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Ayres Hall at sunrise

Chancellor Donde Plowman has named four faculty members as the new class of Chancellor’s Professors at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville: Joshua Fu, Mark Littmann, Hanno Weitering, and Deb Welsh. The designation honors extraordinary scholarly attainment in an individual discipline or field and a record of excellence in teaching and service to the university.

“This award is the highest lifetime honor we bestow on faculty, and these four professors have more than earned this recognition,” said Plowman. “They are at the top of their fields in psychology, physics, engineering, and journalism, and together they represent the depth and breadth of the expertise we have to offer at the University of Tennessee. I am proud of each of them, their work, and their commitment to the university and our students.”

Full-time tenured faculty with a minimum of five years of service are nominated by their dean and chosen by current Chancellor’s Professors for recommendation to the provost and chancellor. Those selected receive a one-time research stipend of $20,000. The Chancellor’s Professors meet at regular intervals to advise the provost, vice chancellor for research and engagement, and chancellor on matters of concern to the campus.

“These faculty truly embody the Volunteer spirit of leadership and service,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick. “Throughout their careers, they have demonstrated the courage to tackle complex challenges and a commitment to furthering our mission of improving lives across Tennessee and around the world.”

Meet this year’s Chancellor’s Professors

Joshua Fu is the John D. Tickle Professor and James G. Gibson Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the inaugural professor of the UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. He is a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science and the Air & Waste Management Association. He is a joint faculty member in the Computational Earth Sciences Group within the Computational Sciences and Engineering Division at ORNL. His research focuses on climate change impacts on energy infrastructure; air pollution; water availability; extreme events like heat waves, floods, and drought; and human health.

“I am honored to be a Chancellor’s Professor,” said Fu. “It is my privilege to lead my research group in the fields of air pollution, climate change, energy, and human health. I enjoy working with and for my talented and committed students and dedicated scholars at all levels, and colleagues across the world and international organizations. I will continue to make influential and positive contributions to the UT communities and beyond in the years ahead.”

Mark LittmannMark Littmann is the Julia G. and Alfred G. Hill Chair of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Medical Writing and the College of Communication and Information’s Board of Visitors Professor in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media. Littmann’s most recent works include Totality: The Great American Eclipses of 2017 and 2024, a book for the general public; Eclipse: The Sun Revealed, a planetarium star theater program in international syndication; and Eclipse 2017, for students ages eight to 14. Earlier works have been recognized with the Science Writing Award of the American Institute of Physics, the Elliott Montroll Special Award of the New York Academy of Sciences, and selection by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific as Astronomy Books of the Year.

“My favorite activities are teaching and writing. So imagine what a thrill it is for me that the School of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee has continued to invite me to teach and write for 31 years now. I can’t thank my colleagues and my students enough for this privilege and for their new encouragement with this utterly unexpected honor,” said Littmann.

Hanno WeiteringHanno Weitering is a professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences. Recently named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Weitering researches condensed matter—the science that lies behind semiconductors, transistors, and liquid crystal displays. In recent years, he has worked with teams converting conventional semiconductors into superconductors and discovering properties of catalytic materials that may lead to new sustainable energy and magneto-electronic applications. He recently returned full time to the faculty after 10 years as head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and he earlier served as deputy director of the UT–ORNL Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (now the Institute of Advanced Materials and Manufacturing).

“The university has always given me everything I need to succeed as a teacher–scholar and has furthermore given me the opportunity to lead one of its strongest academic units for the past 10 years. I am honored with this extraordinary distinction, and I am particularly pleased with the university’s recognition and strong support for building research excellence through fundamental research.”

Deb WelshDeb Welsh, professor and head of the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, focuses her research on the development of romantic relationships and their impact on the functioning of adolescents, young adults, and older adults. Her Transitions across the Lifespan Lab studies the transition periods that occur throughout people’s lives and their impacts on development—including academic, relational, and individual psychological functioning. Welsh is an editorial board member for the Journal of Family Psychology.

“I feel deeply honored to be recognized by my dean and the impressive group of Chancellor’s Professors as worthy of the highest lifetime honor granted to a UT faculty member. I have been able to thrive in my research program, teaching, and as a campus leader over the past 29-plus years because of the support that I have received from faculty, staff, and students in my department, college, and across the UT campus. I received excellent mentoring, ample resources, many opportunities, and had the benefit of policies and structures that facilitated my development and success. I am grateful and hope that I can help continue these conditions that will facilitate the future success of faculty, staff, and students.”


Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375,