Four professors honored with 2013 Ford Research Fellowships

SMU 2013 Ford Research Fellows Thomas Ritz, Bonnie Jacobs, Michael Corris and Suku Nair
Four SMU professors were honored with 2013 Ford Research Fellowships during the University’s May Board of Trustees meeting (left to right): Thomas Ritz, Bonnie Jacobs, Michael Corris and Suku Nair.

Four exemplary SMU researchers have been chosen as the University’s 2013 Ford Research Fellows. This year’s recipients are Michael Corris, Art, Meadows School of the Arts; Bonnie Jacobs, Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Suku Nair, Computer Science and Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering; and Thomas Ritz, Psychology, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from SMU Trustee Gerald J. Ford, the fellowships help the University retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives a cash prize for research support during the year.

Learn more about the new Fellows under the link.

Michael Corris, chair and professor of art, has established himself as a highly respected critic, historian and practitioner of art, with a focus on contemporary and modern and special attention to Anglo-American conceptual art of the past 50 years. As a critic and historian, Corris has published and lectured widely on this movement and its relation to the art of today, producing numerous monographs, volumes, articles and book chapters. His work is widely cited, and he is regularly invited to present at universities, art schools and organizations in the United States and abroad, including the Royal College of Art in London; the Art, Culture and Technology Program at MIT; and the San Francisco Art Institute. As a practitioner, he has displayed his work at venues including the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, the Musée d’Art Modern et Contemporain in Geneva, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Bonnie Jacobs is one of the world’s leading experts on the fossil plants of Africa. Her research lies at the intersection of the physical Earth and the biosphere as recorded in rocks ranging in age from 1,000 years to 110 million years before present. She is one of only a few scientists with expertise in the ecosystem conditions of equatorial Africa during this time span, which encompasses periods of significant climate change. Data on the environmental conditions in the tropics during earlier periods of global warming are critical to testing and improving models that are currently in use to predict climate change today. Her work has been published in 46 peer-reviewed articles in professional journals and is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Jacobs, a professor in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, currently advises two graduate students and teaches many core courses for the undergraduate program in Environmental Science.

Suku Nair, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is a leader in the emerging field of cybersecurity, which is rapidly expanding due to its importance to national, corporate and personal security. He has published more than 125 peer-reviewed articles in journals and highly selective proceedings volumes. He has supervised the completion of 12 Ph.D.s and one Doctor of Engineering, and his students have emerged as leaders in academia, government and industry, including placements at SMU, Mississippi State, the National Security Agency (NSA), Cisco and Ericsson. Nair is the founding director of SMU’s HACNet Lab, the premier cybersecurity research lab in the Southwest, and has established an NSA Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and an NSF center in collaboration with other North Texas universities.

Thomas Ritz, professor of psychology, is an internationally renowned researcher in the field of psychobiology and its application to respiratory disease. He has published 82 peer-reviewed articles, 11 book chapters, a monograph and a book, and has presented his work at more than 40 conferences. His research has identified the mechanisms by which stress and emotion lead to airway obstruction, inflammation and symptoms in asthma. Working with his colleagues, Ritz has developed a behavioral intervention for asthma that mitigates symptoms and enables improved control of the condition – results with considerable societal significance given the significant public-health burden imposed by the disease. In addition, he has investigated the role of hyperventilation as a risk factor for fainting in blood-phobic patients, and respiration-controlled respiratory sinus arrhythmia as a measure of parasympathetic activity.