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5 faculty members named University Professors and Distinguished Professors

The selective awards recognize significant accomplishments by leading scholars in their fields.

John Brooks Slaughter, Hanna Reisler, Berislav Zlokovic, Natalia Molina and Alan E. Willner and
University Professors John Brooks Slaughter, Hanna Reisler and Berislav Zlokovic, and Distinguished Professors Alan E. Willner and Natalia Molina, clockwise from top left. (Photos/Steve Cohn, Courtesy of Women in Science and Engineering, Alex Familian, Courtesy of USC Viterbi and Ed Brancheau, clockwise from top left)

John Brooks Slaughter, Hanna Reisler and Berislav Zlokovic have been named University Professors, and Natalia Molina and Alan E. Willner have been named Distinguished Professors, USC Provost Charles Zukoski announced Monday.

“These exceptional faculty members have brought great distinction to the university,” Zukoski wrote in an email to the university community. “Recognizing each of them is an honor for President [Carol L.] Folt and me, and we look forward to celebrating their achievements at the annual Academic Honors Convocation this month.”

The distinction of University Professor is awarded very selectively by the president based on multi-disciplinary interests and significant accomplishments in several disciplines. Distinguished Professor is awarded very selectively to those whose accomplishments have brought special renown to USC.

USC’s new University Professors

John Brooks Slaughter is Dean’s Professor of Education and Engineering at the USC Rossier School of Education and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. His distinguished career includes leading two universities and heading the National Science Foundation as its first African American director. His education research is in higher education leadership, diversity and inclusion in higher education, underrepresented minorities in STEM, and access and affordability.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Hall of Fame of the American Society for Engineering Education. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Tau Beta Pi Honorary Engineering Society. He is the founding editor of the international journal Computers & Electrical Engineering.

Hanna Reisler is the Lloyd Armstrong Jr. Chair in Science and Engineering and Professor of Chemistry at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. An internationally recognized chemist, she studies detailed mechanisms of chemical reactions in the gas and condensed phases by using laser and molecular-beam techniques, research which is relevant to environmental, atmospheric and combustion chemistry as well as to the fundamental chemistry of new energy sources.

She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. She has received numerous awards and honors, including an NSF CAREER Award, an NSF Faculty Award for Women Scientists, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Max Planck Research Award and the American Physical Society Herbert P. Broida Prize. She helped found the Women in Science and Engineering Program at USC.

Berislav Zlokovic is the director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute and holds the Mary Hayley and Selim Zilkha Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease Research and is a professor in the Department of Physiology & Neuroscience at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. His research surrounds the role of brain microcirculation, particularly the blood-brain barrier in health and disease in the adult brain and during brain aging. He has made major contributions to our understanding of the role of blood-brain barrier in the pathogenesis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

Thomson Reuters and Clarivate Analytics have listed him as one of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” for 18 consecutive years (2002-2020) for ranking in the top 1% of the most-cited authors in the field of neurosciences and behavioral sciences. He has received the MetLife Award for Medical Research, the Potamkin Prize from the American Academy of Neurology, the Javits Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the MERIT Award from the National Institute on Aging. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the European Academy of Sciences and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiative. For the last five years, he has been asked by the Nobel Committee to nominate candidates for the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.

USC’s new Distinguished Professors

Natalia Molina is a professor of American studies and ethnicity at USC Dornsife. She is the author of two award-winning books, Fit to be Citizens? Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1939 and How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts, in which she coins the term “racial scripts” to demonstrate how ideas about race are easily adopted and adapted to apply to different racialized groups. Her research continues to explore the themes of race, space, labor, immigration, gender and urban history.

In 2020, she was named a MacArthur Fellow. Her work has further been supported by various organizations, including the Ford, Mellon and Rockefeller foundations; she has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Huntington Library. She is a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and in 2018 was the Organization of American Historians China Residency scholar. She has also been the recipient of various awards for her diversity work, including by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Alan E. Willner is the Steven and Kathryn Sample Chair in Engineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering at USC Viterbi. His research is in optical technologies, and he has over 1,450 publications to his name. He is a member of the U.S. Army Science Board and was a member of the Defense Sciences Research Council.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and an international fellow of the U.K. Royal Academy of Engineering. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the National Academy of Inventors, the Optical Society and SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the IEEE Eric Sumner Award and a Presidential Faculty Fellows Award from the White House. He served as president of the Optical Society and editor in chief of several of its publications.


The next call for nominations will be sent to the USC community at the start of the fall semester. An updated list of all USC University and Distinguished Professors is on the provost’s website.

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