Four named 2008-10 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors

SMU's 2008-10 Altshuler ProfessorsFour outstanding educators have been named 2008-10 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors by SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence. This year’s honorees are Olga Colbert, Foreign Languages and Literatures; Ian Harris, Statistical Science; Larry Ruben, Biological Sciences; and David Willis, Mechanical Engineering.

The four new members will join four returning members of SMU’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers: Christine Buchanan, Biological Sciences; Mark Chancey, Religious Studies; John C. Holbert, Theology; and Bonnie Wheeler, English and Medieval Studies. Read more.

Left, the new Altshuler Professors were honored by the SMU Board of Trustees at its May meeting. Left to right: SMU Trustee Ruth Altshuler, Harris, Colbert, Ruben and Willis.


Olga López-Valero Colbert is associate professor of Spanish and Spanish Area Chair. A native of Madrid, she focuses her research chronologically from the Generation of 1898 and the exile from Spain’s Civil War to the literature of the Transition to democracy. Her work has appeared in España Contemporánea, Romance Language Notes, Ojáncano, and Revista Hispánica Moderna. She is the author of The Gaze on the Past: Popular Culture and History in Antonio Muñoz Molina’s Novels (Bucknell University Press, 2007). Her current book-length project studies the intersection of literature and photography in a group of novels by Spanish, Latin American and Chicano authors.

Ian Harris has been an associate professor of statistical science at SMU since 2001 and a Fellow of the University’s Institute for Reading Research since 2004. His research interests include robust statistical inference, estimation of variance components in hierarchical linear and generalized linear models, mixture models, and predictive inference. He is an associate editor for The American Statistician, and his work has appeared in Biometrika, the Journal of Applied Statistics and the Journal of Statistical Computation and Simulation. In addition, he is co-author of chapters in The Handbook of Statistics and the Encyclopedia of Biopharmaceutical Statistics, 2nd Edition.

Larry Ruben is chair of the Department of Biological Sciences in Dedman College. His research interests include the pathogenesis of African trypanosomes, cellular-signaling and molecular parasitology. He has done extensive research into the signal properties of Trypanosoma brucei, which causes the lethal infection commonly known as sleeping sickness that potentially affects more than 60 million people in 36 countries. His current research focuses on the pathways that regulate cell division and cell death, searching for unique processes in the trypanosome that can be used to design new therapies.

David Willis is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research interests include heat transfer and phase change, high-power laser ablation and micromachining, laser-assisted microfabrication, and microscale heat transfer. A two-time recipient of the Department of Mechanical Engineering Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award, he also received the 2005-06 Rotunda Outstanding Professor Award and the 2005 SMU Golden Mustang Award. In addition, he was named the 2008 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) North Texas Section Young Engineer of the Year.

Each year since 2001, the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Awards recognize four SMU faculty for their commitment to and achievements in fostering student learning. “These are faculty whose concerns for higher education go beyond classroom boundaries and often the boundaries of their own discipline,” according to the CTE Web site. “They represent the highest achievement in reaching the goals of higher education.” The professorships are named for SMU Trustee Ruth Altshuler.

Each recipient receives a $10,000 award and membership in SMU’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers for the two years of their appointment as Altshuler Professors. Members participate actively with other members of the Academy to address issues in classroom teaching.

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