A chemist forging new research methods, a music historian
bringing 16th century theater to bear on the present, a pharmacologist who
discovered a group of protein regulators and a scholar bringing to light the
social implications of medical policy have received the 2006 Phillip and Ruth
Hettleman Prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty.
Chancellor James Moeser recognized the recipients at the
Sept. 15 Faculty Council meeting. They are Jeffrey Johnson, assistant professor
of chemistry; Anne MacNeil, associate professor of music history; David
Siderovski, associate professor of pharmacology and a member of the Lineberger
Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Jonathan Oberlander, associate professor of
social medicine and adjunct professor in political science.
The Hettleman Prize, which carries a $5,000 stipend,
recognizes the achievements of outstanding junior tenure-track faculty or
recently tenured faculty. All of this year’s recipients also received praise
for their qualities as teachers. They are scheduled to present their work in
two lectures at the Carolina Club; MacNeil and Johnson on Nov. 16, Siderovski
and Oberlander on April 24, 2007.
The award was established by Phillip Hettleman, who was born
in 1899 and grew up in Goldsboro in a family with little money. He earned a
scholarship to Carolina, went to New York and, in 1938, founded Hettleman &
Co., a Wall Street investment firm. He established the award in 1986 and died
later that year.
Johnson joined the chemistry faculty in 2001. His laboratory
develops new synthetic methodology for the rapid construction of complex
organic molecules, especially pharmaceuticals, and he has won nearly every
major award available to young chemists, said Holden Thorp, chair of the
department of chemistry. Thorp called Johnson’s contributions “remarkably
innovative,” “elegant” and “pathbreaking.”
“Johnson’s productivity has been truly astonishing,” Thorp
wrote in a nomination letter. “He has assembled a strong group of graduate
students and together they have published 34 papers from UNC, all in
top-refereed journals. Jeff has already established a national reputation and is
regarded as one of the very top young chemists working in this crowded and
highly competitive area.”
MacNeil came to UNC in 1999. Her study of women in late 16th
and early 17th century Italian theater has “opened whole new fields of inquiry
in the areas of theater history, opera history, commedia dell ‘arte, and not
insignificantly in gender studies,” wrote Tim Carter, who nominated MacNeil.
A colleague characterized MacNeil’s writing as an
“exceptionally learned, often brilliant study of what I had previously and
offhandedly thought of as a peripheral topic in the history of music.”
“In her publications and lectures she has brought to light a
whole new facet of musical and literary activity in the late Italian
Renaissance and early Baroque in a way that has gained her high national and
international repute,” Carter said.
Siderovski also came to UNC in 1999. His research centers on
a unique family of molecules he discovered in 1996 — the regulators of
G-protein signaling, or “RGS proteins” — that modify the duration and strength
of hormone communication between cells.
“What separates Dr. Siderovski from many investigators is
his exceptional multi-disciplinary skills,” said Gary Johnson, chair of the
department of pharmacology. “Dr. Siderovski uses bioinformatics and
cross-genome analysis to parse out new discoveries of protein architecture,
then he employs structural and cell biology, biochemistry and genetics to
validate his predictions and hypotheses.” Johnson called Siderovski “fearless”
in his use of multiple disciplines.
Johnson submitted three letters supporting Siderovski’s
nomination that also supported his promotion to associate professor. The three
authors were members of the National Academy of Sciences, and one is a Nobel
laureate. “They unanimously describe Dr. Siderovski’s research as
groundbreaking, creative and truly outstanding,” Johnson said.
Oberlander, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from
Carolina in 1989, joined the faculty in 2003 as associate professor of social
medicine. He is also an adjunct faculty member in the department of political
Nancy King, professor and vice-chair of the department of
social medicine, described Oberlander as “an extraordinarily talented scholar with
a broad, cross-disciplinary perspective who is able to speak accessibly and
authoritatively, both within his home discipline and also to diverse audiences
of health care providers and policymakers.”
Oberlander’s first book, “The Political Life of Medicare,”
received wide acclaim, and his paper, titled “The U.S. Health System: On the
Road to Nowhere,” has “been called the best account of the American system
available today,” King said.