UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three Penn State faculty members have been named Evan Pugh University Professors, the highest honor the institution can give to a member of its faculty.
The three are: Karen L. Bierman, McCourtney Professor of Child Studies in the College of the Liberal Arts; Katherine H. Freeman, distinguished professor of geosciences in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Thomas La Porta, Leonhard Chair and professor of computer science and engineering in the College of Engineering.
Only 71 faculty members, including the most recent honorees, have received this distinction since its establishment in 1960. It was created to honor preeminent professors at the University.
Faculty who are named Evan Pugh University Professors are nationally or internationally recognized leaders in their fields of research or creative activity; demonstrate significant leadership in raising the standards of the University with respect to teaching, research or creativity, and service; display excellent teaching skills with undergraduate and graduate students who go on to achieve distinction in their fields; and receive support from colleagues who are leaders in their fields.
Karen L. Bierman
Karen L. Bierman's focus is on research-based interventions to improve the academic and mental health outcomes for children, particularly those at risk. Her work includes studying the design and evaluation of school- and community-based programs that promote social competence, school readiness and positive intergroup relations while reducing aggression and violence. She is a leading authority on the development of peer relations and friendship, and a developer of preventive interventions to improve peer relations. She has directed several long-range studies to evaluate the impact of school-based intervention, including serving as the principal investigator for a program promoting school readiness with classroom-based and parent-focused intervention, and one promoting self-regulation among children with elevated attention-deficit hyperactivity symptoms.
Bierman joined Penn State in 1981, after her earning her doctorate in child clinical psychology from the University of Denver. She is director of the Child Study Center at Penn State.
Katherine H. Freeman
Katherine Freeman uses fossil biomolecules — biomarkers — and the stable isotopes of carbon and other elements to study ancient oceans, soils and lakes. She has used lipid and pigment biomarkers from algae, plants and microbes to study the links between water and carbon cycles and changes in climate over Earth's history. Her work shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide is high during periods of warm climate, plant ecosystems rapidly shift with changes in rain patterns and that global oxygen levels in the ocean impact and are impacted by microbial communities.
A distinguished professor of geosciences, Freeman joined the University faculty in 1991 after earning her doctorate from the Department of Geology at Indiana University.
Thomas La Porta
Thomas La Porta’s research interests include mobility management, signaling and control for wireless networks, mobile data systems, protocol design and mobile and wireless security. The holder of 35 patents, La Porta is director of the Semantically-Aware Quality of Information-Aware Networking Thrust, Network Sciences Collaborative Technology Alliance, a renewal of an initiative that led a major network sciences research center sponsored by the U.S. Army Research Lab. He is an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) fellow and a Bell Laboratories fellow.
La Porta, who joined Penn State in 2002, is founding director of the Institute of Networking and Security Research. He earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from Columbia University.
The Office of the Vice President for Research administers the selection process, with the Evan Pugh Advisory Committee reviewing nominations and making recommendations to the University president.
Of the 68 previously named Evan Pugh University Professors, 21 are still active in the University. The honor is named for Penn State’s founding president, an internationally known chemist and scholar who led the University from 1859 to 1864.