts pioneering research in the dynamic molecular processes used by photosynthetic organisms to adapt to changes in their photoenvironment. She is a National Science Foundation CAREER Award recipient and a fellow of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (formerly the Committee on Institutional Cooperation) Academic Leadership Program. Prior to joining MSU in 2004, she was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship recipient at Indiana University. Montgomery received her doctorate in plant biology from the University of California, Davis.
  • Barry Pittendrigh, professor of entomology who joined MSU this year, focuses his research on pest problems in crops in developing countries. He, his laboratory team, and his collaborators in five countries in West Africa are developing environmentally benign pest control solutions to minimize the populations of pest insects that attack cowpea, an important protein source for tens of millions of people. Pittendrigh is the co-founder of Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO) and the Sustainable Development Virtual Knowledge Interface (SusDeViKI), programs that convey scientific and extension information through two-and three-dimensional animations that are accessible in several languages and are available free of charge. Prior to joining MSU, Pittendrigh was the C.W. Kearns, C.L. Metcalf and W.P. Flint Endowed Chair in Insect Toxicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There, he used fruit flies to study how insects evolve resistance to pesticides. He also worked on sequencing the body louse genome, a key advance in finding ways to stop body louse from spreading disease in humans. Pittendrigh received his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Michael Thomashow, University Distinguished Professor and founding director of the Michigan State University Plant Resilience Institute, is world-renowned for identifying regulatory pathways controlling freezing tolerance in model and agriculturally important plants. Thomashow has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and has been named a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Society of Plant Biologists and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was awarded the American Society of Plant Biologists’ Steven Hales Prize. Prior to joining MSU in 1986, he was on the faculty in the Department of Microbiology at Washington State University and was a Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund Research Fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Washington, Seattle. Thomashow received his bachelor’s degree in bacteriology and his doctorate in microbiology from UCLA.

“These scientists join 18 other MSU researchers who have been named MSU Foundation Professors over the past two years,” said Stephen Hsu, vice president of the Office for Research and Graduate Studies. “While their areas of investigation vary, they are united in one aspect: their work is having profound impacts on the world’s most challenging problems.”

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