ABOR votes to confirm 5 new UArizona Regents Professors
The Arizona Board of Regents voted to confirm the appointments of University of Arizona faculty members Sama Alshaibi, Jean-Luc Brédas, David Pietz, Dr. Juanita Merchant and Dr. Donata Vercelli as Regents Professors.

By Nick Prevenas, University Communications
April 7, 2022

The Arizona Board of Regents voted Thursday to confirm the appointments of University of Arizona faculty members Sama Alshaibi, Jean-Luc Brédas, Dr. Juanita Merchant, David Pietz and Dr. Donata Vercelli as Regents Professors.

The title of Regents Professor is reserved for full professors whose exceptional achievements merit national and international distinction. Regents Professor appointments are limited to no more than 3% of the total number of the university's tenured and tenure-track faculty members.

Sama Alshaibi
Professor in the School of Art
College of Fine Arts

Alshaibi joined the School of Art in 2006. Due in large part to her efforts, the School of Art's Photography, Video and Imaging program has grown substantively and is currently ranked No. 3 in U.S. News & World Report's list of best photography schools. In her field, she is among the most sought-after presenters, having given nearly 100 presentations, and among the most frequently cited visual artists, with more than 200 citations.

Alshaibi's work explores the notion of aftermath – the fragmentation and dispossession that violates the individual and a community following the destruction of their social, natural and built environment. In her photographs and videos, Alshaibi often uses her own body as both subject and medium.

Alshaibi's professional accolades include an extensive list of fellowships, exhibitions, publications and awards at both the national and international level. Recognition for her work includes an exhibition at the 2014 Venice Biennale, a monograph published by Aperture, a 2014 Fulbright Research Fellowship to the West Bank city of Ramallah, a 2019 Artpace residency and a 2021 Guggenheim fellowship. Her work has also been featured in recent exhibitions such as "Women in the Face of History and Migration(s)" and "Meaning in Art."

Jean-Luc Brédas
Professor of chemistry and biochemistry

College of Science

The development of colorful cell phone displays, thin-film solar cells and high-efficiency optical components for telecommunications requires scientists and engineers to design new materials and fabrication methods. An essential prerequisite to the successful design of new materials is understanding their electronic energy levels.

Over the past 30 years, Brédas and his group have been devising theoretical approaches that have led to a revolution in materials design. A substantial theoretical component is now an essential centerpiece of any major research effort in the design of devices and materials. Without Brédas' insight and innovation, such developments would have been insufficient to guarantee success and impact.

Brédas is the winner of the 2013 David Adler Award in Materials Physics of the American Physical Society, the 2016 Award in the Chemistry of Materials of the American Chemical Society, the 2019 Alexander von Humboldt Research Award, the 2020 Materials Theory Award of the Materials Research Society and the 2021 Centenary Prize of the U.K. Royal Society of Chemistry. He has been elected as a member of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science, the Royal Academy of Belgium and the European Academy of Sciences. According to Google Scholar, his h-index – an author-level metric that measures both the productivity and citation impact of research publications – is 156, with more than 116,000 citations. He is ranked No. 459 in the career list and No. 1 among UArizona faculty members.

Dr. Juanita L. Merchant
Professor of medicine
College of Medicine – Tucson

A leader in research on the stomach, Merchant is among the most accomplished and celebrated faculty members in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson. She joined the university in 2018 as a professor and chief of gastroenterology and hepatology. She has since added the titles of professor of physiological sciences and interim associate director of basic science for the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

Her research program has been supported for more than 25 years by competitively awarded grants from numerous sources, primarily the National Institutes of Health. In addition to her work as a physician-scientist, Merchant is a celebrated teacher and mentor. She has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Council of the National Academy of Medicine and the Association of American Physicians. In 2016, she also joined the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a unit of the NIH.

Merchant has also received the Funderburg Research Award in Gastric Cancer – a top honor in her specialty – as well as the Distinguished Achievement Award in Basic Science and the Distinguished Mentor Award from the American Gastroenterological Association.

David Pietz
Professor of history
, UNESCO Chair in Environmental History
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Pietz is among the world's preeminent scholars researching China's environmental transformations. His award-winning research has focused on the management of water in China, with an emphasis on two issues: how China has managed water to advance its state- and nation-building efforts, and the domestic and international environmental consequences of those efforts.

His research has been supported by several of the most prestigious foundations in the United States, including the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Fulbright Program and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In spring 2020, Pietz became UArizona's first Andrew Carnegie Fellow, selected because of his capacity to "address important and enduring issues confronting our society." Pietz received the recognition at the same time he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship – giving him the two top awards for scholars in the arts, humanities or social sciences.

Pietz is author of "The Yellow River," which examines more than 2,000 years of Chinese history and has been called transformational in the field. It received the 2016 Cecil B. Curry Book Award from the Association of Global South Studies.

Dr. Donata Vercelli
Professor of cellular and molecular medicine and associate director of the Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center

College of Medicine – Tucson

Vercelli studies the interaction of genetic and environmental factors in the development of allergic diseases, and her investigations have had a profound impact on the public's understanding of the development of asthma and allergic diseases.

In a highly acclaimed and influential experiment, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Vercelli and colleagues used a natural setting to demonstrate that the more children and their mothers played with and were exposed to farm animals, the fewer asthmatic symptoms the children displayed in later life. Comparing the allergy history of children raised in the Amish tradition in Indiana – where children and their mothers were exposed to horses and domestic animals on a daily basis – with families of Hutterites in South Dakota – whose farming practices were more structured and for whom daily contact with animals was much less – the researchers demonstrated that even though both populations had similar genetic backgrounds and lifestyles, the asthma and allergy symptoms of those in the former group were significantly lower than those of the latter.

Her research has led to several major prizes, grant funding totaling more than $40 million and national and international accolades. In 2010, she was elected to the Association of American Physicians. In 2018, she was elected secretary general of the Collegium Internationale Allergologicom – an international group that examines the scientific and clinical problems in allergy and related branches of medicine and immunology.


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