Campus News

SUNY Distinguished Professor medallion.

Five faculty named SUNY Distinguished Professors


Published April 16, 2018


Five UB faculty members have been appointed to the rank of SUNY Distinguished Professor, the highest faculty achievement in the SUNY system.

The honor recognizes innovative research and teaching, as well as extraordinary community service. It also spotlights the international prominence of the faculty members in their respective fields and the impact of their scholarship in such diverse areas as stem cell engineering, medical education, vision science, structural engineering and neuroscience.

“Being named a SUNY Distinguished Professor is a tremendous honor that recognizes exceptional achievement, pioneering research contributions, disciplinary leadership and service, and excellent teaching and mentorship. We are extremely proud of UB faculty who have been named SUNY Distinguished Professors” said Charles F. Zukoski, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

The rank of distinguished professor is an order above full professorship and has three co-equal designations: distinguished professor, distinguished service professor and distinguished teaching professor.

Four faculty members were named distinguished professors in recognition of their academic achievements: Stelios Andreadis, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Steven J. Fliesler, Meyer H. Riwchun Endowed Chair and Professor of Ophthalmology; Andrew Whittaker, professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering; and Zhen Yan, professor in Department of Physiology and Biophysics.

The distinguished teaching professorship, which honors the mastery of teaching and outstanding service to students, was granted to Christopher Cohan, professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences.

The five were among 15 SUNY faculty members appointed to the distinguished professor ranks by the SUNY Board of Trustees at its meeting on March 22.

“We are proud to honor SUNY faculty for their accomplishments as researchers, teachers, mentors, who are dedicated to their work and making a positive impact on campus,” said Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall. “In order to receive distinguished ranks, appointees must possess the ability to lead and innovate, as well as meet the rigorous standards of our distinguished ranks. Congratulations to all honorees, who embody the spirit and values of SUNY’s core values.”

“The SUNY faculty members receiving these distinguished ranks have achieved immeasurable success within their fields and on their respective campuses,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “These individuals have set the bar for their peers, and work closely with students to help them find their calling inside and outside of the classroom. It is their excellence that drives SUNY forward.”

UB’s newest SUNY Distinguished Professors:

Stelios Andreadis.

Stelios Andreadis, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Andreadis is internationally recognized leader in the field of stem cell engineering, especially cardiovascular tissue engineering. His laboratory developed small-diameter, vascular grafts using human stem cells and biomolecule-decorated biomaterials. These tissue-engineered vessels were implanted successfully into the arterial system of a sheep model, where they remained patent, demonstrated functional remodeling and the ability to grow with the animal.

He also discovered that stem cell aging could be reversed using a single pluripotency factor, a discovery with significant implications in the field of aging and the use of stem cells in regenerative medicine.

More recently, his laboratory discovered that human epidermis is a source of neural crest stem cells, which can be coaxed to turn (or differentiate) into neurons, glial cells, melanocytes, muscle, bone and cartilage. This finding may have profound implications for the development of cell therapies for neurogenic diseases.

A UB faculty member since 1998, Andreadis has an exemplary record of continuous, peer-reviewed funding, having received more than $20 million in research support from public and private sources.

He also has received numerous accolades, including being named a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). Additionally, he also was named a recipient of a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Scholarship and Creative Activities in 2014, and received the NSF CAREER Award in 2000 and the Whitaker Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1999.

Christopher Cohan.

Christopher Cohan, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences

A UB faculty member since 1986, Cohan is revered by students and colleagues for more than 30 years of dedication to medical and graduate education. A seven-time winner of the student-selected Teaching Excellence awards from the Jacobs School’s Louis and Ruth Siegel Teaching Awards Program, he has been recognized eight times with the Commendation for Teaching Excellence. A recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, he also was an honorary inductee into the New York Chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society.

Cohan directs the Harold Brody Museum of Neuroanatomy, one of a few collections in the country that displays brain specimens to teach students neuroanatomy. The museum draws visitors from around the world.

In 1993, Cohen created Human Neuroscience, one of the first formal interdisciplinary courses in the school’s basic science curriculum. His primary focus is the Neuroscience and Behavior module for second-year medical students, for which he integrates diverse subject matter in basic neuroscience, clinical neurology and psychiatry. As past chair and current member of the curriculum committee, Cohan continues to make a major impact on improving the curriculum as the Jacobs School transitions to its new downtown building.

Steven J. Fliesler.

Steven J. Fliesler, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology

A UB faculty member since 2008, Fliesler is an internationally renowned vision scientist. Currently president of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the world’s premiere eye research professional society, he was previously president of the International Society for Eye Research.

Considered the world’s leading expert on cholesterol metabolism in the retina, Fliesler’s work has been published in more than 120 peer-reviewed papers in very high impact journals. His work has been continuously funded for more than three decades, with funding totaling nearly $30 million.

Early in his career, Fliesler was first author on research describing for the first time the involvement of the lipid intermediate pathway in glycoprotein synthesis in the human retina, and the importance of protein glycosylation for normal retinal photoreceptor cell differentiation. His research demonstrated cholesterol’s role in the development and function of the retina, leading to his studies of retinal degeneration in Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS), a birth defect resulting in profound dysmorphic and cognitive abnormalities. He is credited with developing the first successful animal model for this disease, allowing him to demonstrate the feasibility of a new therapy for SLOS and potentially representing a major improvement over the current standard of care.

Andrew Whittaker.

Andrew Whittaker, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

An internationally renowned structural engineer who has made fundamental contributions in earthquake and blast engineering of buildings, bridges, nuclear facilities and other critical infrastructure, Whittaker joined the UB faculty in 2001. His work has improved the safety and performance of the built environment in the United States and abroad.

Whittaker previously served as chair of the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering. He currently serves as director of UB’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), UB’s Institute of Bridge Engineering (IBE), and the Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL). He chairs the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Nuclear Standards Committee, and serves on ASCE’s standards committees 4, 7, 43 and 59.

Whittaker has received numerous honors, including being named a fellow of ASCE, the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) and the American Concrete Institute (ACI).

Whittaker received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a master’s degree in civil engineering and a doctorate in structural engineering, both from the University of California, Berkeley.

Zhen Yan.

Zhen Yan, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Biophysics

A faculty member since 2000, Yan, is a pre-eminent, experimental neurophysiologist in the field of cellular and synaptic neurosciences linked to diseases such as autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

With more than 11,000 citations, Yan is considered by her peers to be a leading authority among molecular and cellular neurobiologists making substantial links to broader issues in mental health and illness. She has made important advances delineating the genes and molecular mechanisms underlying neurological disorders with major findings reported recently on epigenetics-based treatment strategies for synaptic and behavioral deficits in autism and Alzheimer’s.

Since 2000, Yan has been awarded more than 20 grants totaling nearly $18 million from such sources as the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Alliance on Research for Schizophrenia and Depression, National Science Foundation and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation.

She has published more than 120 peer-reviewed papers in very high impact publications, including Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, Molecular Psychiatry, Nature Communications, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Biological Psychiatry, Cell Reports and Journal of Neuroscience.