Four faculty named Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors Scholars

Early-career professors receive support for outstanding research and teaching

Four early-career faculty have received the Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors Award.
Four early-career faculty have received the Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors Award.

Four assistant professors have been recognized for outstanding teaching and research as part of an ongoing program to spotlight and support promising junior faculty in the College of LAS.

Eduardo Ledesma, Spanish and Portuguese; Hong Jin, biochemistry; David Sarlah, chemistry; and Catharine Fairbairn, psychology, have received the Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors (LEAP) Award, which is granted to faculty based on scholarly productivity and contributions to the educational mission of their departments and the college.

The LEAP Scholars will retain the award for two years, receiving $5,000 in discretionary research funding each of those years. The recipients were selected from a pool of nominees by a committee of senior distinguished faculty.

“These LEAP Scholars demonstrate exceptional promise to become leading scholars and educators in their fields,” said Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. “They represent the best of what our early-career faculty have to offer, from conducting cutting-edge research to energetically introducing our students to new ideas and concepts.”

Read summaries of the LEAP Scholars below:

  • Eduardo Ledesma, Spanish and Portuguese. Since joining U of I in 2012, Ledesma has emerged as a leading researcher in 20th and 21st century Latin American cultural and literary studies, with his work appearing some of the top journals in his field. National recognition of Ledesma’s research is evidenced by the fact that SUNY offered him an advanced contract for his book in progress: “Cinemas of Marginality: Experimental, Avant-Garde and Documentary Film in Ibero-America.” He has also played a significant role in mapping the future of studies in the department, and has appeared five times in the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent.
  • Hong Jin, biochemistry. When Jin was hired at U of I in 2014, she was one of the most sought-after faculty members in her field for her expertise in RNA biology, one of the most energetic and evolving forefronts of biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology. She soon secured her first National Institutes for Health grant for her work, and has published a research paper in the premier journal Nature. Called a “rising star” by her department head, Jin has also made significant contributions to the department and school’s educational mission by completely re-organizing and modernizing a core course in the biochemistry curriculum that serves undergraduate and graduate students.
  • David Sarlah, chemistry. Since coming to Illinois in 2014, Sarlah has come to the forefront in both the creation of important new molecules and the development of new synthetic methods to connect atoms into molecules—a feat rarely achieved by others in the field of synthesis, and certainly not ones so young. His two most recent publications at Illinois (among 30 total) illustrate his highly original approach to methodology, and were published in two of the top journals in the field. He has been very active in mentoring graduate students while converting his own teaching methods to be more interactive—resulting in excellent teaching evaluations from his students.
  • Catharine Fairbairn, psychology. Fairbairn’s work at Illinois since 2015 has been extremely fast-progressing and novel to her field. Her productivity is excellent; she published two papers in 2016, with two papers currently in press.  She established her own laboratory, and is recruiting for a major trial that involves an entirely new method that harnesses transdermal measures of blood-alcohol concentration. She is a strong mentor of undergraduate and graduate students, and supervises 20 undergraduates as research assistants in her laboratory. Enrollment in her new lecture course, Alcohol and Alcoholism, increased by 50 percent over one year, with one student commenting, “I use concepts I learned in this course every day.”

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Logan Weeter