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Three UB faculty named SUNY Distinguished Professors

SUNY Distinguished Professor medal.

The rank of distinguished professor is the highest rank in the SUNY system, an order above full professorship.


Published May 18, 2023


UB faculty members Xiufeng Liu, Thomas Thundat and Robert Zivadinov have been named SUNY Distinguished Professors, the highest rank in the SUNY system.

They were appointed to the distinguished professor rank by the SUNY Board of Trustees at its April meeting.

The rank of distinguished professor is an order above full professorship and has three co-equal designations: SUNY Distinguished Professor, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor.

Liu, Thundat and Zivadinov were all named Distinguished Professors in recognition of their international prominence and distinguished reputations within their chosen fields. According to SUNY, “this distinction is attained through significant contributions to the research literature or through artistic performance or achievement in the case of the arts. The candidate’s work must be of such character that the individual’s presence will tend to elevate the standards of scholarship of colleagues both within and beyond these persons’ academic fields.”

Xiufeng Liu.

Xiufeng Liu, professor of learning and instruction, Graduate School of Education, has spent much of his career promoting rigorous measurement in science education — work that has impacted not only the direction of his academic field, but also science on the whole. He is known in particular for his pioneering research on student concept development of matter and energy, which has become foundational to today’s learning progressions research in science education.

Colleagues say his introduction of Rasch measurement — a psychometric model for analyzing categorical data — fundamentally changed science education research by using and developing standardized measurement instruments. Peers maintain that it is difficult — if not impossible — to publish research on measurement instruments without applying this tool.

A prolific scholar and fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Liu has an impressive funding record from federal, foundation and international sources. He has served as a principal investigator or co-PI on grants totaling more than $50 million from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, among others.

He has edited or authored a combined 14 books — four of which focus on Rasch measurement in science education — and 34 book chapters, and has published 78 papers in leading, peer-reviewed journals, among them the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Science Education, International Journal of Science Education, Journal of Science Teacher Education, Research in Science Education, Studies in Science Education and Educational Psychology.

Liu served as inaugural director of UB’s Center for Educational Innovation, with a mission to improve university teaching, learning and assessment. As director, he brought to UB the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), part of a national network of institutions of higher education committed to enhancing excellence in STEM undergraduate education by implementing and advancing evidence-based teaching practices for diverse learners.

Thomas Thundat.

Thomas Thundat, SUNY Empire Innovation Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the UB RENEW Institute, is an internationally renowned scholar known for developing micro- and nanomechanical chemical and biological sensors.

An elected fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, as well as AAAS and other prestigious professional societies, Thundat is recognized for his pioneering work on microfabricated cantilever-based sensors for chemical and biological applications. His work has contributed significantly to development of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) for chemical and biological sensing; he was the first to propose and demonstrate molecular adsorption-induced stress as an observable signal for chemical and biological detection using microfabricated cantilevers.

He was also the first to propose and demonstrate multi-modal sensing using the simultaneous detection of adsorption-induced cantilever bending and resonance frequency variation of the cantilever due to mass loading. In another first, he proposed and demonstrated multi-modal sensing using MEMS-based mechanical infrared spectroscopy of surface adsorbed molecules.

His research in the field has been cited more than 31,500 times, and he has published his findings in such high-impact journals as Nature, Nature Biotechnology, PNAS and Analytical Chemistry.

Thundat’s cutting-edge work has earned him numerous national and international accolades, including being named the IEEE Distinguished Lecturer (2022) and receiving the Nano Energy Award (2019), the Electrochemical Society’s Sensor Division Outstanding Achievement Award (2010), the Nano50 Award (2007), the Scientific American 50 Award (2004), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Pioneer Award (2004), three National Federal Laboratory Consortium awards, three R&D100 awards, two ORNL Inventor of the Year awards and the Battelle Distinguished Inventor Award (2003).

In addition to the National Academy of Inventors and the AAAS, Thundat is an elected fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Physical Society, the Electrochemical Society, the Society for Optics and Photonics Engineers, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Robert Zivadinov.

Robert Zivadinov, professor in the Department of Neurology, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has devoted his career to the study of multiple sclerosis (MS), and he and his team have made numerous impactful discoveries in the field.

Zivadinov conducts what has been described as “seminal, groundbreaking and highly cited” research that has earned him a global reputation as an expert in MRI imaging, MS and other neurological disorders. His extensive scholarship in the field includes publication of more than 500 articles and 850 abstracts in leading, peer-reviewed journals with an H-index of 89.

Zivadinov joined the UB faculty in 2003 and, since 2004 has served as director of the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center in the Department of Neurology, establishing the center as a world leader in performing quantitative MRI analysis in neurodegenerative disorders.

In addition, he directs the Center for Biomedical Imaging at UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center. He has also served as executive director of the New York State Multiple Sclerosis Consortium.

Zivadinov’s research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, commercial companies, foundations and the pharmaceutical industry. He is principal investigator, co-PI or co-investigator on 11 current research grants totaling nearly $9 million. He has secured more than $50 million in research grants for collaborative research projects involving UB investigators, as well as national and international collaborators.

A dedicated educator, Zivadinov has advised 13 PhD students and 24 master’s students, and has served as a major adviser for more than 30 fellows.

He currently is pursuing research on quantitative magnetic resonance and positron emission tomography imaging findings in MS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer'’s disease, and aging. His interests also concentrate on therapeutic interventions, including strategies toward assessing neuroprotective efforts in neurodegenerative disorders, as well as cardiovascular comorbidities, genetic and neuroepidemiology fields of these diseases.