Published: Jan. 24, 2020

Event recognizes four outstanding professors for significant achievements in their fields.


Four members of the University of Colorado Boulder faculty have been named 2019 Professors of Distinction by the College of Arts and Sciences in recognition of their exceptional service, teaching and research.

The new professors of distinction are Noel Clark of physics, Stephen Graham Jones of English, Robert Pasnau of philosophy, and Kenneth P. Wright Jr. of integrative physiology. 

This revered title is reserved for scholars and artists of national and international acclaim whose college peers also recognize as exceptionally talented teachers and colleagues. Honorees of this award hold this title for the remainder of their careers in the College of Arts and Sciences at CU Boulder.

The four will be honored on Monday, Feb. 3, at 3:30 p.m. in the CASE Auditorium/Chancellor’s Hall. At the free and public event, Clark, Jones and Wright will give a public presentation based on his research or scholarly work. Pasnau is unable to attend the event this year but will give his presentation next year.

Noel Clark of physics, Stephen Graham Jones of English, Robert Pasnau of philosophy, and Kenneth P. Wright Jr. of integrative physiology. 

Wright, Pasnau, Clark, and Jones. (left to right).

Noel Clark, whose talk is titled “Splashing Around in Soft Matter,” received his PhD in Physics from MIT in 1970. He subsequently held the positions of research fellow and assistant professor of applied physics at Harvard, before moving to CU Boulder in 1977.

Research in Clark's group is directed toward understanding and using the properties of condensed phases, ranging from experiments on the fundamental physics of phase transitions, such as melting, to the development of liquid crystal electro-optic light valves. 

His primary experimental tools are laser light scattering, electrooptics, video microscopy and high resolution synchrotron X-ray scattering. Much of the research is on the physics of liquid crystals, phases of matter having structure intermediate to that of liquids and solids, and on the physics of colloids, suspensions of one material in another that exhibit order on large length scales.


Stephen Graham Jones, whose Feb. 3 talk is titled “Being Indian is Not a Superpower,” is the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English. He received his PhD in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Florida State University in 1998, and came to CU in 2008. At that time, he had five novels and one story collection published. 

Since then he's published 11 more novels, five more story collections, and some novellas and comic books and chap books, and he's currently got “north of 300 stories” published. He has been an NEA recipient, has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, a Bram Stoker Award, four This is Horror Awards, and he’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Wonderland Book Award, and the Colorado Book Award. 

He’s also made Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels, and will soon receive the Western Literature Association's Distinguished Achievement Award. At CU Boulder he's won the Carolyn Woodward Pope Prize for Faculty Publication, the Boulder Faculty Assembly Excellence in Research Award, and the Kayden Book Award, and he's a faculty affiliate with the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies, the Center for the American West, and the Department of Ethnic Studies. 

Aside from teaching fiction and screenwriting workshops, Jones teaches courses on comic books, the haunted house, the slasher, the zombie and the werewolf. His fiction navigates the spaces between the commercial and the literary, often using the tropes of horror and fantasy and science fiction and the western and noir in unconventional ways. He says he's not running out of stories anytime soon, either. 


Kenneth P. Wright Jr., whose talk is titled “Sleep for Optimal Health and Performance,” is a professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology and the director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at CU-Boulder. 

Wright received a BS in psychology from the University of Arizona (1990) and a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience from Bowling Green State University (1996). Following postdoctoral training in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he served on the faculty at Harvard Medical School prior to joining the faculty at CU Boulder in 2002.

Wright has more than 25 years of experience in sleep and circadian research, has led individual and multicenter/transdisciplinary team projects, and has participated in multicenter clinical trials. His research aims to understand the physiology of sleep and circadian rhythms in humans and the health and safety consequences of sleep and circadian disruption—such as, metabolic dysregulation, impaired cognition, and compromised performance. 

Wright’s research also explores strategies to promote sleep, enhance alertness and maintain health and safety when sleep and circadian rhythms are challenged, as well as treatment strategies for patients with sleep and circadian related disorders. 

He is a frequently invited speaker and media contact and has published more than 115 peer-reviewed articles. Wright manages a large undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate training program in sleep and circadian physiology at CU Boulder.

Wright has served in leadership, consulting, and advisory roles for government, professional, community, and commercial stakeholders, such as, the Sleep Disorders Research Advisory Board of the National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the Board of Directors of the Sleep Research Society. He also serves as a reviewer for numerous national and international granting agencies and scientific journals.


Robert Pasnau has taught in the Department of Philosophy since 1999. His research concentrates on the history of philosophy, particularly the end of the Middle Ages and the beginnings of the modern era. 

He is the editor of the Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy and of Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy. His most recent book, After Certainty: A History of Our Epistemic Ideals and Illusions (OUP 2017), is based on his Isaiah Berlin Lectures, delivered at Oxford University in 2014. 

Pasnau is the founding director of the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization.