UF Foundation names two UF professors as preeminence award winners


Published: Monday, October 7, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 7, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.

The University of Florida Foundation has granted the first “Preeminence Term Professorships” to two faculty members doing medical-related research.

Fan Ren, a chemical engineer developing medical diagnostic technology, and Mark Atkinson, a pathologist looking for a cure for diabetes, will receive $25,000 each, the UF Foundation announced Monday.

The Preeminence Term Professorships were established to celebrate UF’s top research faculty members and recognize their contributions to making UF a Top 10 preeminent university.

“We wanted to recognize the most distinguished faculty for their incredible accomplishments and further strengthen their research,” said Tom Mitchell, vice president for UF Development and Alumni Affairs.

The foundation will give two awards each year to faculty nominated by their deans and chosen by a review committee appointed by the provost, Mitchell said.

UF received the “preeminence” designation from the Florida Legislature this year, along with $15 million a year for five years to help advance its status among peer institutions. President Bernie Machen has pledged to match that money with private donations and use it to recruit top faculty who can further burnish UF’s national reputation.

The foundation also has made a pledge to raise $800 million over the next three years to create more than 100 endowed professorships and chairs to attract distinguished research professors to UF to help it become one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities.

Endowed term professorship recipients have three years to spend the money, Mitchell said. They can use it to cover travel expenses to national and international conferences, collaborate with colleagues elsewhere, purchase equipment, hire assistants and other ways that help expand and strengthen their knowledge and research.

Provost Joe Glover said the idea was motivated by two factors — the effort to rise in national rankings and a desire to make the foundation’s work more visible.

When he received the recommendations for Atkinson and Ren, Glover said he didn’t second guess the committee’s choices. “Both are extremely distinguished with wonderful achievements,” he said.

Glover made the presentation at the foundation’s board meeting Saturday.

Atkinson is the current Eminent Scholar for Diabetes Research and co-director of the UF Diabetes Center of Excellence in the College of Medicine. He has spent the past 27 years studying the cause of Type 1 diabetes and finding a way to prevent and cure it. He has received numerous awards for his work, notably from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Atkinson said he will use the UF Foundation grant to help pay for experiments and graduate assistants.

Ren has been responsible for the fabrication of semiconductors and other devices that make the electronic age possible, Glover said. Ren currently heads up a team in the College of Engineering that is creating sensors to help detect chemical and biological signs that could tip off doctors about kidney disease, breast cancer and other health problems.

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