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Two NatSci Faculty Members Named MSU Foundation Professors

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Two Michigan State University College of Natural Science (NatSci) professors, Piotr Piecuch and Guowei Wei were recently named 2020 MSU Foundation Professors, a designation given to outstanding faculty who demonstrate excellence in research.

The MSU Foundation Professorship 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 supplemental scholarly funding.

Piecuch and Wei join 47 of their MSU colleagues who have previously been named MSU Foundation Professors. Of these professorships, 25 are held by NatSci faculty members.

“MSU Foundation Professors are internationally recognized researchers,” said David Washburn, Executive Director of the Michigan State University Foundation. “Their scholarship and contributions to their fields represent a level of engagement and accomplishment that the foundation is proud to support.”

Image of Piotr Piecuch professor in the MSU Department of Chemistry and an adjunct professor in the MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Piotr Piecuch

Piotr Piecuch, a professor in the MSU Department of Chemistry and an adjunct professor in the MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy, is a world-renowned theoretical and computational chemist and physicist. Of particular importance are Piecuch’s landmark contributions to coupled-cluster theory, as applied to many-electron systems and atomic nuclei, his work on intermolecular forces, and appli­cations of computational approaches to problems ranging from chemical reactivity in gas and condensed phases to molecular spectroscopy and photochemistry. He is a co-author of the widely used GAMESS software.

Piecuch’s research has led to about 220 publications, which have received more than 13,400 citations and an H-index of 65 on Google Scholar, and more than 260 invited lectures in nearly 30 countries. He has also co-edited six books and two special journal issues.

Piecuch received his masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Wroclaw, Poland. After joining the MSU faculty as an assistant professor in 1998, he was promoted to associate professor in 2002, professor in 2004 and University Distinguished Professor in 2007. Prior to joining MSU, he held postdoctoral and faculty appointments at the University of Wroclaw, University of Waterloo, Canada, University of Arizona, University of Toronto, Canada, and University of Florida.

During his tenure at MSU, Piecuch has held visiting professorships in the United States, Japan and Portugal. He was one of the key faculty members involved in the establishment of the High-Performance Computing Center and the Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research at MSU. Piecuch has orga­nized or co-organized 9 regional, national, and international confer­ences, and has served on many scientific committees, review pan­els, and editorial boards. He has advised 14 post­doctoral and visiting scholars, 17 doctoral students, and 6 research under­graduates and collaborated with more than 100 researchers around the world.

Piecuch has earned numerous honors throughout his career, including being elected to the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science and the Euro­pean Acade­my of Sciences, Arts, and Humanities and being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Ad­vancement of Science, Royal Society of Chemistry, American Physical Society, and Alfred P. Sloan Foun­dation, a Distinguished Fellow of the Kosciuszko Foundation Collegium of Eminent Scientists, and an Invited Fel­low of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. He also earned the distinctions of being named a Xingda Lecturer by Peking University, Lawrence J. Schaad Lectur­er in Theoretical Chemistry by Vanderbilt University, S.R. Palit Memorial Lecturer by Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, and Clark Way Harrison Dis­tinguished Visit­ing Professor by Washing­ton University in St. Louis.

Image of Guowei Wei, professor in the MSU Department of Mathematics.

Guowei Wei

Guowei Wei, professor in the MSU Department of Mathematics, has pioneered novel computational methods that apply profound mathematical structures to deep learning. He partners with premier pharmaceutical companies on drug design and discovery. Wei’s team introduced multiscale analysis to the de Rham-Hodge theory, a landmark of twentieth-century mathematics, to efficiently simplify the complexity and reduce the dimensionality of proteins and their complexes with ligands or other biomolecules.  Wei developed an algebraic topology-based machine-learning model that suggests mutations to the SARS-CoV-2 genome have made the novel coronavirus more infectious than the original viral genome sample captured in January. He is currently working on identifying effective antibody treatments and mutation-proof vaccines for COVID-19. Wei has received 47 grants totaling $17 million. He has published 260 peer-reviewed journal articles, holds three U.S. patents and has more than 12,000 citations with an H-index of 64 on Google Scholar.

Wei received his doctorate from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and his master’s from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. After joining the MSU faculty as an associate professor in 2002, he was promoted to full professor in 2009, with courtesy appointments in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Wei founded MSU’s Quantitative Biology and Modeling Initiative in 2011.

Wei has earned numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including being named distinguished lecturer on four occasions: at the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, at Nanyang Technological University and Soongsil University, and at the US Workshop on Wavelet Theories and Application. He received the best paper award at the 2019 International Congress of Chinese Mathematicians and was the top winner at the Drug Design Data Resource (D3R) Grand Challenges from 2016 to 2019. Wei has advised more than 100 research students, postdocs and visiting scientists. Many of his former students and postdocs hold faculty positions in the world’s research universities. Wei has served extensively on a wide variety of national and international panels, committees and journal editorships.

“NatSci is proud to have these two distinguished faculty members recognized with these prestigious professorships,” said Phil Duxbury, NatSci dean. “The national and international impact of Piecuch and Wei’s research is a testament to the top-tier faculty we have in the college and speaks to why MSU is considered one of the top 100 research universities in the world.”

To find out more about the MSU Foundation Professorships and the nomination process, visit the Office of Research & Innovation.

Banner image: NatSci’s Piotr Piecuch and Guowei Wei were recently named 2020 MSU Foundation Professors, a designation given to outstanding faculty who demonstrate excellence in research. Piecuch and Wei join 47 of their MSU colleagues who have previously been named MSU Foundation Professors. Of these professorships, 25 are held by NatSci faculty members.

Story via the College of Natural Science 


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