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Four named SUNY Distinguished Professors

SUNY Distinguished Professors from left, Diana Aga, Jochen Autschbach, Paul Vanouse, Igor Zutic.

UB faculty members (from left) Diana S. Aga, Jochen Autschbach, Paul Vanouse and Igor Žutić have been named SUNY Distinguished Professors, the highest rank in the SUNY system.


Published January 30, 2023

“UB’s nationally and internationally renowned faculty have a tremendously positive impact on our world through their excellent research, scholarship, teaching, creative activities and clinical contributions. ”
Provost A. Scott Weber

Four UB faculty members have been named SUNY Distinguished Professors, the highest rank in the SUNY system.

Diana S. Aga, Jochen Autschbach, Paul Vanouse and Igor Žutić were appointed to the distinguished professor rank by the SUNY Board of Trustees at its meeting on Dec. 13. They were among 16 SUNY faculty members appointed to the Distinguished Professorship rank at the meeting.

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.

The four were all named Distinguished Professors in recognition of their national and/or international prominence and distinguished reputations within their chosen fields. According to SUNY, “this distinction is attained through extraordinary contributions to, and impact on, the candidate’s field of study, often evidenced by significant research and/or creative activity. The work must be of such character that it has the potential to elevate the standards of scholarship or creative activity of colleagues, both within and beyond their academic fields.”

“UB’s nationally and internationally renowned faculty have a tremendously positive impact on our world through their excellent research, scholarship, teaching, creative activities and clinical contributions,” says A. Scott Weber, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “We are extremely proud that four of our most distinguished faculty members have been recognized for their leadership and groundbreaking contributions through appointment to SUNY’s highest rank.”     

UB’s newest SUNY Distinguished Professors:

Diana Aga.

Diana Aga, Henry M. Woodburn Chair and Professor of Chemistry, is globally recognized for developing innovative analytical methods that lead to discoveries of “emerging contaminants” and in the understanding of their fate and transport in the environment. Her contributions have profoundly enhanced our knowledge of the human health and ecological impacts of emerging contaminants, such as antimicrobials and other pharmaceuticals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, pesticides and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that are also known as “forever chemicals.” Since fall 2021, Aga has served as director of the UB RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water) Institute, where she promotes and engages in convergent, multidisciplinary research that addresses the most critical environmental and social challenges of our era, and elevates educational programs that address the “missing millions” who are not involved in STEM activities because of inequities.

Aga’s pioneering research publications that reveal the ubiquitous presence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment and wildlife have been highly cited, especially her study that showed evidence that Great Lakes fish bioaccumulate antidepressant residues in the brain. Her research involving identification of antibiotics in wastewater and animal manure has significantly contributed to the larger conversation around antibiotic resistance, one of the greatest threats in modern medicine and public health. At the behest of the World Health Organization, Aga contributed to its development of action plans to combat antimicrobial resistance, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention invited her to co-author a white paper on strategies to prevent antibiotic contamination and antibiotic resistance spread in the environment.

A prolific scholar, Aga has published more than 180 peer-reviewed journal articles, nine book chapters and two edited books. With over 14,000 citations, she boasts an h-index of 56. Since joining UB, she has been awarded over $15 million in federal, state and industrial grants to support her research. She has mentored 48 doctoral, six master’s and over 100 undergraduate students, as well as five postdoctoral fellows; she is currently advising 12 doctoral and five undergraduate students in her group.

Aga is the recipient of numerous external awards and honors, including American Chemical Society (ACS) fellow (2022); Fulbright Global Scholar (2021); Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (2021); Koh Lectureship Award in Science from the Philippine-American Academy of Science and Engineering (2019); ACS AGRO fellow (2017); Jacob F. Schoellkopf Medal of the Western New York ACS (2017); Fulbright Teaching and Research Scholar (2011); and Alexander von Humboldt Research fellow (2007).

Jochen Autschbach.

Jochen Autschbach, Larkin Professor and UB Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry, is internationally recognized as an expert in theoretical and computational chemistry, especially as it relates to heavy-element compounds and molecule-field interactions. His groundbreaking contributions, which apply to both fundamental and applied theoretical chemistry, have significantly advanced understanding of how light interacts with molecules.

Autschbach studies the relationships among chemical bonding, molecular structures and observable magnetic, optical and spectroscopic properties. He and his team’s seminal contributions include developing theoretical methods for computing the magnetic and spectroscopic properties of molecules; the relativistic effects of heavy metal-containing compounds; and the molecular dynamics, nonlinear properties and optical activity of molecules.

In addition to purely theoretical work, Autschbach has collaborated extensively with experimental chemists to enable the interpretation of complex spectroscopic data that is relevant to real-world systems.

His research group has been funded continuously by the National Science Foundation since 2005 and the Department of Energy since 2009, with total research expenditures exceeding $4.5 million. This funding includes five successive, single-investigator NSF grants — including a CAREER award — and five successive, single-investigator DOE grants.

Autschbach has published several hundred journal articles and book chapters, many in high-impact journals including the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Nature, Nature Communications, Science, Science Advances, Chemical Science, Chemistry of Materials and Renewable Energy, as well as highly regarded subdiscipline-specific journals published by the American Chemical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry and Wiley.

His work to date has been cited over 17,000 times and garnered an extraordinary Web of Science h-index of 69 (81 on Google Scholar). He also authored the 760-page textbook “Quantum Theory for Chemical Applications” (Oxford University Press, 2020). Peers call the text “a crowning achievement” and “an incredible resource for beginners and advanced students of theoretical and computational chemistry.”

Paul Vanouse.

Paul Vanouse, professor and program head for emerging practices in the Department of Art, and director of UB’s Coalesce Center for Biological Art, is recognized as one of the pioneering practitioners in the field of biological art, inventing a convergent model of artistic practices that both draws upon and critically contributes to scientific research.

An accomplished artist, curator and scholar, Vanouse has had an incredibly productive career marked by numerous exhibitions, presentations, lectures and groundbreaking innovation at the intersection of art and science. His work has fostered critical thinking about biological sciences and has brought scientific work into formats and venues outside the traditional realm.

Some of Vanouse’s most impactful art has used scientific principles to both elucidate elements of the human condition and question societal norms. In one of his most recent projects, titled “Labor,” he isolated and grew the bacteria typically responsible for human scent. In re-creating the odor related to human labor — sweat — for a gallery setting, he highlighted numerous societal phenomena, such as automated work, ethnic and racial discrimination, and the various stages of labor.

With a multidisciplinary approach and artistic expertise, Vanouse was integral to the development of Coalesce, which is part of GEM — the Genome, Environment and Microbiome Community of Excellence. Designed as a “lab-studio hybrid” dedicated to enabling hands-on creative engagement with the tools and technologies of the life sciences, Coalesce is one of the few dedicated biological art lab/studio spaces in the world, and the only one with a focus on genomics.

He has exhibited his work in prestigious venues in more than 25 countries, including the Louvre, the Andy Warhol Museum, the Walker Museum and the Carnegie Museum, and has received numerous awards of distinction, honorary mentions and prizes from the International Competition on Art and Artificial Life in Madrid, as well as Prix Ars Electronica in Austria. Moreover, “Labor” was awarded the Golden Nica — the highest international award within interdisciplinary and experimental art — from Prix Ars Electronica for Artificial Intelligence and Life Art. 

Igor Zutic, Assistant Professor of Physics.

Igor Žutić, professor in the Department of Physics, is a globally renowned condensed matter theoretical physicist who is recognized for his seminal discoveries and role as a leading theorist in “spin-dependent transport and superconducting junctions.”

His peers praise, in particular, his work on spin-related phenomena, which focuses on the unusual properties of materials with spin imbalance. Žutić’s predictions for spin photodiodes, spin transistors and ultrafast spin lasers have been experimentally realized, complementing commercial applications of spin phenomena and magnetism found in information storage and magnetic sensor technologies. He has put forth a concept of proximitized materials, in which a given material can be transformed by acquiring properties of its neighbors; for example, becoming superconducting, magnetic or topologically nontrivial. His recent work has focused on using such proximitized materials to enable fault-tolerant quantum computing. 

Žutić has published 140 peer-reviewed articles with about 16,000 citations on Web of Science and given 180 invited conference presentations and lectures,  underscoring his international reputation. Since receiving an NSF CAREER award in 2006, he has garnered over $8 million in awards to UB and has been regularly funded by a variety of agencies, including the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), in addition to the NSF. In 2022 alone, Žutić secured over $2 million in funding from the DOE, the NSF, ONR and AFOSR.

Žutić is the recipient of the National Research Council Fellowship (2003), the NSF CAREER award (2006), a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities (2019) and the Gordon Godfrey Visitor Fellowship at the University of New South Wales (2020). In 2016, he was named a fellow of the American Physical Society for his pioneering contributions to the theory of spin-dependent transport, magnetism in semiconductor nanostructures and novel spintronic devices. The research of his undergraduate students has been recognized with national awards, such as the Barry Goldwater Scholarship,

NSF Graduate Fellowship, and National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship.