UK Alumni Professorship Award recipients honored at luncheon

The UK Alumni Association honored the five recipients of the UK Alumni Professorship Award on Wednesday afternoon with a luncheon at the Boone Center.

The association — with a committee chaired by UK Associate Provost for Faculty Advancement G.T. Lineberry — regularly honors outstanding UK faculty members with the UK Alumni Professorship Award.

This year, the honors went to Dibakar (D.B.) Bhattacharyya of the College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering; D. Allan Butterfield of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry; Seth DeBolt of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Department of Horticulture; Brent Seales of the College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science; and Susan S. Smyth of the College of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine, Physiology.

Each of these five professors received a $15,000 stipend per year for five years. The stipend is non-renewable, but faculty members selected for this honor may retain the title of Alumni Professor throughout their UK career. The faculty positions are funded through Philanthropy and the UK Alumni Association.

“Successful universities are built on a foundation of great teaching,” said Tim Walsh, associate vice president for alumni relations and executive director of the UK Alumni Association. “Through Alumni Professorships, the UK Alumni Association is pleased to support faculty who have been recognized for their influential scholarly contributions, sustained excellence in teaching, and outstanding service.

“Many successful alumni attribute success in their career endeavors to the influence of faculty members during their college years. The Alumni Professorship program is one way for the UK Alumni Association to say thank you to the faculty members who have enriched the lives of our alumni.”

The award recognized faculty for their “influential scholarly contributions, sustained excellence in teaching, and outstanding career or public service.”

As each spring semester draws to a close, academic deans are asked to make nominations based on the following criteria:

  • The individual should be a tenured faculty member (at the rank of associate professor or professor);
  • The individual should have made outstanding contributions in research and scholarship that are recognized nationally for their quality and influence;
  • The individual should have established a reputation for being an excellent teacher and mentor; and
  • The individual should be recognized for outstanding contributions to professional and/or community service.

UK’s 2018 Alumni Professorship recipients with a brief biography of each follows:

  • Currently, the University Alumni Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bhattacharyya focuses his research on tunable membranes and biocatalysis, and water treatment. As the director of the UK Center of Membrane Sciences, Bhattacharyya is renowned for his research on membranes for filtering and producing clean water. He has given invited lectures on all continents, save Antarctica. Recently, Bhattacharyya led membrane studies for the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the NSF EAGER program and industry.  Through Australian Research Council funding, he and his students are making advanced graphene oxide membranes with Monash University.  In 2017, Bhattacharyya celebrated 50 years of prolific research at UK.


  • As the UK Alumni Association Endowed Professor of Biological Chemistry, Butterfield directs the Redox Metabolism Core of the Markey Cancer Center, and is a faculty member in both the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. His research focuses on free radical oxidative stress in aging and age-related neurodegenerative disorders, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. Butterfield has worked with the office of the UK vice president of research in development of research workshops for career development. Butterfield’s area of research includes physical, analytical and biochemical studies in neurological diseases, including amyloid β-peptide-associated free radicals and oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s disease; redox proteomics identification of brain proteins in neurodegenerative disorders; and neurotoxic and neuroprotective properties of ceria nanoparticles.


  • DeBolt’s research focuses on several interrelated questions: the characterization of genes and the proteins they encode in cellulose biosynthesis; chemical genetics; and the discovery of tartaric acid pathways in wine grapes. DeBolt earned his doctorate by discovering how grapes make their unique acid, which enables flavor and aging complexity. More recently, he works on the flavors and processes that occur during bourbon aging. He is director of the Distillation, Wine and Brewing Studies program. DeBolt’s Plant Biology Lab focuses on cell shape and morphogenesis in plants, as shape determinants establish the fundamental building blocks of multicellular organism design. The overarching goal of his program is to decode the genes and proteins responsible for cell wall biosynthesis. To approach this goal he is generating a chemical toolbox of cell wall inhibitory ligands combined with genetics to pinpoint key loci underpinning morphogenesis. The application of this fundamental research extends from fruit development to biomass and bioproduct development.


  • Professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science, Seales’ area of research includes computer vision, digital libraries, multimedia, surgical technology and visualization. His research focuses on digital imaging in two very different directions: medical imaging and cultural heritage. His Enhanced Digital Unwrapping for Conservation and Exploration Project seeks to create readable images of texts such as papyrus scrolls, without opening them, using minimally invasive scanning and virtual unwrapping. Seales is developing and evaluating new techniques for digital acquisition, restoration, and visualization using real-world library collections with particular focus on preservation and dissemination. He is also the director of the Surgical Technology Integration with Tools for Cognitive Human Factors project, which envisions a networked operating room of the future, where computers and surgical instruments are connected. The result: an enriched and more efficient environment for surgeons.


  • Dr. Susan Smyth is a physician-scientist who combines clinical practice in cardiology with NIH-, VA-, and industry-funded research focused on the interplay between inflammation and thrombosis in vascular biology. Her research seeks to define the contribution of extracellular mediators and blood and vascular cell-surface signaling receptors to test the pathways in clinical studies in humans.  Her work has resulted in novel mechanistic insight into thrombo-inflammatory pathways and the generation of unique reagents, preclinical models, technology and new therapeutic strategies for vascular diseases. Her recent studies investigate pathways for production, metabolism, and biologic effects of lysophospholipid mediators in cardiovascular health disease. Her clinical interests are in arterial and venous thrombosis, and she leads an enterprise-wide effort in thrombosis prevention and management.


Enjoy the following photos from Wednesday’s event in the gallery below.

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