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5 distinguished professors named

Indiana University has named five faculty members as distinguished professors, the most prestigious appointment offered to honor faculty whose outstanding scholarship, artistic or literary distinction, or other achievements have won significant recognition by peers.

The IU trident on a limestone building.

Since its creation in 1953, 256 IU faculty members have been appointed as distinguished professor, 41 of which are women. Currently 86 faculty members  and 57 emeritus faculty members hold the appointment.

In 1970, Anna Granville Hatcher was the first woman named a distinguished professor, for excellence in French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. In 1987, David N. Baker became the first African-American, appointed for his excellence in music.

“These five newly appointed distinguished professors are leaders in their fields who have reached national and international recognition for their research, scholarship and artistic contributions,” IU President Pamela Whitten said. “Their breadth of expertise and their depth of knowledge demonstrate how Indiana University continues to impact people and communities around the globe.”

Below are brief biographies of the 2022 appointees:

Stephen Bell

Stephen Bell is chair and professor of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. He is an internationally renowned leader in the field of chromosome biology, where he has made seminal discoveries into the cellular machineries responsible for gene regulation, DNA and chromosome replication of organisms living in extreme conditions.

His lab routinely produces data that has helped scientists understand the origins of life, with his work on archaeal DNA processing machinery considered textbook knowledge. Bell has received external funding from the National Institutes of Health, Medical Research Council, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the Wellcome Trust.

Thomas Imperiale

Thomas Imperiale is the Lawrence Lumeng Professor of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in the Department of Medicine at the IU School of Medicine. He is a pioneer whose work has helped the global effort to reduce the burden of colorectal cancer. His landmark 2000 publication demonstrated that colonoscopies were an essential part of the prevention of colorectal cancer, which led to earlier insurance-covered screenings and a significant decline in colorectal cancers over the past 20 years. His work has contributed to the institution of screening programs in over 50 countries.

Imperiale’s research informed the development of Cologuard, an effective and noninvasive at-home cancer screening option. Overall, his work has helped save the lives of millions.

Samuel Gyasi Obeng

Samuel Obeng is professor of linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. He has served as the director of the West Africa Languages Institute in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies since 2018. Obeng has established his presence as the principal authority of African pragmatics and sociology of language, with research on voiceprints in conversational interactions, the expression of liberty through language, cultural and linguistic richness of anthroponymy, and verbal indirectness in conversation.

His comprehensive work weaves together over 30 African languages, with a special emphasis on the Kwa languages of the Niger-Congo phylum (such as Akan) and other languages spoken in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Kosali Simon

Kosali Simon is the Herman B Wells Endowed Professor and Paul H. O’Neill Chair at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington. She is also associate vice provost for health sciences for the Bloomington campus. A nationally known health economist, Simon focuses scholarship on how economic and social factors interact with government regulations to affect health care delivery and population health.

Simon’s work has led to important insights in health policy research, specifically the impact of health insurance reform on health care and labor market outcomes; the successes and failures of the Affordable Care Act; and the causes and consequences of the nation’s opioid drug crisis. She is a 2021 elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

Carol Vaness

Carol Vaness is professor of voice at the Jacobs School of Music. A notable soprano, Vaness has led an illustrious career that has taken her to the world’s biggest stages and music festivals. Among her vast repertoire, she is most recognized as a definitive interpreter of Mozart’s operatic heroines, including those in “Don Giovanni,” “Così fan tutte” and “Le Nozze di Figaro.”

From the Met to La Scala, she has collaborated with internationally renowned conductors and singers. A testament to her prestige, Luciano Pavarotti hand-picked Vaness to co-star with him in his final performance at the Metropolitan Opera, a production of “Tosca.”

Vaness is a three-time Grammy nominee and is regularly sought after to lead masterclasses across the globe.

Samantha Hyde is an intern at IU Studios.