Hettleman Prize Winners Span Arts and Sciences

Four ambitious and highly promising professors in diverse fields have been awarded the Phillip and Ruth Hettleman prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty at Carolina.

They are Thomas Hofweber, an associate professor of philosophy; Heather Williams, an associate professor of history; Wei Wang, an associate professor of computer science; and Charles Perou, an associate professor of genetics in the School of Medicine and a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Hettleman Prize, which carries a $5,000 stipend, recognizes the achievements of outstanding junior tenure-track faculty or recently tenured faculty. The winners will present their work Nov. 14 at The Carolina Club and at a spring event.

The award was established by Phillip Hettleman ’21, who grew up in Goldsboro in a family with little money. He earned a scholarship to UNC, went to New York and in 1938 founded a Wall Street investment firm, Hettleman & Co. He established the award in 1986 and died later that year.

Hofweber was awarded tenure this year after serving as an assistant professor at UNC since 2003. A native of Germany, his research interests include metaphysics, the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mathematics. Hofweber’s research achievements have been astonishing, said Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, chairman of the philosophy department.

William Lycan, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of philosophy, wrote of one of Hofweber’s academic articles: “Hofweber’s idea is that, shocking as it may sound, that the laws of logic admit very occasional exceptions. … No one has ever said anything like this before, and Hofweber says it with great skill.”

Williams, who joined the faculty in 2004, studies the experiences of blacks in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in the American South. The history department voted unanimously in favor of her tenure this year.

“We believe that Professor Williams is well on her way to becoming a national leader in African-American history and a dynamic teacher and colleague for the UNC community,” wrote Lloyd Kramer, Dean Smith Distinguished Professor of history and chair of the department, in his recommendation letter.

Wang, a member of the Carolina Center for Genomic Sciences, joined the faculty in 2002. She won the UNC Junior Faculty Development Award in 2003. Wang’s research interests are in data mining, bioinformatics and data bases, and she has filed seven patents.

“Wei’s research is also a great success story in our departmental research strategy, which has long focused on collaborative research with scientists to provide tools that enable better service,” wrote Jan F. Prins, chair of the computer science department; and Frederick P. Brooks, Kenan professor of computer science, in their nomination letter.

Perou joined the University in 2000. His lab is working to identify and characterize different types of tumors to develop more effective cancer therapies, working specifically on breast cancer.

“Dr. Perou is an exceptionally talented early career scientist who is already an internationally known leader in the emerging field of genetic technology and its application to human disease,” wrote H. Shelton Earp III ’70 (MD), director of the Lineberger Center; and Terry Magnuson, Sarah Graham Kenan professor and chair of the genetics department, in a recommendation letter.

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