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Four Harvard Faculty Awarded Arts and Sciences Professorships

Dean Smith
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith recently announced he will step down from his post at the end of this school year.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith awarded four professors prestigious Arts and Sciences Professorships earlier this month.

Catherine Dulac, professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, was named the Lee and Ezpeleta Professor of Arts and Sciences. Jennifer Lewis, professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering, was named Jianming Yu Professor of Arts and Sciences. Louis Menand, professor of English, was named the Lee Simpkins Family Professor of Arts and Sciences. Mary C. Waters, professor of Sociology, was named the PK Professor of Arts and Sciences.

Smith established these professorships in 2012 to honor tenured faculty members for “excellence in leadership, teaching, and scholarly achievement.” Selected professors are appointed for a five-year term and are granted additional funding towards research and other work-related costs.

Dulac, who has worked at Harvard for the past 21 years, investigates how neural circuits control what she calls the “secrets of behavior.” In particular, she focuses on instinctive social behaviors like mating, aggression, and parenting.

She is also involved in the National Institute of Health’s Brain Research through Advancing Neurotechnologies Initiative, which works towards identifying all the neuronal types across the brain.

Dulac says she plans to use the funds that come with her professorship to create research fellowships that will support undergraduate students. She said she believes some of the best teaching happens in the lab.

“It's extremely rewarding as a teacher because you can see how much they learn, not only of the science, but actually also on how research functions, and some of them ‘catch the virus,’” Dulac said.

Waters said she hopes to utilize the funds from her professorship to conduct research in the field. Her current project, called “Resilience in Survivors of Katrina,” is a longitudinal study that traces the lives of over 1,000 African-American single mothers before and after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. She is also working on a book on mass incarceration and immigration detention.

Waters has worked in the sociology department since she first earned her Ph.D. in 1986.

She said she finds continued joy in working with her students and colleagues.

“It's probably the best job you could ever imagine, because you get to study whatever you want and teach really brilliant students, and so what's not to like?" she said.

Education has also formed a priority for Menand.

“The main attraction for me at Harvard is working on making the institution better,” Menand said.

Four years ago, Menand worked with colleagues to develop Humanities 10: "From Homer to Garcia Marquez”—an intensive introduction to literature course for first-year students.

Beyond teaching the popular English 170a: “High and Low in Postwar America” course, Menand also sits on the Faculty of Education and cited his work with institutional development as one of his most rewarding projects at Harvard. When he first arrived at Harvard in 2003, he was appointed to the committee that established the General Education Program.

Menand won the Pulitzer Prize and Francis Parkman Prize for his book The Metaphysical Club in 2002. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal, acknowledging his role in expanding the nation’s cultural understanding and engagement.

Lewis, who holds numerous patents, works on the assembly of soft functional materials. Her lab recently developed new technologies that speed up the process of 3D printing. Her professorship funds will go towards “designing organ-specific tissues for drug screening, disease modeling, and regenerative medicine, while giving her students hands-on experience,” according to a press release.

Lewis serves as a "Core Faculty Member" at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, and was elected last year to the National Academy of Engineering.

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