Campus News

Franklin College chemist named Regents Professor

Michael Duncan, Franklin Professor of Chemistry at UGA, has been named a Regents Professor. His appointment was approved at the regular meeting of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents earlier this month.

Regents Professorships are granted by the regents to outstanding faculty members for an initial period of three years and are renewable for a second three-year period based on recommendations. Awardees receive a $10,000 permanent salary increase, in addition to the merit raise, in the year of initial appointment. They also receive a yearly fund of $5,000 in support of their scholarship.

“Dr. Duncan’s contributions to instruction and research are superb and serve as an example for others,” said Provost Arnett C. Mace Jr. “This recognition is a tribute to his achievements.”

Since he came to UGA in 1983, Duncan has been on the cutting edge worldwide in the study of metal clusters. For at least a decade, his work on metal carbides has placed him among the most sought-after chemists of his generation for presentations and speeches and has drawn interest and funding from a range of federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Air Force.

“We are so pleased that such an outstanding faculty member as Michael Duncan has been named a Regents Professor,” said ­Garnett S. Stokes, dean of the Franklin ­College of Arts and Sciences. “He is a world-class researcher and a much sought-after teacher, and we believe he is a superb choice for this honor.”

Duncan expressed gratitude for the honor.

“I am, of course, extremely pleased to be honored in this way,” said Duncan.

“I have been lucky to have excellent students and colleagues over the years who have made our research program possible, and this kind of award really recognizes all their contributions.”

Named a Fellow in the American Physical Society in 2001, Duncan earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Furman University and a doctoral degree in physical chemistry from Rice University.

In 2000, Duncan was part of a startling discovery that is changing how science looks at the last evolutionary stages of low-mass stars.

When low-mass stars called red supergiants die, they fade away on a “wimpy” wind—or so scientists thought. Duncan’s research, co-authored with several scientists from the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands and published in the journal Science, found evidence for titanium carbide nanoclusters in the infrared emissions from these stars, and suggested that the exact opposite may be true. These stars, in fact, may die with a bang and not with a whimper. In fact, the study may lead researchers to a new understanding of red supergiants, which are studied to resolve issues in nucleosynthesis, stellar structure and the evolution of stars.

“This discovery was really a gigantic surprise,” said Duncan. “One of the beauties of doing fundamental science is that you never quite know where it may lead.”