Retiring Faculty 2016-2017
Richard N. Aslin
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
A world-renowned cognitive and developmental scientist, Richard Aslin retired after 33 years as a faculty member at Rochester, where he also held several positions as a University leader. Aslin joined the faculty in 1984 as a full professor from Indiana University. Initially a member of the Department of Psychology, he moved to the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences when it was formed in 1995. He was appointed as the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor in 2004.
In his research program, Aslin has made groundbreaking empirical, theoretical, and methodological contributions to cognitive development. With a focus on infant development, he has detailed the development of basic vision in young infants, and has illuminated the understanding of early speech perception. Among his most well-known accomplishments is a highly influential theory of development known as “statistical learning,” which has had a transformative impact on the field. More recently, he has pioneered the use of near-infrared spectroscopy for imaging studies of young infants. He has also made important contributions to understanding learning and perception in adults. He has published well over 150 journal articles and reviews. The scope of Aslin’s work spans multiple perceptual systems and methods, including behavioral, computational studies, and neuroimaging approaches.
As an academic leader, Aslin served as chair of the Department of Psychology, dean of what was then the College of Arts and Sciences, vice provost and dean of the College, director of the Center for Language Sciences, and founding director of the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging. Undergraduate and graduate students often praised his outstanding teaching abilities, and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows frequently cited his dedicated and generous mentorship as instrumental to their careers. Many of his former graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have gone on to become highly successful faculty members. Faculty colleagues recognized Aslin for the quality and breadth of his science, the fruitful collaborations he nurtured, his judgment and wisdom, and his commitment to the department and the university.
Aslin obtained his PhD in child psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1975. He then joined the psychology faculty at Indiana University, rising to the rank of professor by 1982 before joining the Rochester faculty.
Aslin’s research accomplishments have been widely recognized. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award from the American Psychological Association. He has also received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota, a Lifetime Achievement Award in Graduate Education from Rochester, an honorary doctorate from Uppsala University, and a Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Association for Psychological Science.
He is currently a senior scientist at Haskins Laboratories, a research institute on speech and language affiliated with Yale University and the University of Connecticut, where he is continuing his program of research.
He retired June 30, 2017.
Edward L. Deci
Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology
An internationally recognized psychologist, Edward Deci, the Helen F. and Fred H. Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences and professor of psychology, has played a leading role in the field of human motivation. A member of the Rochester faculty for nearly 50 years, Deci has been a founding figure in the development of self-determination theory, a paradigm-changing approach that shows autonomous motivation flourishes when a person’s fundamental psychological needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy are satisfied. In collaboration with Rochester colleague Richard Ryan, Deci has organized his program of research around the theory.
By differentiating motivation into the concepts of autonomous motivation and controlled motivation, the theory has been able to reliably explain and predict healthy, growth-oriented psychological functioning, as well as deficit-oriented, pathological functioning. This seminal theory has been developed and tested through basic laboratory and field research by Deci and his colleagues, his students, and researchers around the world, and has had meaningful and broad impact within the field of psychology as well as other disciplines. Self-determination theory has prompted thousands of empirical investigations and applications to promote wellness in the areas of parenting, education, organizational behavior, psychotherapy, health behavior change, sports and exercise, and virtual worlds.
Deci received his MS and PhD in psychology from Carnegie-Mellon University, an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, and bachelor's degree from Hamilton College. He studied at the London School of Economics and was an interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University.
Deci has published in the top journals in psychology, including Psychological Bulletin, American Psychologist, and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. He has published 11 books, including Intrinsic Motivation (Plenum, 1975); The Psychology of Self-Determination (D.C. Heath, 1980); Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior (coauthored with R. M. Ryan, Plenum, 1985); Why We Do What We Do (Putnam, 1995); and Self-Determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development, and Wellness (coauthored with R. M. Ryan, Guilford Press, 2017). His writings have been translated into seven languages, including Japanese, German, and Spanish.
His research has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science, and he has received several lifetime achievement awards. He has lectured and consulted at more than 100 universities, as well as many businesses, government agencies, and other organizations in 24 countries on six continents. He was chair of the board of the Institute for Research and Reform in Education from 1995 to 2008.
He also holds part-time faculty positions at Australian Catholic University and Southeast Norway University College. As an avocation, Deci has been director of the Monhegan Museum of Art and History on Monhegan Island, Maine.
He retired in 2017.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
During a Rochester career that spanned more than 35 years, Thomas Hsiang played a defining role in understanding superconducting and semiconductor devices in ways that continue to grow in importance as electronics and telecommunications move to ever higher speeds. A member of the faculty since 1981, he led efforts to build one of the pre-eminent groups in the field of superconductivity and superconducting electronics.
After early groundbreaking research employing ultrafast electro-optical sampling to explore superconducting and semiconductor devices, his research on noise in semiconductor devices settled long-standing questions on the mechanisms of “1/f noise” in semiconductor devices and helped to guide integrated circuit fabrication technology to create smaller, faster, and lower power devices. Throughout his research career, he made seminal contributions to multiple areas, including superconducting electronics, nonequilibrium superconductivity, noise in thin-film and field-effect devices, picosecond measurement techniques, ultrafast electronic and optoelectronic devices, terahertz studies of transmission lines, and interconnects and numerical techniques for full-wave analysis and Monte-Carlo studies of electronic devices. He has published extensively and has delivered over 60 invited presentations in conferences, industry, and universities worldwide.
Hsiang received his PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1977, and after serving on the faculty at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he was named faculty fellow, he moved to Rochester in 1981.
Recognized for the elegance of his experimental methods and the clarity and insightfulness of the analysis and exposition of the physical principles underlying observed phenomena, Hsiang has been widely lauded by colleagues. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and he has served on numerous industrial and government boards.
His courses in semiconductor devices and electronics, superconductivity, and optoelectronics were highly popular and effective. Generous with his time in his role as an undergraduate advisor, he also supervised numerous MS and PhD students and served on graduate committees. He was the recipient of a Tau Beta Pi Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Engineering Teaching and a University Merit Award for PhD Dissertations. He also served from 2005 to 2011 as the associate dean for undergraduate studies in the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences.
Outside his faculty work, he is active in the International Go Federation, serving as vice president in 2008, and in the International Mind Sports Association of which he is general secretary.
He retired in 2017.
Modern Languages and Cultures, Russian and Russian Studies
A renowned scholar of Russian literature, politics, and of translation in the United States, in Russia, and internationally, Kathleen Parthe has published highly acclaimed, field-transforming scholarship. Among her many publications, she is the author of two books on Russian literature and politics and a translation of 100 essays and editorials by Alexander Herzen. Parthe joined the Rochester faculty in 1986, becoming associate professor in 1991 and full professor in 2002.
Her book, Russian Village Prose: The Radiant Past (Princeton University Press, 1992), was the first comprehensive study of Russian village prose, exploring the movement’s importance in 20th-century Russian literature. The work was translated and republished in Russian in 2004. Her second book, Russia’s Dangerous Texts: Politics Between the Lines (Yale University Press, 2004) explored the ways in which writers in Russia challenged and irritated the country’s authoritarian rulers, addressing the impact of literary-political tensions on national identity. Also translated and republished in Russian in 2007, the book was highlighted in the American Library Association’s Choice magazine in 2006 as one of the “Best of the Best” of academic books. Her translation A Herzen Reader (Northwestern University Press, 2012) earned national acclaim, receiving the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages prize for the best scholarly translation in 2014. Her scholarship has been acknowledged and supported through NEH, ACLS, IREX, Kenan, SSRC and Mellon grants. Parthe was also the founding editor of the Tolstoy Studies Journal.
Parthe completed her BA at Barnard College in 1971, her MA at Cornell in 1973, and her PhD at Cornell in 1979. After teaching at Cornell and Hobart and William Smith College, she joined Rochester’s faculty, where she developed the Russian studies major and remained the director of the program until June 30, 2016.
Her courses, including Russian Civilization, Politics of Identity, Europe Today, Secret Nation, Dangerous Texts, Russian Identity, and Russia Now, have not only supported the Russian and Russian studies programs, but have also been crucial to majors and programs such as history, comparative literature, Jewish studies, German, Italian, and French. Recognizing her throughout her career for her outstanding teaching, students also praise her for the encouragement she provided them as they developed their academic plans. The University awarded her the Mercer Brugler Distinguished Teaching Professor appointment from 1998 to 2001.
Parthe has also been involved in essential administrative work, including serving on advisory and search committees for a dean, a provost, and a president. She has chaired the Steering Committee of the Faculty Council and served on committees supporting the College’s curriculum, as well as admissions, residential learning, undergraduate studies, and culture and the arts.
She continues to work on two additional translations of Herzen’s Past and Thoughts and Alexander Herzen:A Life in Letters. The first one is under contract with Harvard University Press. With five additional articles forthcoming, Parthe remains a prolific scholar.
She retired on January 1, 2017.
Joel I. Seiferas
Joel Seiferas is an internationally respected theoretical computer scientist who has earned wide recognition for his work on the power of computational models, the understanding of how shared access to memory affects power, and other topics that have been at the heart of some of the field's deepest questions. He joined Rochester’s Department of Computer department in 1979 after five years on Penn State’s faculty.
Seiferas’s paper (with Michael J. Fischer and Albert R. Meyer) addressing one of the most important questions in computer science—whether more computing time lets one solve more problems—is considered one of the foundational works on the topic. By showing that for non-deterministic computation, even very slightly more time allows additional problems to be solved, his work has become part of the bedrock of the field, so strong that decades later it is underpinning some of computer science’s most important work.
Seiferas has also contributed transformational proofs—in work that often draws praise for its insight and beauty—and pathbreaking research on topics such as the relationship between access to memory and power, string/pattern matching, sorting networks, almost-everywhere separations, positive relativizations, and real-time simulation.
After earning bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at MIT, Seiferas began his academic career at Penn State before joining the Rochester faculty.
Recognized by colleagues for his mentorship of students, he is credited with shaping the department’s efforts to recruit faculty in theoretical computer science. He also served as department chair and on the University’s Academic Honesty Board.
His colleagues cite Seiferas’s ego-less self-effacement and modesty, but they have little doubt that his contributions to the understanding of computer science will be remembered for generations. In September 2017, the Department of Computer Science will host a day of talks in honor of Seiferas.
He retired on December 31, 2016.
Religion and Classics
A scholar in the philosophy of religion, Edward Wierenga, professor of religion and classics and of philosophy, has an influential body of scholarship that also spans ethics, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language. Wierenga joined what is now the Department of Religion and Classics in 1977, after previously holding appointments at Illinois State University and Calvin College.
His first book, The Nature of God: An Inquiry into Divine Attributes (Cornell University Press, 1989) explored one of the central questions in the field. In the book, he attempted to state in contemporary terms what such historical thinkers as Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas had said about divine attributes and then to examine whether these revised formulations are subject to recent philosophical objections. A paperback edition followed in 2003, and an Italian translation was published in 2006. He is also the author of The Philosophy of Religion (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016), which draws on four decades of teaching and publishing. The book is intended to introduce newcomers to the central issues in philosophy of religion as well as to make original contributions.
Widely recognized by his colleagues, he served as the philosophy of religion editor for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy from 2001 to 2016. He also serves on the editorial boards of Religious Studies, Faith and Philosophy, and European Journal for Philosophy of Religion.
After earning his undergraduate degree at Calvin College, Wierenga completed his PhD at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. After joining the Rochester faculty, he chaired the Department of Religion and Classics from 1991 to 1997 and again from 2003 to 2014. His tenures were marked by the introduction of distinguished colleagues who joined the department and for courses that were added to the curriculum. Wierenga is also credited with being instrumental in enhancing the presence of Jewish studies at Rochester by expanding instruction in Hebrew and introducing a Jewish studies cluster and minor, as well as several new colleagues in the field.
Wierenga pioneered extensive and informative websites for most of his courses, where students could find course syllabi, important dates, lecture outlines, paper topics, and other online resources. Wierenga worked closely with graduate students from the Department of Philosophy. There, he offered graduate seminars and served on dissertation committees. He served as outside reader or chair of numerous dissertation examinations, and in 2004, he was awarded the University Dean’s Award for meritorious service in PhD defenses.
As a chair, colleague, mentor, advisor, and teacher, Wierenga earned recognition from those with whom he has worked. They credit him with helping others to be better teachers, students, and thoughtful and articulate human beings.
He retired on June 30, 2017.