Evan Pugh Professorships awarded to three Penn State faculty

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Three Penn State faculty members have been named Evan Pugh Professors, the highest distinction bestowed by the University on its faculty. Including these most recent honorees, only 65 have received these professorships since the title’s inception in 1960.

The three are: Nina G. Jablonski, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology in the College of the Liberal Arts; B. Franklin Pugh, Willaman Professor of Molecular Biology in the Eberly College of Science; and Andrew F. Read, Alumni Professor in the Biological Sciences and professor of entomology in the Eberly College of Science and College of Agricultural Sciences, respectively.

The Evan Pugh Professorships are named for Penn State’s founding president, an internationally known chemist and scholar who led the University from 1859 to 1864.

The professorships are awarded to faculty members who are nationally or internationally acknowledged leaders in their fields of research or creative activity; have demonstrated significant leadership in raising the standards of the University with respect to teaching, research or creativity, and service; and demonstrate excellent teaching skills with undergraduate and graduate students who have subsequently achieved distinction in their fields.

Nina Jablonski conducts research on the evolution and environmental adaptations of Old World primates including humans. She conducts field-based research in primate paleontology in China and Kenya, and works to understand how monkeys, apes and humans have evolved in relation to environmental change in the last 10 million years. Her research on the evolution of human adaptations to the environment focuses on the evolution of skin and skin pigmentation, including the health implications of skin pigmentation for modern people. She leads national and international programs to educate children and young adults about human diversity, while stimulating youth interest in science careers. 

Jablonski, who holds a doctorate in biological anthropology from the University of Washington, joined the Penn State faculty in 2006. She directs the cross-college Center for the Study of Human Diversity, Evolution and Behavior.  

B. Franklin Pugh, since coming to Penn State in 1992, has built a research program that has won wide renown for its investigations into how genes are controlled in eukaryotic cells.

He has focused particularly on the 6,000 genes of the baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, since they allow for the most efficient means of discovering transcriptional regulatory mechanisms. Lessons learned from these model organisms provide the foundation for a better understanding of how genes are regulated in humans and how mis-regulation of genes leads to diseases such as cancer.  

Pugh holds a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is director of Penn State’s Center for Gene Regulation.

Andrew F. Read studies the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases. He has received international recognition for his research on how natural selection shapes the virulence of malaria and how the “unnatural” selection imposed by medicine shapes the evolution of disease-causing organisms, ultimately causing drugs to fail and even creating “super-bugs” that are resistant to pharmaceuticals.

Since evolutionary responses to drugs, insecticides and biopesticides are the main causes of problems in preventing and treating infectious diseases, improved understanding of pathogen evolution can be valuable in informing public-health decision-making.

Read earned a doctorate in evolutionary biology from the University of Oxford in 1989 and has been a member of the Penn State faculty since 2007. He is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, an affiliate of the Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences.

An advisory committee of seven Penn State faculty members, including three Evan Pugh Professors, reviews nominations for the honor and makes recommendations to the University president.

Of the 65 Evan Pugh Professors, 21 are still actively teaching and pursuing research or creative work at Penn State.

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Last Updated May 27, 2014