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3 named SUNY Distinguished Professors

SUNY Distinguished Professors, from left, Margarita L. Dubocovich, Jerold C. Frakes and Aidong Zhang


Published May 15, 2014

Three more UB faculty members have been appointed SUNY Distinguished Professors, the highest faculty rank in the SUNY system.

Named Distinguished Professors in recognition of their national or international prominence in their fields were Margarita L. Dubocovich, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Jerold C. Frakes, professor in the Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences; and Aidong Zhang, UB Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The trio was among 19 SUNY faculty members appointed to the distinguished professor ranks by the SUNY Board of Trustees at its meeting last week.

“SUNY’s highest faculty honor, the distinguished ranking, is reserved for the best of the best,” said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. “Each professor, to earn this distinction, has advanced their field while teaching and mentoring their students, often collaborating and innovating with their colleagues and serving society at large through their work.”

Added SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher: “We are deeply proud to recognize our faculty with these prestigious rankings, and to have the opportunity to honor the work they do on behalf of the students, campuses and communities they serve throughout New York State and around the globe.”

Margarita Dubocovich is the world’s foremost authority on the brain hormone melatonin and the regulation of melatonin receptors, her work significantly broadening the scientific understanding of melatonin’s impact on circadian rhythms, sleep disorders and depression. She is credited with discovering melatonin receptor subtypes, which revolutionized the field, as well as pioneering the pharmacology of melatonin receptors agonist and antagonist agents.

The owner or co-owner of three patents related to agents developed through her research, Dubocovich has received continuous funding support since 1985 from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation (NSF) and major pharmaceutical companies, among them Glaxo Inc. and Eli Lilly and Co.

She has received numerous international honors, including the 2005 Award for Outstanding Scientific Contributions from the Latin-American Congress of Pharmacology, the 2011 Aaron B. Lerner Pioneer Award and the 2012 PhARMA Foundation Award in Excellence in Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Dubocovich, who was recruited to UB in 2008 from Northwestern University, was named UB’s inaugural senior associate dean for inclusion and cultural enhancement in 2012 to lead the medical school’s diversity efforts.

Jerold Frakes is a scholar of medieval European literatures who joined the UB faculty in 2006 after many years as a professor of German and comparative literature at the University of Southern California. He is internationally renowned for his groundbreaking contributions to the field of Early Yiddish and for his work on Jewish, Christian and Muslim intercultural relations as revealed in their respective literary traditions. 

Within the past year alone he has won four major fellowships: a Guggenheim, a National Humanities Center Fellowship, Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute Fellowship and a research fellowship in Paris. He also is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts research fellowship and two fellowships from Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

In 2011, he published three books — a monograph, an edited collection on Latin and German medieval perceptions of the “Muslim Other” and a “cultural history of Litvak Jewry” — all considered seminal contributions to Yiddish studies and comparative literary scholarship.

He has edited or translated nine other books, including several on Yiddish literature, and has given many invited lectures and conference papers.

A UB faculty member since 1994, Aidong Zhang is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of databases, multimedia databases and bioinformatics. She has been instrumental in forging new research directions in the information retrieval (IR) community, and has pioneered novel techniques for semantic clustering and querying that are widely accepted as the standard in image database design.

Author or co-author of more than 100 research publications, she has attracted continuous external funding for two decades, with federal grants totaling more than $12 million. 

A fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology, Zhang has received numerous other awards, including a prestigious NSF CAREER Award, a SUNY Chancellor’s Research Recognition Award and a UB Exceptional Scholar-Sustained Achievement Award.

She has been instrumental in organizing the annual meetings of the ACM Special Interest Group on Bioinformatics, Computational Biology and Biomedical Informatics, and held an appointment in 2012-13 on the SUNY Research Council, an advisory board to the SUNY Board of Trustees, the SUNY Research Foundation Board of Directors, the SUNY provost and campus presidents.