Four faculty members honored with Evan Pugh Professorships

Clockwise from top left: Abhay Vasant Ashtekar, Squire J. Booker, Lynn S. Liben and Akhlesh Lakhtakia have been named Evan Pugh University Professors. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Four Penn State professors have been named Evan Pugh Professors, an elite and prestigious distinction conferred by the University on only 72 faculty members since the establishment of the designation in 1960. 

The four professors newly bestowed with the University’s highest faculty honor are:  

Named for Penn State’s founding president Evan Pugh, a renowned chemist and scholar who was at the helm of  the University from 1859 to 1864, the Evan Pugh Professorships are awarded to faculty members who are nationally or internationally recognized leaders in their fields of research or creative activity; demonstrate significant leadership in raising the standards of the University with respect to teaching, research or creativity, and service; display excellent teaching skills with undergraduate and graduate students who go on to achieve distinction in their fields; and receive support from colleagues who also are leaders in their disciplines. 

An advisory committee of seven Penn State faculty members, including three Evan Pugh professors, reviews nominations for the honor and makes recommendations to the University president. 

Of the 72 Evan Pugh Professors, 29 are still actively teaching and pursuing research or creative work at Penn State. 

Abhay Vasant Ashtekar 

Abhay Vasant Ashtekar specializes in the study of theoretical gravitational physics and cosmology and serves as the director of Penn State’s Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos. His research interests include quantum gravity, including quantum geometry and black hole entropy, as well as general relativity, the mathematical theory of black holes and gravitational radiation theory. Among numerous other designations and awards, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, an elected fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the former elected president of the International Society for General Relativity and Gravitation.

He holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago, as well as two doctor rerum naturalium honoris causa from Friedrich-Schiller Universitaet in Germany and Universite de la Mediterranee in France.

Squire J. Booker 

Squire J. Booker is the Howard Hughes Medical Investigator; a professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology; and the Eberly Distinguished Chair in Science. He conducts wide-ranging research into the fields of biochemistry, enzymology, biosynthesis and related areas, with a focus on applications for human health and disease. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow and was the 2016 recipient of the Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal. 

He holds a bachelor of arts in chemistry from Austin College and a doctorate in biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Akhlesh Lakhtakia 

Akhlesh Lakhtakia is an internationally recognized scholar who researches nanotechnology and the behavior of electromagnetic fields and waves in complex materials. He has developed novel coating techniques for industrially scalable bioreplication, which holds promise for applications ranging from retrieving fingerprints to harvesting solar energy. Among other affiliations, he is a member of the Optical Society of America, a fellow at the Institute of Physics, an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow and a fellow at the Royal Society of Chemistry. 

He holds a B.Eng. and D.Sc. in electronics engineering from Banaras Hindu University, as well as a master of science and doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Utah. 

Lynn S. Liben 

Lynn Liben’s research focuses on children developing understanding of external spatial representations, such as maps and photographs, as well as the development of gender and racial stereotypes. She has applied her research to educational contexts including art education, classroom instruction of geography and children’s media, including “Sesame Street” and Highlights for Children magazine. She is past-president of the Society for Research in Child Development, president of the Piaget Society, a member of the Publications Committee of the Association for Psychological Science and a fellow with American Educational Research Association, among other affiliations. 

She holds a doctorate in developmental psychology from the University of Michigan and a bachelor of arts in psychology from Cornell University, from which she graduated magna cum laude.

Last Updated May 07, 2018