Skip to main content

Outstanding faculty members named Regents’ Professors

May 01, 2009

Five exceptional ASU professors at the top of their careers have been named as ASU Regents’ Professors for 2009 by President Michael Crow and Elizabeth D. Capaldi, executive vice president and provost. Their selection was ratified by the Arizona Board of Regents on May 1.

They include top scientists and engineers and a law professor, all of whom have made significant contributions to their fields and have achieved national and international recognition. The rank of Regents Professor is the highest faculty honor bestowed by the university, in honor of their accomplishments and the quality they have brought to ASU.

This year’s honorees are:

• Jane Buikstra, professor of bioarchaeology in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

• James Elser, professor of ecology in the School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

• Bruce Rittmann, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Biodesign Institute, Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

• Michael Saks, professor of law and psychology, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

• Dieter Schroder, professor of electrical engineering, Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

“In making this award to these five outstanding researchers, it reminds us of the remarkable research that is conducted daily throughout this university,” says Capaldi. “The individuals chosen this year are at the top of their professions in the sciences, law, and engineering, indicative of the breadth of accomplishments occurring at ASU. We are proud to recognize the achievements of such distinguished scholars.”

Buikstra pioneered the discipline of bioarachaeology, which is now taught widely in the United States and many other countries. She has enriched the archaeological knowledge of past peoples with that of forensics, pathology, medicine, population studies, bio-geochemistry and genetics. She has opened new windows into the past, greatly expanding archaeologists’ conceptual and methodological tool kit.

She and her colleagues developed the Center for American Archaeology into a premier research and field teaching program in the U.S. Buikstra also has directly mentored more than 40 doctoral students who are now professors and has trained hundreds of now professional archaeologists, bioarchaeologists and anthropologists.

Elser is a pioneer in the development and testing of the theory of biological stoichiometry, the study of the balance of energy and multiple chemical elements in living systems. His work has led to a better understanding of the linkages between evolutionary and ecosystem processes in both aquatic and terrestrial environments.

While his work is centered in ecology, he has most recently applied stoichiometric principles to the study of infectious disease and cancer. Elser’s work has a wide impact on the scientific world. He also has welcomed the challenge of teaching two sections of Biology 100, the largest course on the Tempe campus, for more than 16 years.

Rittmann is a pioneer in research aimed at developing microbiological systems that capture renewable resources and minimize environmental pollution. His work, which combines engineering with microbiology and chemistry, can be used to reclaim polluted water and generate energy from waste substances. For example, Rittmann explores microbial fuel cells, which utilize organic materials in water to directly generate electricity. 

He also is acclaimed for his development of biofilm fundamentals, which are used widely in the cleanup of contaminated waters and soil and in microbial fuel cells. He is an engaging and approachable mentor to students, and his textbook on environmental biotechnology is used by universities around the world.

Saks is recognized for his contributions to the field of behavioral science and law. His work, which often challenges common wisdom in the legal policy arena, spans a remarkable range of phenomena, including sentencing, the litigation system, scientific evidence in the law, the relative impact of jury selection and evidence, legal policy on organ and tissue transplantation, and issues of accuracy in legal decision-making.

His incisive and informative writings are influential among other academics and are cited in federal and state court opinions across the U.S., even in Supreme Court opinions. Saks has contributed to legal education by teaching law students, professors, judges and lawyers to understand and critically evaluate empirical claims and empirical research.

Schroder is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of semiconductor materials and devices, whose work in semiconductor defects created a new understanding of their role. His books on metal-oxide-silicon devices, and semiconductor materials and device characterization, are acclaimed and utilized worldwide.

He is a dedicated teacher, with more than 80 classes taught at ASU since 1981, and his courses are among the most popular in the department. He has mentored more than 60 master’s students and 41 doctoral students. Schroder also is partially responsible for the development of a semiconductor research center consisting of 25 faculty members and 75 graduate students.