University Distinguished Professor - Dr. Mark Nelson


Pharmacology Group at the UVM Commencement May 7, 2009

The university's 205th commencement ceremony bestowed degrees on an estimated 2,781 graduates — and a new title on four of UVM's top professors. At Sunday's ceremony, Burton Sobel in medicine, Mark Nelson in pharmacology, Rex Forehand in psychology, and Judith Van Houten in biology, became the first faculty members to be named University Distinguished Professors, a new honorific title conferred upon a select number of professors who have attained an international reputation in the areas of teaching, research, scholarship, and service.

The program honors faculty who have brought distinction to the university over an extended period of service; only those with the rank of professor are considered for the award. Nominations, submitted by deans, chairs and full-time faculty, supplemented by curriculum vitae and supporting letters from distinguished scholars around the world, are reviewed by the Faculty Senate. The final selection is made by the university provost.

Going forward, a maximum of two Distinguished Professors will be selected in a year, with up to ten professors holding the title at any time. Those ten will form the Council of University Distinguished Professors, who will serve in an advisory role to the president and provost. New University Distinguished Professors will only be named when existing members of the council leave full-time appointment at UVM. The honor also comes with a $5,000 annual professional expense award.

Mark Nelson, professor and chair of pharmacology and a member of the UVM faculty since 1986, was awarded a prestigious MERIT award in 2008 from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The ten- year, $3.39 million grant provides continued funding for Nelson's research on smooth muscle cells. This year, Nelson was named a Fellow in the Biophysical Society. This award is designed to honor the society's distinguished members who have demonstrated excellence in science and to the expansion of the field of biophysics. Nelson, who has published extensively in such prestigious journals as Nature, Science, and Nature Neuroscience.