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Franklin College Associate Dean Malmberg named University Professor

Russell Malmberg

Athens, Ga. – Russell Malmberg, professor of plant biology and associate dean in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has been named University Professor, an honor bestowed on faculty who have had a significant impact on the University of Georgia in addition to fulfilling their normal academic responsibilities.

The honor was first awarded in 1974, and no more than one University Professor can be named in any year.

“Dr. Malmberg exhibits an exemplary level of dedication to students and to his colleagues here at the University of Georgia,” said Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “In many ways, this university is a better place because of his contributions.”

Malmberg joined the UGA faculty in 1985 and has served as an associate dean in the Franklin College since 2007. As associate dean, he oversees research and graduate education for the university’s oldest, largest and most academically diverse college. His colleagues describe him as “an excellent no-nonsense administrator” and “tireless, unselfish and unassuming.”

He has helped grow the university’s Integrated Life Sciences program, which allows first-year graduate students to rotate among faculty in participating departments and defer their choice of a major professor until the end of their first year. The program has allowed the university to recruit talented graduate students in areas where it has significant strengths-such as developmental biology and vaccine research-but no formal departments. It also has fostered collaboration among faculty by connecting them through interdisciplinary groups. The program, which began in 2009, has grown to include 11 departments from four colleges and will recruit 50 students annually beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year.

Malmberg helped develop the university’s Intensive English Program, which helps international students improve their English skills prior to entering graduate school. The IEP began as a summer program in 2010 with funding from the Provost’s Office and has since become a self-sustaining, profit-generating enterprise that attracts students from UGA and institutions worldwide. This year, it began operating as a year-round program. To help graduate students compete for the highly competitive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, he worked with Judy Milton in the Graduate School to organize what has since become an annual workshop that has helped significantly increase the number of UGA students receiving the award. In 2005, together with Jerry NeSmith of OVPR, Malmberg also helped establish the current Georgia Genomics Facility on Riverbend Road, which provides access to state-of-the-art equipment for faculty and students at UGA.

To expose prospective undergraduate students to the sciences, Malmberg worked with Jim Geiser in HR to organize the Young Dawgs Science Internship, in which area high school students are placed in UGA research laboratories to gain hands-on experience. Since the inception of the program in 2008, the program has hosted nearly 500 students in STEM-related fields.

In addition to his administrative and service work, Malmberg has maintained a productive research lab. He has been the principal or co-principal investigator on external grants totaling more than $9 million, and he has published more than 80 peer-reviewed journal articles related to his expertise in plant evolution and in bioinformatics. He has taught general biology for science majors and in 2000 taught the university’s first course on bioinformatics, a field of study that integrates computer science, statistics and other disciplines to analyze large volumes of biological data.

As head of the department of plant biology, a position he held from 2002-2007, Malmberg revamped the department’s budget planning practices, oversaw significant laboratory and classroom improvements, and established a staff recognition program. He was previously director of the interdepartmental Plant Center, where he established an endowment fund and organized activities such as retreats and seminars that enhanced collaboration between basic and applied plant scientists. “Without Dr. Malmberg’s efforts,” a colleague concluded in a nominating letter, “biological sciences and graduate education would look very different on this campus.”

Malmberg has received several awards that recognize his teaching and scholarship, including the McKnight Foundation Individual Investigator Award and the Franklin College’s Sandy Beaver Special Teaching Award. In 2008, he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Oberlin College in Ohio and earned his doctorate in genetics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Deans of the schools and colleges forward University Professor nominations to a committee that reviews candidates and makes a recommendation to the provost. University Professors receive a permanent increase of $10,000 and a yearly academic support account of $5,000.