October 3, 2000
Volume 47
Number 6

Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor: Robert Rescorla

Dr. Robert Rescorla has been named as the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences. This chair is the first of five Browne Distinguished Professorships created earlier this year by a $10 million gift from Mr. Browne, C'69, a University Trustee and Chair of the SAS Board of Overseers (Almanac February 1, 2000).

"Because we have designed the Browne chairs to be among the most prestigious honors we bestow on our faculty, it is important that the inaugural appointee be a professor of singular distinction as a scholar, educator, and University citizen" said SAS Dean Samuel H. Preston. "Bob Rescorla's extraordinary achievements in all three areas will set a high standard for SAS faculty."

A world-renowned psychologist, Dr. Rescorla studies simple learning processes such as Pavlovian conditioning and instrumental learning. In a survey published 10 years ago in The American Psychologist, Dr. Rescorla was cited as one of the 10 most important contemporary psychologists.

Dr. Rescorla has been a member of the University's faculty since 1981 and in 1986 was named the James M. Skinner Professor of Science. He served as Chair of the Department of Psychology from 1985 to 1988 and as Dean of the College from 1994 to 1997. In 1999, he received SAS's highest teaching honor, the Ira Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Dr. Rescorla received his B.A. from Swarthmore College in 1962 and his Ph.D. from Penn four years later. Among his many honors, Dr. Rescorla is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a former Guggenheim Fellow, and a recipient of the Howard Crosby Warren Medal from the Society of Experimental Psychologists.

On the occasion of the dedication of the new SAS endowed chair gallery in Logan Hall, Dr. Rescorla will deliver a public lecture, Pavlovian Conditioning: Animals As Talented Scientists, on Saturday, November 11, at 9:30 a.m. in Room 17, Logan Hall.

Two Packard Awards
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has made a $625,000 award to each of two Penn faculty members. Dr. Ted Abel, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Joseph Jarrett, assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics, are two of the Packard Foundation's 24 "most promising science and engineering researchers at universities in the U.S."

This award will support five years' research for Dr. Abel, a Swarthmore alumnus who took his M.Phil. in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1993. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, College of Physicians and Surgeons, at Columbia University before coming to Penn in 1998.

Dr. Abel is currently conducting research on the role that certain brain structures may play in mental illness. He has hypothesized that changes in the strength of synapses affect learning and memory and may play an important role in a variety of brain disorders.

Dr. Abel recently received the Freedman Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) (Almanac September 26).

Dr. Jarrett also won a $625,000 award for his proposal The Design and Directed Evolution of New Enzymes. Dr. Jarrett received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. from MIT in biochemistry in 1993. He came to Penn in 1997, after postdoctorate work in the biophysics research division at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Jarrett's current research involves the manner in which protein radicals are initially generated and controlled. The primary project focuses on the final step in the biosynthesis of the essential vitamin biotin, which involves the controlled use of carbon radicals. He is also interested in the role of aberrant radicals in oxidative damage, particularly in neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

He received a Research Foundation Award in the fall of 1997 for Production and Control of Biological Radicals in Pyruvate Formate-Lyase and Biotin Synthase.

A Gift of 5000 Years of History and Culture from China

Ambassador Li and Dr. Peter Conn in the Lea Library

Deputy Provost Peter Conn welcomed Ambassador Li Zhaoxing to the University last Friday when the ambassador from the Peoples Republic of China came to Van Pelt-Dietrich Library to present a gift to Penn. The 101-volume encyclopedia (below) encompasses a 5000-year history of China, 10 areas of Chinese culture, cultures of 56 ethnic minorities and 10 major subjects such as literature, history, philosophy and economics. It took over 200 professors eight years to complete and contains 40 million Chinese characters. A Chinese news crew was on hand to film the presentation for Chinese television.

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 6, October 3, 2000

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