Two College of Science faculty are among the seven Texas A&M University faculty appointed to the rank of University Distinguished Professor, effective September 1, 2020.
Dr. Richard Gomer, professor of biology, and Dr. Edriss Titi, professor of mathematics, have been recognized along with Dr. Dallas Little, professor in the Department of Civil Engineering within the College of Engineering; Dr. Glynn Lunney, professor of law within the School of Law; Dr. Helen Reed, professor of aerospace engineering within the College of Engineering; Dr. Patrick Stover, dean and professor of biochemistry and biophysics within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; and Dr. Ping Yang, professor of atmospheric sciences within the College of Geosciences (who also holds a joint appointment in the Department of Physics and Astronomy), who were announced Wednesday (Feb. 26) as the latest recipients of the coveted title.
Gomer, a member of the Texas A&M Department of Biology since 2010 and holder of a Thomas W. Powell ’62 Chair in Science, is globally renowned as a prolific researcher and pioneering inventor with a strong track record of translating his research findings into societal benefit, thanks to his uncanny ability and persistence in taking fundamental concepts from discovery to application. He is adept in using biochemical, molecular and computational approaches to address critical problems in biomedicine. He is a world leader in fundamental research in cell differentiation and the molecular mechanisms of cell density sensing using the single-celled amoebae Dictyostelium, considered one of the primary model systems by the National Institutes of Health and widely used to address problems in evolutionary, cell and developmental biology. In a trailblazing combination of fundamental-meets-applied contributions, he and fellow Biology faculty member Darrell Pilling found that the blood protein serum amyloid P (SAP) regulates key aspects of the immune system and then deciphered its roles and applications in fibrotic diseases, which account for up to 40 percent of deaths in the developed world. SAP showed excellent efficacy as a therapeutic for fibrosing diseases in clinical trials, and the technology recently was purchased by Roche in a $1.39 billion deal.
“Dr. Gomer’s seminal discovery that SAP can block fibrocyte differentiation has not only reoriented medical research in this area, it is also on the verge of changing how a broad range of deadly diseases are treated,” said Dr. Thomas D. McKnight, professor and head of Texas A&M Biology. “It is difficult to imagine a more impactful result from curiosity-driven inquiries into basic cell biology. We are fortunate to have on our faculty such an insightful and productive researcher whose innate curiosity makes him broadly interested in everything.”
Titi, who joined the Texas A&M Department of Mathematics in 2014 as the inaugural holder of the Arthur Owen Endowed Professorship in Mathematics, is recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts in applied mathematical analysis, nonlinear partial differential equations (PDEs) and fluid dynamics — work globally acknowledged as being of the first rank. His research focuses on nonlinear PDEs and nonlinear scientific phenomena — specifically, it lies at the interface of their rigorous applied analysis and physical applications. He is a world renowned expert in the mathematical theory of the Navier-Stokes and other related nonlinear PDEs that govern fluid mechanics and oceanic and atmospheric dynamics, with an amazing gift for effective collaborations with engineers, physicists, computational scientists and mathematicians.
“Dr. Titi is an outstanding scholar,” said Dr. Sarah J. Witherspoon, professor and head of Texas A&M Mathematics. “His ground breaking contributions to date have, on more than one occasion, changed the prevailing thinking of the experts. Equally importantly, they have introduced new methods and tools into the field. In addition, Professor Titi is an outstanding mentor to students, postdocs and young colleagues in general.”
The 2020 university distinguished professor honorees join a select group of nearly 100 current faculty members who hold the prestigious title — 35 of whom are affiliated with the College of Science. The title, which is bestowed in perpetuity, identifies faculty members who are preeminent in their fields and have made at least one landmark contribution to their disciplines. Their work is considered central to any narrative of the field and widely recognized to have changed its direction of scholarship. Past recipients of the lifetime title participate in the selection process, growing the ranks of distinguished professors by just a handful of scholars each year.
“It is a privilege to recognize these faculty and honor the impact they have made on the world through scholarship and advancements in understanding,” Provost and Executive Vice President Carol A. Fierke said. “Distinguished Professorships celebrate the high caliber and global significance of scholarship underway at Texas A&M University.”
Gomer, Titi and their fellow 2020 honorees will be recognized at an induction ceremony in March.
Gomer earned his Ph.D. in biology from the California Institute of Technology in 1983 and was a professor of biochemistry and cell biology at Rice University for 21 years prior to coming to Texas A&M. In addition to his research on tissue size regulation, tissue cell composition, fibrosing diseases and Dictyostelium, he is co-author of a number of astrophysical research papers, courtesy of his undergraduate degree in physics and lifelong love of astronomy. A former Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, he has authored more than 200 high impact publications, earning previous recognition as a 2011 Texas Inventor of the Year by the State Bar of Texas, a 2013-2014 National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences and a 2016 finalist for NPR’s Golden Mole Award for Accidental Brilliance for discovering SAP. In 2019, Gomer was named to the inaugural class of National Academy of Inventors Senior Members in recognition of his worldwide achievements and contributions, which include 14 patents to date and several more pending. A fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, he has received the Texas A&M Sigma Xi Chapter’s Outstanding Distinguished Scientist Award (2017), a Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Research (2016) and a Texas A&M System Technology Commercialization Excellence in Innovation Award (2016).
Titi received his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1986 and, following postdoctoral appointments at the University of Chicago and Cornell University, spent the majority of his career at the University of California, Irvine, where he has been a professor emeritus since 2014. He also continues to serve as a professor of computer science and applied mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, a position he has held since 2003. A fellow of the Institute of Physics (2004), the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (2012) and the American Mathematical Society (2012), Titi has been recognized with various national and international awards, including two distinguished visiting scholarships to Los Alamos National Laboratory (Orson Anderson Scholar, 1997-1998; Stanislaw M. Ulam Scholar Award, 2002-2003), a Humboldt Research Award (2009), the SIAM Prize for Best Paper in Partial Differential Equations (2009), a Special Distinguished Visiting Researcher Award from the Science Without Borders program in Brazil (2013), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2018) and the Berlin-based Einstein Stiftung Foundation’s Einstein Visiting Fellow Award (2018-2020).
See the complete list of distinguished professors at Texas A&M.
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