Campus News

Two faculty members named Regents’ Professors

Pejman Rohani and Ronald L. Simons. (UGA photos)

Two University of Georgia professors have been named Regents’ Professors for research that is recognized both nationally and internationally as innovative and pace-setting.

The university’s newest Regents’ Professors are Pejman Rohani, University of Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Ecology and Infectious Diseases in the Odum School of Ecology and the College of Veterinary Medicine; and Ronald L. Simons, Distinguished Research Professor in the department of sociology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

The appointments were recently approved by the board of regents, and this academic year marks the first time the university has recommended two faculty members for the award.

“As the University of Georgia continues to increase the volume and impact of our research, we seek to recognize the exemplary faculty members whose work contributes innovative solutions to pressing challenges in health, security and community vitality and brings recognition to the university,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

Rohani conducts research that focuses on the introduction of the ecological perspectives to infectious disease biology. His work investigates the importance of spatial synchrony in the outbreak of measles and pertussis for predicting the extinction and eradication of these major childhood infectious diseases.

He has published 132 peer-reviewed papers and co-authored influential books with the Princeton University Press and the Oxford University Press. Rohani has been principal investigator or co-investigator for nearly $32 million in external grant funding, including awards from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Rohani’s work has implemented a genetic algorithm to identify effective and less costly booster vaccination schedules, and his models are helping to inform health agencies worldwide on pandemic preparedness and forecasting infectious disease threats.

Rohani has received numerous honors from UGA, including the Creative Research Medal. His national honors include a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue his work on modeling childhood diseases. Rohani has served as a top expert on the World Health Organization’s panel on vaccination strategies for measles and dengue and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Dr. Rohani is truly one of the world’s leaders in the scientific development and application of modeling and statistics in infectious diseases,” said Betz Halloran, professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington and a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Simons studies the processes by which social experiences become biologically embedded and influence mental and physical health outcomes. His research suggests that social factors, such as marital, work, financial and social status variables, impact biological aging and the development of chronic illness more so than the effects of diet, exercise, body mass index, smoking and other known health-risk factors.

Simons has published more than 240 peer-reviewed articles, and his research is supported by grants totaling more than $45 million, including awards from the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, and the CDC. His research articles have generated more than 33,000 citations.

Simons is a Fellow of the university’s Owens Institute for Behavioral Research and co-directs the institute’s Center on Biological Embedding of Social Events and Relationships. He received the 2019 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award and is a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology. His publication awards include Best Article of the Year from three professional organizations for three different articles published in flagship journals. He also serves regularly on National Institutes of Health review committees.

“Dr. Simons is an unusually prolific scholar, with dozens of published papers to his credit that attest to his unstinting commitment to understanding a host of complex questions about families, child well-being and the circumstances in which families develop and change,” said Thomas N. Bradbury, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. “There is really no way forward in our field without this kind of sustained, scholarly focus on topics of great social significance like these.”

The Regents’ Professorship includes a $10,000 salary increase and is granted for an initial period of three years, which may be renewed. Awardees also receive a yearly academic support account of $5,000 as long as the Regents’ Professorship is held.