A&M announced 2023 Distinguished Honors Professors

Texas A&M annually awards highest honors to faculty members who are preeminent in their field. The title of university distinguished professor is awarded to faculty members who have shown growth in their contributions to research, education and volunteer work. The eight faculty members who have received the award have given a tremendous amount of effort within their department to benefit A&M.

The 2023 distinguished professors are: 

Perla Beatriz Balbuena

Deborah Bell-Pederson

Roderick H. Dashwood

James Hubbard Jr.

Huyen Pham

Efstratios N. Pistikopoulos

Virender K. Sharma

Sharry J. Yennello

Distinguished professors tend to be accomplished with scholarships and demonstrate transformational impacts, Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs Heather Wilkinson, Ph.D, said. 

“They advise the presidency of the university [and] the provost, and they have a lot of sway when it comes to anything that has to do with prestige or the quality of [A&M],” Wilkinson said. “If you are gonna be a distinguished professor somewhere, you care deeply about that.”

Wilkinson said every faculty member is eligible to be a distinguished professor. 

“One of the reasons we are so proud to have them is because they translate the impact they have had into learning experiences for students that are absolutely unique throughout the world,” Wilkinson said. 

Distinguished professor in the School of Public Health, Virender K. Sharma, Ph.D, said one of his goals moving forward while being awarded the honor is to give back and help others be successful. 

“I like to spend more time with juniors and undergraduate students because they are the future,” Sharma said. “I want to bring those students up and also guide the junior faculty to achieve their goals.”

There are many branches of A&M, such as Kingsville, San Antonio and Prairie View, that are in need of funding and benefits as well, Sharma said. 

“I try to spend time with them to write proposals and collaborate with them to get some funding,” Sharma said. “My name being [my] highest honor is to help them. They don’t have a strong track record.”

Sharma is actively involved in Women in Science and Engineering, an organization that aims to promote the involvement of women in STEM fields. 

Bringing more women into science and engineering is vital because there is a need for an equal population of both men and women in the industry; a lack of  balance is is not good in the long run for any country or society, Sharma said. 

Deborah Bell-Pederson, Ph.D, distinguished professor of Biology, is focused solely on research that pertains to the circadian clock, which has been a success so far. 

“We have made many discoveries along the way,” Bell-Pederson said. “Probably the most important is understanding that the clock regulates on how and what time of day proteins are made. This is really critical in us because our internal clock regulates rhythms and protein levels that have a huge effect on whether or not a drug will be effective.”

Bell-Pederson has been a part of several different research-based societies She is the current chair of the Fungal Genetics Society and serves as the director of art at the Texas A&M Center for Biological Clocks Research, helping coordinate efforts to understand the clock and support undergraduate students in its lab. 

Bell-Pederson said she is excited to have gotten the opportunity to represent all faculty. 

“I think what [A&M has] done really well is  continuing to hire top notch faculty that are excellent teachers and researchers, [which] has really propelled the university,” Bell-Pederson said. “[However], what is lacking, I would say, is the infrastructure. That is something that I want to work on very strongly when I have a voice at the table with the administration.”

Bell-Pederson said distinguished professors can use their voice to help other faculty.

“I think being a distinguished professor gives faculty a strong voice with the upper administration and can help relay good things and maybe things we need to continue to improve upon,” Bell-Pederson said.


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