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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Four faculty members honored for research accomplishments

Four highly promising professors in diverse fields have been awarded the Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty.

They are Evan S. Dellon, an assistant professor of medicine and an adjunct assistant professor of epidemiology; Malinda Maynor Lowery, associate professor of history; Kimryn Rathmell, associate professor in the departments of medicine and genetics; and Yang Yang, associate professor of sociology.

The recipients were recognized during the Sept. 7 Faculty Council meeting.

The Hettleman Prize, which carries a $5,000 stipend, recognizes the achievements of outstanding junior tenure-track faculty or recently tenured faculty. Phillip Hettleman, who was born in 1899 and grew up in Goldsboro, established the award in 1986. He earned a scholarship to UNC, went to New York and in 1938 founded Hettleman & Co., a Wall Street investment firm.


Dellon has conducted groundbreaking research in eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a newly recognized chronic allergic disease characterized by the abnormal presence of eosinophils in the lining of the esophagus.

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell and can help fight infections, but when they infiltrate the esophagus they cause inflammation, scarring and strictures, which result in trouble swallowing and food impaction.

Dellon’s first paper on EoE was published in 2007. Since then, he conducted a series of studies at Carolina using the UNC EoE Clinicopathologic Database and Patient Registry he established, which have helped to streamline the diagnosis and improve treatment of this condition.

After graduating from Brown University magna cum laude, Dellon graduated at the top of his class from medical school at John Hopkins University.

“Evan’s extensive research on EoE would be remarkable for someone far more senior than he is, and is all the more notable given his junior status,” said Robert S. Sandler, director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease and Dellon’s mentor since he came to UNC in 2004.


A rising star in the field of Native American history, Lowery has gained a national reputation for her innovative scholarship.

She came to Carolina in 2009, after serving four years as a tenure-track professor at Harvard University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in history and literature in 1995. After earning her master’s degree in documentary film production from Stanford University in 1997, she co-produced a documentary on American Indian sacred sites, “In the Light of Reverence,” in 2001.

Lowery also earned a master’s degree in 2002 and a Ph.D. in 2005, both in history from Carolina.

She has recently completed a project on “Digitizing Southern Indian History,” and her historical work “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation” was published in 2010 by UNC Press.

Lloyd Kramer, chair of the history department, said Lowery’s creative pedagogy, including her continued use of documentary film to engage North Carolinians, “clearly demonstrate her ability to communicate historical knowledge to the widest possible audiences.”


Rathmell’s willingness and ability to tackle one of the world’s most difficult cancers, renal cell carcinoma, is both inspirational and prescient, said Shelton Earp, director of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Rathmell came to Carolina in 2003 after earning an M.D. and Ph.D. from Stanford University, and completing her clinical training at the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania.

Her research spans fundamental cancer genetic process, drug discovery, biomarker development, functional tumor imaging analysis and therapeutic clinical trials. Her Lineberger lab has not only made important contributions to the understanding of renal cell cancer tumor biology, it also provides an important outlet for translational studies that have led to changes in the way cancers are viewed in the clinical area.

“Dr. Rathmell is maturing into a well-funded, nationally recognized renal cancer oncologist,” Earp said. “She has adeptly assumed the academic roles of researcher, teacher and physician, excelling in each of these areas of the ‘triple threat.’”


Yang’s primary research interests cross demography, medical sociology, cancer and quantitative methodology.

She received her Ph.D. from Duke University in 2005 and that year was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago.

She joined Carolina’s sociology department two years ago as part of an initiative with the University Cancer Research Fund and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Her overarching goal is to construct an integrative social and bio-demographic approach to better understand and find solutions to problems arising from interactions between individuals’ social and physical worlds. Yang’s recent research focuses on patterns of social inequalities in health and aging and the underlying bio-behavioral mechanisms.

“She is one of the most creative and thoughtful scholars working today in the demography of aging,” said Barbara Entwisle, vice chancellor for research. “She brings an unusual combination of superb methodological and analytic skills and insight into her research on key social and demographic processes.”