Our Faculty

Retiring Faculty 2015-2016

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Stephen J. Burns

Mechanical Engineering

An outstanding engineering educator, Stephen Burns will retire on June 30, 2016, from his position as professor of mechanical engineering and professor of materials science. He has excelled at teaching and researching in the micromechanics area at the undergraduate and graduate levels for almost 50 years.

Steve has been an internationally recognized authority on materials science, and specifically on fracture and crack growth. His publication record exceeds 150 papers and articles. His work on crack-tip shielding has opened a new avenue of understanding fracture of brittle materials and its interaction with defects, stresses, and transformation strains at crack tips. More recent work on the thermodynamics of superconducting materials has been highly cited for its unique view of processing superconducting materials. He has worked on thermodynamics of superconducting materials as applied to high pressure, high temperature solid materials.

Steve served as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering from 2001 to 2006. Among his honors, he has been elected as fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a New York State Registered Professional Engineer, and visiting professor at Stanford and Cornell. His strong commitment to student mentoring and support can be glimpsed from the fact that he has published a paper, on the Grüneisen constant of solids, with all the students in his graduate course on thermodynamics of solids.

Steve received his PhD from Cornell in 1967, and taught at Brown University before joining the newly established materials science program at Rochester in 1972. At Rochester, he has taught courses in materials science, thermodynamics of solids, crystallography and diffraction with x-rays and electrons, fracture, adhesion, statics, strength of materials, but especially laboratories in solids, fluids, and materials, plus engineering thermodynamics. His strong commitment to laboratory work and materials characterization is an important part of both our undergraduate and graduate curriculum. He has served as mentor to several junior faculty in mechanical engineering and in materials science.

Steve is a person of generous spirit with strong contributions to our University and local community. He served for over 10 years as chair of the University’s Budget Committee. One example of his community service is his work at St. Joe’s House of Hospitality Soup Kitchen on the Wednesday Night Cook Crew, doing whatever was needed to prepare about 100 to 150 meals for Thursday’s lunch. 

Steve’s involvement in mentoring the careers of junior faculty members has been a hallmark of his tenure at Rochester. In addition to helping recruit members of our current department, he has mentored them in writing papers and proposals and guided them through the technical processes needed in paper revisions and proposal modifications. In general, he has generously welcomed his colleagues to Rochester.

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Douglas Cline

Physics and Astronomy

After some 51 years on the faculty, Doug Cline stepped down as professor of physics on  January 1, 2016. During these decades Doug has been a world leader in nuclear physics, exemplified by his recent award of the Marian Smoluchowski Medal of the Polish Physical Society (2013). He has been an outstanding teacher, as shown for example in his recent (2007, 2009) winning of the department’s annual Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is a wise and helpful colleague in all other regards as well, with long service in directorships and on demanding committees, at the University, and national levels.

Doug is accomplished both in design and creation of gamma-ray and heavy-ion detectors for nuclear experiments, and in nuclear phenomenology based on his experimental results. He is especially well known for experiments on nuclei excited into collective oscillations during collisions, fusion or fission, exhibiting rugby-ball shapes or lopsided, pear-like shapes. The shapes assumed by nuclei provide important constraints on the strong interaction on nuclear length scales, and on the presence or lack of physical effects beyond the standard model of elementary particles. Much of Doug’s early work took place at the University’s Nuclear Structure Research Laboratory, for which he spent 6 years as associate director and 11 as director. During the national centralization of nuclear accelerators in the 1990s, Doug successfully transplanted his experiments to expanded facilities, playing central roles in the development of gamma-ray and heavy-ion detectors for accelerators at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory. His experimental-analysis methods are in extensive use at Argonne and at the European Center for Nuclear Research; he will remain involved in experiments there. Seventeen Rochester physics grad students have received their doctorates under Doug’s direction, based on their research in nuclear structure.

Doug has taught many courses in our department, but will best be remembered, particularly by the last several generations of our department’s majors, for his classical mechanics course, PHY 235W. This is a course in Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics, and in the calculus of variations: an elegant and beautiful but extremely challenging and time-demanding introduction to how one solves equations of motion in physics. We all look forward to seeing the completed version of the textbook that Doug has been writing for this course. In voting for several teaching awards for Doug, our majors fondly describe this course as a tour de force, as a formative part of their scientific education, and as their first experience with frighteningly large amounts of difficult homework; and all are grateful to Doug for taking them further in this subject than they thought they could go. Many have been equally impressed with the classical-mechanics examples Doug frequently supplies in person, with his running and bicycling, his frankly dangerous approach to downhill skiing, his love of fast sports cars, and his glider-piloting hobby.

A native of York, Doug came to Rochester by way of the University of Manchester, where he earned both his first-class-honours bachelor’s degree and his doctorate. He joined the department as a postdoc in 1963 and joined our faculty as assistant professor in 1965, reaching professor in 1977. He has held visiting faculty positions at Laval University, the Niels Bohr Institute, the University of California at Berkeley, the Australian National University, and the University of Uppsala. His publication count currently exceeds 250. In retirement, Doug and his wife, Lorraine, will split their time between Santa Barbara and Rochester, but he will remain active in experimental nuclear physics and in the affairs of our department.

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Stanley L. Engerman


Stanley Engerman received his PhD in economics from the John Hopkins University, and came to the Rochester in the 1963-64 year.  For the following 52 years, Stanley Engerman, the John H. Munro Professor of Economics and professor of history, spent his career at Rochester.  He retires widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading economic historians.

Stanley’s research and teaching career has focused on the economics and history of slavery, but his portfolio is far wider than that.  He has published as editor, coeditor, author, and coauthor several books and numerous articles dealing with economic history more generally, as well as the economics of sports.  His coauthored book, Time on the Cross (with Robert Fogel), received the Bancroft Prize in American History. 

A defining characteristic of Stanley has been his eagerness to share his knowledge with others, both in the classroom and with his colleagues.  His recent teaching has focused in the areas of the economics of discrimination, with an emphasis on the economic and social conditions of African Americans in the 20th century, and the economics of sports and entertainment.  He has also made numerous administrative contributions to the department and University at large, serving within the department as both graduate and undergraduate advisor, and as a member of the Faculty Senate.  He points with particular pride to his role in helping establish the Frederick Douglass Institute.

Engerman’s reputation and influence extends far beyond our University.  Many papers published in economic history acknowledge Engerman’s detailed feedback and contribution.  He has lectured throughout the world, has been president of the both the Economic History Association and the Social Science History Association, and is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Economic Association, and the Cliometric Society.  Engerman has also held appointments at Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard, and has lectured at Brighton High School and the University’s Highlands Program.  He has brought scholars to Rochester to train them in quantitative methods under the sponsorship of the National Endowment of the Humanities.  His expertise has been drawn upon by countless others, ranging from the Eastman House Museum to Japanese filmmakers.

After 52 years of University service Stanley continues to be an active scholar, both as researcher and teacher.  He is currently completing the coeditorship of the four-volume Cambridge History of World Slavery, covering the period from the ancient world up to today.  He plans to continue coteaching his Economics of Discrimination course into the foreseeable future.  Unfortunately, he will blaze no new ground as an athlete, as his B-level City Squash Championship will be the pinnacle of an injury-shortened career.

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George Grella


George Grella joined the English department as an assistant professor in 1967 and was tenured and promoted to associate professor in 1972.  He received his BA from Kenyon College and his MA and PhD from the University of Kansas.  

George’s research and teaching has focused on thrillers and detective novels, film and media studies, American literature, and baseball.  His essays on “James Bond: Culture Hero” and “Baseball and the American Dream” are among his most reprinted publications.  His writing on baseball led to a number of presentations and publications associated with the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.

George’s contributions to the University extended beyond the English department.  He directed the Film and Media Studies Program in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and over the next many years, his courses were key offerings in the program’s curriculum.  He was involved in a number of other important curricular initiatives in the College, including the EOP Pre-College program, for which he developed the program’s English course, and the Ventures program for first-year students.

Rochester residents also have benefited from George’s expertise as a film scholar.  For more than three decades, George was a prolific writer of weekly film reviews for the City Newspaper and a frequent commentator on WXXI.  His outreach to a nonacademic audience also includes writing articles for Life, The New Republic, and the New York Times Book Review; teaching courses at the Monroe County Penitentiary; and writing, codirecting, and coediting a documentary film, Confrontation, that focused on the Peace Corps training program.  

George retired on December 31, 2015.

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John R. Harper


John Harper, professor of mathematics, will retire this year.  He earned his undergraduate degree from Yale in 1963  and his doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1967. He joined our department in 1969 after being an instructor at MIT. 

John's specialty, algebraic topology, is a highly theoretical branch of mathematics which nevertheless has found applications ranging from high energy physics to big data. Topological tools can be used to recognize patterns that would be otherwise invisible. 

The community of algebraic topologists, of which Harper has been a contributing member  for half a century, is a club with a very high intellectual entrance fee. It is also is one of the friendliest groups of its kind in all of mathematics, perhaps in all of academia.  John is one of the reasons why it is so.  He could always be counted on for a funny story, and he was the natural choice to be master of ceremonies at any occasion that required one.

He found his mathematical niche very early, focusing his research efforts on certain  topological constructions known as H-spaces, which are deeply related to many of the symmetries of nature.  He soon became one of the top 10 experts on them in the world.  With remarkable perseverance, John  has made a career of searching for and finding new ones in the far reaches of the mathematical universe.  He has been studying them and publishing papers about them for over 40 years.  In the process he has worked with 16 coauthors from six different countries.  Nobody told him that mathematicians are not supposed to do research after 40.

The 1980s was his golden decade. In 1981 he coauthored a graduate  level textbook (Algebraic Topology: A First Course, with Marvin J. Greenberg) which was the standard in  the field for the next 20 years.  (He published a second book,  Secondary Cohomology Operations, in 2002.)  More importantly he was instrumental in attracting five senior algebraic topologists to join the department at Rochester.  By 1990 we had one of the top five algebraic topology groups in the world.  Each of Harper's recruits was recently included in the inaugural class of fellows of the American Mathematical Society. He has put the Department of  Mathematics on the map.

That same decade was interrupted by tragedy.  Alex Zabrodsky, one of his closest mathematical friends and collaborators, was killed in a car crash here in 1986 while visiting from Israel.  John was on the first plane to Jerusalem to help his widow deal with the funeral.

During his time here he has taught nearly every course in our curriculum.  He  served as department chair from 1991 to 1994.  For the past 30 years his insight and experience  have been invaluable, and he has brought a unique sense of humor into every conversation. 

His wit and insight are irreplaceable.  Who else will keep a pet tarantula (its name was O'Brien) in the chair's office?  Who else will entertain us with witty songs about academia written with Gilbert and Sullivan melodies and oozing with irony?

He will be leaving the department far better than he found it. He will be missed.

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Ronald Jones


Xerox Professor Ronald Jones came to Rochester in January 1958 and is retiring after 58 ½ years of active scholarship, service, and teaching. During his illustrious career Ron was elected a fellow of the Econometric Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and more recently to the National Academy of Science. He has received honorary doctorates from one American University (Swarthmore College) and five international institutions (University of Geneva, Athens University of Economics and Business, Warsaw School of Economics, Kobe University, and the Stockholm School of Economics).  He was the recipient of the University’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching in 1994 and served as chairman of the department from 2000 to 2002. He has also served as president of the International Economic and Finance Society (1993) and as president of the Western Economic Association International (2009-10). 

Ron’s research has focused on theories of international trade, especially where markets are characterized as “perfectly competitive,” a description that arguably makes increasingly more sense as the volume of international trade tends to become ever larger as incomes increase and the costs of such trade get less and less expensive.  He has published in the leading economics journals, including the American Economic Review, the Review of Economic Studies, and the Journal of Economic Theory.  In all, he has published 180 scholarly articles. Ron has also published a number of books, including (along with Professor Richard Caves) one of the leading undergraduate textbooks in trade, World Trade and Payments, (Little Brown & Co.). The book first appeared in 1973, and went through 10 editions, a testament to its popularity. This was followed by International Trade: Essays in Theory (North Holland, 1979), and Globalization and the Theory of Input Trade (MIT Press, 2000)

 A review of Ron’s 1979 book by leading trade theorist Elhanan Helpman captured the essence of his approach: the object of his written work is not to show how difficult the material is but rather to attempt to reveal how simply it could be explained.  In Helpman’s words, “The exposition is very clear throughout.  Each problem is stripped to its essentials and skillfully analyzed. Over the years Ronald Jones has proved himself a master of penetrating analysis.”      

Jones is perhaps best known for his 1965 Journal of Political Economy article, “The Structure of Simple General Equilibrium Models.” A conference last year (November 2015) at the University of Calcutta was held to celebrate its 50th anniversary. This, too, exemplified Ron’s approach.  In the words of Nobel laureate and MIT economics professor Robert Solow, “In the course of working again on the elasticity of substitution I found myself rereading your 1965 article on ‘The Structure of Simple General Equilibrium Models.’  In case no one has told you this before, it is an absolute miracle of clarity and to-the-point-ness. Every graduate student in economics should be given a copy. The discipline would be better off.”  

Ron’s career has been celebrated in several conferences in his honor. To celebrate his 60th birthday there was a conference at the University of Pennsylvania, with the papers leading to the volume Theory, Policy and Dynamics in International Trade (Cambridge University Press, (1993), edited by Wilfred Ethier, Elhanan Helpman, and J. Peter Neary. This was followed by a conference at the City University of Hong Kong with the papers collected as a special issue of the Asia-Pacific Journal of Accounting & Economics for the 2006 Symposium on International Trade in his Honor.  Five years later in Nagoya Urban Institute, Japan, there was a conference, “International Trade and Macroeconomic Dynamics, in Celebration of Professor Ronald W. Jones’s 80th Birthday,” organized by Fumio Dei (Kobe University), Yuichi Furukawa (Chukyo University), and Makoto Yano (Kyoto University). The first and third of these professors earned their PhDs at Rochester. Indeed, Ron was instrumental in helping train Japan’s leading economists, as five of Rochester’s former Japanese students have served as presidents of the Japanese Economic Association.

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Richard G. Niemi

Political Science

Named professor emeritus in 2016, Richard Niemi is one of the most preeminent political scientists today. He has held the Don Alonzo Watson Chair since 2000. In 2007, he was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for his influential work on voting behavior, civic education, and legislative districting. He is also a foreign member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He retired in January 2015, but has continued to serve as the director of undergraduate studies, a position that he has served in with distinction for the last 17 years.

Dick graduated magna cum laude from Lawrence College, where he received a BA degree in 1962. In 1967, he earned a PhD in political science from the University of Michigan.  After joining the Rochester political science department, he began one of the most productive and prolific careers in the profession. To date, he has published 17 books, and written well over 100 peer-reviewed articles, which have received more than 7,000 citations. He is perhaps best known for his book, Controversies in Voting Behavior, (coauthored with Herbert F. Weisberg and David C. Kimball), now in its fifth edition. The book serves as the canonical text for any political behavior course. His work on civic education has been equally pathbreaking, arguing persuasively that civic education in high school shapes citizens’ political behavior as adults. Throughout his career, Dick’s research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Election Study, the U.S. Department of Education, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, to name but a few.

His record of teaching and service is equally distinguished. During his 48 years in the department, he has coauthored with more than 134 scholars, many of whom began as his students or were his colleagues. In addition to his remarkable service to undergraduates, he has served as the department chair two times (1979–83 and 2013–14). From 1986 to 1991, he held three dean positions in the College, serving as the associate dean for graduate studies, the interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and senior associate dean of the College. 

Over the last five decades, Dick has played a profound role in building the department, helping it to become one of the great success stories of higher education. Through the years, he has been a model citizen of the department and a tireless mentor to undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty alike. His humor, optimism, and work ethic are unsurpassed.  His career, in sum, exemplifies the idea that great researchers make the best teachers. This department will never be the same without him.

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Ernest J. Nordeen

Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Ernie Nordeen retired on December 31, 2015, after just over 30 years on the faculty, initially in the Department of Psychology and subsequently in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. An accomplished neuroscientist who made important contributions to our understanding of neural mechanisms underlying learning and brain plasticity, Ernie directed the undergraduate program in neuroscience for many years and was revered by students as a teacher and advisor. He is currently professor emeritus of brain and cognitive sciences.

Ernie earned his PhD in biology at the University of California at Irvine in 1981. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA, Ernie joined the faculty at Rochester as an assistant professor in 1985. He was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1991. He moved to the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences when it was formed in 1995, and was promoted to full professor in 1996.

For almost 20 years, Ernie served as director of the undergraduate program in neuroscience.  Under his leadership, the number of neuroscience majors grew several-fold into one of the strongest undergraduate programs nationwide. Ernie taught foundational courses in neurobiology, including developmental neurobiology, and was consistently praised by his pupils for his teaching ability and his rapport with students. In addition, Ernie played a major role in guiding undergraduates through their academic programs and their career choices.

In his research program, Ernie studied vocal learning in songbirds to examine how the brain learns and maintains complex patterns of motor activity. His early work focused on sex differences in behavior and revealed developmental processes that establish the brain circuits that allow for vocal learning. He then characterized the synaptic, molecular, and genetic mechanisms that modify the brain when songbirds learn their species-specific songs, and established neural mechanisms that allow vocal practice to shape and maintain a complex vocal repertoire. During the course of his career, Ernie published dozens of journal articles as well as a number of reviews. His research program was supported by numerous grants from federal agencies and private foundations.