Thirteen outstanding faculty members from across the university have been selected for the 2023 cohort of Chancellor Faculty Fellows. This group is composed of highly accomplished, recently tenured faculty from a wide variety of disciplines and areas of expertise.
“As we reflect on the 150th anniversary of our founding, we’re asking our university community to dare to grow—to reach higher, think bigger, take intellectual and creative risks, and have an even greater positive impact on the world,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “Chancellor Faculty Fellowships empower a cohort of already-accomplished teachers and researchers to do just that.”
Each fellow holds the title for two years, receives $40,000 per year to support their work, and meets with their cohort to exchange ideas on teaching and research, build a broader intellectual community that advances collaborative scholarship and engage in academic leadership development to increase their leadership capacity.
“Chancellor fellowships are an investment in faculty that supports two of our key aims: the pursuit of bold ideas and the exponential increase in innovation and impact that comes with collaboration across disciplines. I am delighted to congratulate this year’s deserving fellows,” said C. Cybele Raver, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.
The 2023 Chancellor Faculty Fellows are:
- Manuel Ascano Jr., associate professor of biochemistry. Ascano is an internationally recognized scientist known for his discoveries in unraveling the mechanisms by which cells differentiate between safe or harmful RNA and DNA. With tenure granted in 2021, Ascano’s findings illuminate critical host-viral pathogen interactions and cellular immune responses, thereby facilitating the development of novel vaccines and immunotherapies.
- Justin Balko, associate professor of medicine. Balko is a pioneering researcher of breast oncology and melanoma whose work has been cited more than 19,000 times. In 2022, Balko helped identify the cause of myocarditis in cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy, which will lead to safer treatments for patients who require immune checkpoint inhibitors. He was tenured in 2020.
- Marcelo Disconzi, associate professor of mathematics. Disconzi is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in relativistic viscous fluids. Tenured in 2021, Disconzi developed a new mathematical formalism that bridged the long-standing divide between the laws of thermodynamics and Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Disconzi is a 2018 Sloan Fellow and a 2019 Dean’s Faculty Fellow.
- Lisa Fazio, associate professor of psychology and human development. Fazio studies learning and memory in children and adults and leads a team of 80 misinformation scientists who are working to combat false information on social media. She was tenured in 2021.
- Vivian Gama, associate professor of cell and developmental biology. Gama studies the molecular principles governing organelle remodeling as a driver of cellular transitions during neurogenesis. Tenured in 2020, Gama’s research has pioneered the use of pluripotent stem cell systems to understand the pathophysiology of rare, incurable mitochondrial and peroxisomal diseases with the goal of uncovering new therapeutic targets.
- Reyna Gordon, associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. Gordon is an integrative scientist studying the relationship between the biological underpinnings of human musicality and language and how these traits relate to health. Her work combines methods from complex trait genetics, communication disorders, epidemiology, cognitive neuroscience, language science and music cognition. In 2021, she became the first woman in her department to be awarded tenure.
- Aimi Hamraie, associate professor of medicine, health and society. Hamraie uses pathbreaking interdisciplinary methods to explore how disability communities experience and challenge inequality in the built environment. Their research contributes to the humanities, social science and design disciplines, as well as to public policy. Tenured in 2020, Hamraie uses theoretical and applied research to generate real-world impact for marginalized groups.
- Lauren Jackson, associate professor of biological sciences. Jackson is working to uncover how critical protein molecules are precisely sorted inside cells by researching the molecular mechanisms of membrane trafficking pathways. Tenured in 2022, Jackson’s work has implications in fundamental cell biology and human health and is crucial to better understanding genetic neurological diseases and cancers.
- Jonathan Lane, associate professor of psychology and human development. Lane examines how children develop social cognition, with novel, programmatic studies of how children understand minds (“theory of mind”), trust claims, understand intergroup dynamics and develop morally. Tenured in 2022, his research has implications for childhood teaching and learning.
- Shihong Lin, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. Lin is an international leader in sustainable water treatment and desalination. Tenured in 2021, his award-winning research in environmental separation processes addresses sustainability challenges in water, energy and food.
- Ethan Lippmann, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Lippmann uses interdisciplinary approaches to model and understand neurovascular diseases. Tenured in 2022, he seeks to use these basic science investigations to drive new avenues for clinical translation.
- Rebecca VanDiver, associate professor of the history of art. VanDiver is an award-winning scholar of African American art. Her distinguished scholarship focuses on Black women artists and intersections between art and the ongoing fight for racial and social justice in the United States. She received tenure in 2022.
- Kimberly Welch, associate professor of history. Welch is an award-winning scholar who is redefining the field of slavery and law in early American history. Tenured in 2021, she is currently focused on the relationship of race, risk and intergenerational wealth and what it reveals about structural economic and social inequality in the U.S. South and Atlantic world during the long nineteenth century.
“This investment in our faculty ensures opportunities for knowledge sharing, interdisciplinary collaboration and leadership development,” said Jeff Balser, president and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and dean of the School of Medicine. “I look forward to this year’s cohort making significant and innovative contributions that advance our mission.”
The Chancellor Faculty Fellows program was launched in September 2014 under the Trans-Institutional Programs initiative to support outstanding faculty who have recently received tenure. This year, Chancellor Faculty Fellow candidates were nominated by their deans or deans’ designees.
The Chancellor Faculty Fellows Review Committee, comprising past fellows with collaborative oversight by Tracey George, vice provost for faculty affairs and professional education, and Jennifer Pietenpol, chief scientific and strategy officer for VUMC, reviewed all the nominations and made recommendations to Raver. The chancellor made the final selections.