UConn News HomeUConn News

Four faculty named for excellence in research (Released: 5/17/98)

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu, Office of University Communications.

Storrs , Conn. -- Four faculty members will receive the inaugural Chancellor's Research Excellence Awards during the graduate Commencement ceremonies at the University of Connecticut, Sunday, May 17.

The four are: Gerald Dunne of MANSFIELD, an associate professor of physics, William Fitzgerald of OLD LYME, a professor of marine sciences, David Kenny of COVENTRY, a professor of psychology, and Ruth Millikan of MANSFIELD CENTER, a professor of philosophy.

The awards were established this year to recognize outstanding researchers at all stages of their careers, from senior researchers to young investigators, with at least one reserved for a faculty member who is within 10 years of receiving the Ph.D. degree.

The awards carries a stipend of $2,500 to be used in support of the awardee's research.

Professor Gerald Dunne

Gerald Dunne, an associate professor of physics at the University of Connecticut, is a theoretical physicist. His research specialty is low-dimensional field theory, a branch of quantum field theory with applications to fundamental particle physics and condensed matter physics. It is a field of study that has potential implications for future technologies, including solid state devices.

Dunne has become an acknowledged authority on the quantum Hall effect and on Chern-Simons theory, two theories that provide insight into the topological structures thought to lie at the heart of the structure of elementary particles. His book, Self-Dual Chern-Simons Theories, has been described as a seminal work and has become a standard reference.

Since 1985 he has published 61 scientific papers and lecture notes. A number of the articles he authored or co-authored have received numerous citations in the scientific literature, including one article cited more than 100 times. In 1996, he organized an international workshop on low-dimensional field theory in Telluride, Co.

As one of a group of UConn researchers working on particle theory, he is a principal investigator on a U.S. Department of Energy research grant of more than $400,000, that has just been renewed for three years. In addition, a proposal he prepared in collaboration with colleagues in Italy and Switzerland has led to a NATO international Collaborative Grant for research in Self-Duality in Planar Gauge Theories.

"I believe that Dunne is one of the best two or three young theoretical physicists in the United States today," says Carl Bender, professor of physics at Washington University, St. Louis.

William Stwalley, professor and head of the physics department, says "Gerald is the type of young faculty member any faculty would be proud to have: a stellar researcher of extraordinary productivity and impact, reaching creatively into fields well beyond his background, as well as an excellent teacher very highly appreciated by his students."

Dunne's first student, Ted Hall, is about to receive his Ph.D. The two have collaborated on three publications; another of Dunne's publications is on joint research with an undergraduate, Jake Mannix, who participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program in 1997.

A native of Australia, Dunne holds a B.Sc. and M.Sc. from the University of Adelaide, and a Ph.D. from Imperial College, London, England. He also worked as a postdoctoral research affiliate and instructor at MIT before joining the faculty at UConn in 1992.

Professor William F. Fitzgerald

William F. Fitzgerald is a pivotal authority on mercury as a global pollutant and has led to landmark breakthroughs in understanding mercury and its affects on human health.

Regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the marine and atmospheric biogeochemistry of mercury, Fitzgerald has been a pioneer in the development of state-of-the-art techniques for measuring mercury in the natural environment. He has been a member of the University of Connecticut faculty since 1970, creating the Mercury Laboratory. Techniques developed in his renown lab have served as the prototype for a new generation of mercury detectors. These devices have significantly improved scientists’ ability to detect mercury in the environment.

Fitzgerald’s research also has had extensive impact on the management of mercury as a pollutant from local to global scales. His accurate measurements of mercury concentrations in the natural environment were among the first to show that mercury contamination is high and pervasive throughout the world’s oceans. Measurements are used to gauge risk of contamination on human health.

He has been published over 60 peer-reviewed articles in prestigious journals on the cycling of mercury and the influence of anthropogenic emissions on this cycle, including Nature and Science.

He has served on many national and international committees dealing with the problem of mercury as a global pollutant, including for UNESCO, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Federal Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and NATO.

Fitzgerald has another remarkable legacy – all of his Ph.D. students now hold positions at major research and academic institutions.

Professor David A. Kenny

University of Connecticut Professor David A. Kenny, an internationally known social psychologist, has contributed both to the understanding of person perception and to the development of data analysis procedures for research conducted outside of the laboratory.

Kenny, a member of the UConn faculty since 1978, focused his early work in the area of the analysis of nonexperimental data. His more recent work has focused on the perceptions that people have of each other. Prior work had limited perceptions to those of hypothetical, artificial people. Kenny pioneered the development of methods that allowed for the study of actual people. Among the questions he has investigated are factors that lead people to agree and disagree in their perceptions of others, accuracy of perceptions, and the degree to which persons know how others see them. To answer these questions, he has developed an

elaborate statistical model called the Social Relations that is now used by investigators throughout the world.

Kenny has had a significant effect on the University's graduate program. Besides teaching data analysis to students in over 10 different departments, his classes have been attended by faculty in psychology, sociology, political science, educational psychology, nursing, communication sciences, and marketing. He has been a pivotal figure in attracting and developing top-notch graduate students and faculty.

Kenny earned his A.B. in 1968 from the University of California at Davis and his Ph.D. in 1972 from Northwestern University. He joined UConn from Harvard University, where he was an Associate Professor. He has served on committees for the National Academy of Science, National Institutes of Health, and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Kenny has numerous publications in prestigious publications such as Psychological Bulletin and Psychological Review, and has written five books. His work has been cited by other scientists more than four thousand times, and one of his papers his papers has over one thousand citations. He has given over 100 talks at other universities and conferences and is constantly asked to give workshops throughout the world on his work. In the last two years, he has lectured in Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Spain.

Professor Ruth Millikan

Ruth Millikan, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, is internationally recognized for her work on the implications of the theory of evolution for our understanding of language, mind and psychology.

Her 1984 book, Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories, published by MIT Press, is regarded as a pioneering work that brought a fundamental reorientation to the philosophy of psychology and mind. Her work has offered insights into how people are able to think and talk about matters in the world that lie beyond our nerve endings.

"Other philosophers have explored the biological approach to thought and language but none began with a vision as complex and carefully worked out as Millikan's," says Crawford Elder, professor and head of the philosophy department.

Austen Clark, professor of philosophy says "I have the impression that Ruth right now is working on problems that the rest of us will start to appreciate five or 10 years down the road ... She is way ahead of us," he says. "Ruth Millikan is not the sort of person to settle down in that bustling new city which she herself founded; she's still out in the wilderness somewhere, by herself, blazing new trails."

Millikan joined the faculty at UConn in 1977 and was promoted to full professor in 1988. From 1993-1996, she held a joint appointment at the University of Michigan. She has published two books, with a third forthcoming, and numerous articles. Eleven of her articles have been reprinted, some in many publications, and some have been translated into German and Polish. She has served a referee for the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, MIT Press, Cambridge University Press, Kluwer Academic Publishers, the Guggenheim Foundation, and a number of the top scholarly journals in philosophy.

Millikan is much sought after as a speaker. In the past 10 years, she has given more than 100 invited talks in the United States and Canada, at many of the most highly regarded academic institutions, and more than 75 invited talks overseas. She has been invited to give several prestigious addresses, including the Gareth Evans Memorial Lecture at Oxford in 1991 and the 1997 Patrick Romanell lecture, one of only two named lectures sponsored by the national American Philosophical Association. In addition, two recent international conferences have been devoted entirely to her work.