A chemist forging new research methods, a music historian bringing 16th-century theater to bear on the present, a pharmacologist who discovered a group of protein regulators and a scholar bringing to light the social implications of medical policy have received UNC’s 2006 Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty.
This year’s recipients are Jeffrey Johnson, assistant professor of chemistry and Anne MacNeil, associate professor of music history, both in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as Dr. David Siderovski, associate professor of pharmacology and a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Jonathan Oberlander, associate professor of social medicine and adjunct professor in political science, both in the School of Medicine.
The award, which includes a $5,000 stipend, has honored outstanding junior tenure-track or recently tenured faculty since 1986. All of this year’s recipients also received praise for their qualities as teachers. They are scheduled to present their work in two lectures at The Carolina Club – MacNeil and Johnson on Nov. 16, Siderovski and Oberlander on April 24, 2007.
The award was established by Phillip Hettleman, who was born in 1899 and grew up in Goldsboro in a family with little money. He earned a scholarship to Carolina, went to New York and, in 1938, founded Hettleman & Co., a Wall Street investment firm. He established the award in 1986 and died later that year.
Johnson joined the chemistry faculty in 2001. His laboratory develops new synthetic methodology for the rapid construction of complex organic molecules, especially pharmaceuticals, and he has won nearly every major award available to young chemists, said Holden Thorp ’86, chair of the department of chemistry. Thorp called Johnson’s contributions “remarkably innovative,” “elegant” and “path breaking.”
“Johnson’s productivity has been truly astonishing,” Thorp wrote in a nomination letter. “He has assembled a strong group of graduate students and together they have published 34 papers from UNC, all in top-refereed journals. Jeff has already established a national reputation and is regarded as one of the very top young chemists working in this crowded and highly competitive area.”
MacNeil came to UNC in 1999. Her study of women in late 16th- and early 17th-century Italian theater has “opened whole new fields of inquiry in the areas of theater history, opera history, commedia dell ‘arte, and not insignificantly in gender studies,” wrote Tim Carter, who nominated MacNeil.
A colleague characterized MacNeil’s writing as an “exceptionally learned, often brilliant study of what I had previously and offhandedly thought of as a peripheral topic in the history of music.”
“In her publications and lectures she has brought to light a whole new facet of musical and literary activity in the late Italian Renaissance and early Baroque in a way that has gained her high national and international repute,” Carter said.
Siderovski also came to UNC in 1999. His research centers on a unique family of molecules he discovered in 1996 – the regulators of G-protein signaling, or “RGS proteins” – that modify the duration and strength of hormone communication between cells.
“What separates Dr. Siderovski from many investigators is his exceptional multi-disciplinary skills,” said Gary Johnson, chair of the department of pharmacology. “Dr. Siderovski uses bioinformatics and cross-genome analysis to parse out new discoveries of protein architecture, then he employs structural and cell biology, biochemistry and genetics to validate his predictions and hypotheses.” Johnson called Siderovski “fearless” in his use of multiple disciplines.
Johnson submitted three letters supporting Siderovski’s nomination that also supported his promotion to associate professor. The three authors were members of the National Academy of Sciences, and one is a Nobel laureate. “They unanimously describe Dr. Siderovski’s research as groundbreaking, creative and truly outstanding,” Johnson said.
Oberlander, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Carolina in 1989, joined the faculty in 2003 as associate professor of social medicine. He also is an adjunct faculty member in the department of political science.
Nancy King, professor and vice chair of the department of social medicine, described Oberlander as “an extraordinarily talented scholar with a broad, cross-disciplinary perspective who is able to speak accessibly and authoritatively, both within his home discipline and also to diverse audiences of health care providers and policymakers.”
Oberlander’s first book, The Political Life of Medicare, received wide acclaim, and his paper, titled “The U.S. Health System: On the Road to Nowhere,” has “been called the best account of the American system available today,” King said.
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