back to news June 6, 2016

The Best of the Best: ASC’s 2016 Distinguished University Professors

The title of Distinguished University Professor, conferred by the university’s Board of Trustees, is the highest honor Ohio State bestows on a faculty member. To date, this permanent designation has been given to just 56 of them. Arts and Sciences is proud to claim the largest percentage of that number and to be home to two of the three selected in 2016.

At their June 3 meeting, university trustees granted this coveted title to Peter Culicover, Humanities Distinguished Professor of Linguistics and professor of linguistics; and Tina Henkin, the Robert W. and Estelle S. Bingham Professor of Biological Sciences, professor of microbiology and College of Arts and Sciences associate dean for faculty affairs.

The designation of Distinguished University Professor is effective July 1 and includes automatic membership in the President’s and Provost’s Advisory Committee. Additionally, the Office of Academic Affairs allocates a one-time cash award of $30,000 to be used for scholarly work.

Peter Culicover

Peter CulicoverPeter Culicover, who joined Ohio State’s Department of Linguistics in 1987, is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on the relationship between language and cognition. His contributions to linguistics theory and cognitive science have had significant impact on both students and scholars in those areas.

He is author of a substantial number of major books; more than 75 articles published in his fields’ top journals; and two widely used textbooks on syntactic theory. Additionally, he has produced nine major scholarly monographs — an uncommon achievement in linguistics.

A colleague said, “… all of these contributions, which testify (to) a sustained and continuous production of excellence, have inspired — and are still inspiring — the work of other scholars in many countries throughout the world.”

His department chair added, “He continues to tackle issues on the cutting edge of research in language science and his productivity has been increasing in each of the past several years …”

Currently, Culicover explores the relationship between (formal and processing) complexity and explanation in grammatical theory and the role of complexity in linguistic description, language change and variation, and language acquisition.

He was founding director of Ohio State’s Center for Cognitive Science, served as vice provost for eight years and department chair for eight years, and he has provided service and leadership on multiple university, college and department committees.

Culicover received a 2008 University Distinguished Scholar Award and was a 2009 University Distinguished Lecturer. He is fellow of three major professional organizations: the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Linguistic Society of America.

His scholarship has earned him a series of distinguished international and national visiting appointments and multiple awards, including the 2010 Humboldt Research Award. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, he is one of only five linguists to receive this award during its more than six-decade history.

Tina Henkin

Tina HenkinTina Henkin has had a profound impact on her field, receiving extensive honors and recognition nationally and internationally for her studies of RNA. Her work has uncovered new molecular mechanisms for gene regulation in bacteria and identified novel targets for antibiotic treatment of bacterial infections. It, in fact, created a whole new field of inquiry.

Her research has been continuously funded since 1987 by the National Institutes of Health, along with additional funding from the National Science Foundation and the American Cancer Society. 

Henkin joined Ohio State’s Department of Microbiology in 1995 and served as department chair from 2009-2013. She is author of more than 100 papers in major, peer-reviewed journals and holds two patents. She also co-authored a major bacterial genetics textbook.

She is a committed teacher at both the graduate and undergraduate level, advising numerous PhD students and mentoring undergraduates engaging in independent research. She embraces innovation in undergraduate education, recently developing a new module in the Integrated Biology course offered by the Center for Life Sciences Education.

Henkin was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2012, joining only 11 Ohio State NAS members (seven in ASC). She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology. She received Ohio State’s Distinguished Scholar Award in 2004 and the National Academies of Science Pfizer Prize in Molecular Biology in 2006.

As Arts and Sciences associate dean for faculty affairs, Henkin coordinates faculty recruitment; promotion and tenure policies and processes; and faculty resources and development across the college, focusing on promoting faculty mentoring and recognition through internal and major external awards.

Her department chair said, “Her interest in this position was entirely fueled by her commitment to helping other faculty and chairs and is indicative of her service ethic.” He notes that “… while beginning this work, she is also teaching her undergraduate module and continuing to run her lab.”