Published: Nov. 5, 2021

University’s highest faculty honor awarded this year to four in the College of Arts and Sciences, 11 on all CU campuses

The University of Colorado has added 11 new members to its roster of distinguished professors, a title signifying the highest honor awarded to faculty across the CU system’s four campuses.

CU distinguished professors are tenured faculty members who demonstrate exemplary performance in research or creative work; a record of excellence in promoting learning and student attainment of knowledge and skills; and outstanding service to the profession, the university and its affiliates.

The CU Board of Regents voted on Thursday to approve the cohort of faculty members, recommended by President Todd Saliman with the concurrence of the systemwide Committee of Distinguished Professors. This year’s honorees will be formally recognized during a board meeting in spring 2022.

Including this year’s honorees, 129 Distinguished Professors have been named since the title’s inception in 1977.

Distinguished professors for 2021 in the College of Arts and Sciences at CU Boulder are:

Andreas Becker

Andreas Becker

Andreas Becker, PhD, distinguished professor of physics and fellow at JILA.

Becker is world-renowned for his research on atomic and molecular dynamics. His particular focus is light-matter interactions. He explores fundamental interactions of atomic and molecular systems with ultrashort intense light pulses, as well as how these interactions can be productively controlled.

A faculty member since 2008, he has authored or co-authored more than 120 articles and has been cited more than 10,000 times. He has received continuous support from the Department of Energy since his arrival in the United States, as well as substantial support from the U.S. Air Force. Beyond his pioneering work as a theoretical researcher, Becker is one of the best and most versatile physics professors at the University of Colorado.

He is highly regarded and has been named a “Favorite Professor” by the Physics Honor Society four times. Becker has been both a leader in the Department of Physics and at JILA and is a highly successful graduate student mentor over the last decade.

José-Luis Jimenez

José-Luis Jimenez

José-Luis Jimenez, PhD, distinguished professor of chemistry and fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

Jimenez is an exceptional teacher, researcher and community member. A member of the CU faculty since 2002, he is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of atmospheric aerosols, which have significant effects on climate, air pollution and human health.

His work has included developing instruments, leading international field missions and conducting innovative analysis, dramatically changing atmospheric chemistry for the better. Not only has he proved to be a successful and innovative researcher, but his influence also extends to his students.

Many of Jimenez’s most-cited works are lead-authored by his PhD students, demonstrating his willingness to empower the next leaders in his field. Throughout the pandemic, Jimenez applied his aerosol expertise to understanding COVID-19 transmission.

Among the results of his collaborative work is the World Health Organization’s acknowledgment that the virus is transmitted by aerosols. His work as an impactful, service-oriented member of the CU community has not only inspired future researchers and significantly affected the field of atmospheric aerosols, but it has also saved lives.

Ruth Ellen Kocher

Ruth Ellen Kocher

Ruth Ellen Kocher, PhD, distinguished professor of English.

Kocher is widely acknowledged as a central voice in Black poetics and has been a pioneer in that field. She has inspired many young poets, and trailblazed paths for Black female poets to follow.

A member of the CU Boulder faculty since 2006, her dedication to the university is evident in her service in roles such as director of the creative writing program, then department chair, and then divisional dean, in addition to making lasting, important changes in each position.

Kocher’s teaching is exemplary and is heralded as among the best in the department. As an award-winning poet, she has powerfully and creatively brought to the fore important topics such as social justice, race and anti-racism.

She has authored seven volumes of poetry, with more on the way, and her poetry has appeared in 13 major anthologies. Kocher displays talent, professionalism and leadership at every level. In addition to writing poetry, she is a multimedia artist with works in film and performance.

She has 12 essays in print, demonstrating her inter-arts pursuits even as she pushes boundaries within poetry. She is the winner of countless awards and recognitions, including the Beaux Boudreaux Visiting Writer Series Award from the University of Southern California (2020) and was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (2016). Her work as a teacher is exemplary, with unanimous praise from peers and students alike, who talk of her work as inspiring, impactful and empowering.

Gifford Miller

Gifford Miller

Gifford Miller, PhD, distinguished professor of geological sciences and associate director of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.

Miller is an internationally renowned authority on Quaternary science, the study of the Quaternary period (commonly known as the ice age, and modern warm times) that began approximately 2.6 million years ago.

Specifically, he has tackled important questions regarding paleoclimate in the period and his work has transformed our understanding of why significant flora and fauna changes occurred during the period. A member of the CU Boulder faculty since 1980, Miller has a golden touch for finding and choosing important problems to study and is equally legendary for solving problems using unconventional approaches.

Two important questions he answered are: During the Quaternary period, how big was the Arctic ice sheet? And how fast did it change? These answers, as well as several separate investigations regarding megafauna extinctions, have had drastic practical implications for his field.

As a teacher, Miller has succeeded through his students and mentees, garnering a reputation for teaching in the field, bringing students and trainees across the globe to demonstrate the proper application of analytical tools, and data analysis in some of the harshest environments on earth.

Miller has served the university in a variety of positions. As chair and then faculty member of geological sciences, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Benson Earth Sciences Building. He also was pivotal in the design and development of the SEEC and SEEL buildings on the CU Boulder East Campus. Miller has a demonstrated record of leadership, service and innovation, and is a thought leader in his field.