The University of Iowa Distinguished Chair recognizes and rewards exceptional University of Iowa scholars of national and international distinction who are contributing to the institution, the state of Iowa, and beyond through their outstanding achievements in scholarship, teaching, and/or service. This is a five-year term appointment.  

Faculty selected for this recognition will receive one-time funding of $250,000 disbursed over the five years of the appointment.  This funding will be provided by the Office of the Provost and will be allocated annually in $50,000 increments to support their activities. The appointment is effective at the beginning of the academic year and the title of Distinguished University Chair will be held by the awardee as long as they remain a faculty member in good standing at the University of Iowa.  All full-time tenured full professors are eligible.  If they currently hold an endowed position they must agree to relinquish the position if awarded the Distinguished Chair. It is anticipated that two Chairs will be awarded each year.

At the conclusion of the five-year term, the awardee will submit a summary of how the University of Iowa Distinguished Chair supported continued excellence in their scholarship, teaching, and/or service.

Nominations will only be accepted from collegiate deans. Complete nominations should be submitted to as a single pdf file.

Nominations of women, underrepresented minorities, and other groups historically underrepresented in their discipline are encouraged.

Completed nominations must include: 

From the nominee (submitted to the collegiate dean):

  • Current CV
  • A statement of no more than two pages describing the nominee’s contributions to the field and how their research, teaching, and/or scholarship has contributed to the institution, the State and the discipline. 
  • Three examples of scholarly products. 
  • Names and contact information of three to five faculty, both internal and external, who can provide letters of support. 

From the collegiate dean: 

  • A nomination letter from the collegiate dean highlighting the nominee’s qualifications and describing the candidate’s scholarship, teaching, and/or service excellence and evidence of the potential for continued extraordinary productivity. 
  • Three letters of support from faculty who are familiar with the candidate’s contributions are to be solicited by the dean. One letter must be external to the university. The letter should include the following: 
    • A brief explanation of the professional relationship to the nominee. 
    • Evidence of the quality of the candidate’s work and impact on the field. 
    • Evidence of the candidate’s substantial recognition nationally and internationally among their peers. 
  • The materials supplied by the candidate.

Nominations will be reviewed by the University Chair committee, which is composed of three tenured full professors, the president of Faculty Senate or their designee, and the associate provost for faculty. The selection committee will recommend awardees to the executive vice president and provost for final approval. 

Professors Mark Blumberg and Keri Hornbuckle have been named recipients of the University of Iowa Distinguished Chair in spring 2023.

Mark Blumberg, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mark Blumberg

Blumberg, an Iowa faculty member for 31 years, is a highly respected scholar in sleep and developmental neuroscience. Peers characterize his research—which has uncovered the role of muscle twitches during sleep in shaping infant behavior and brain development—as “genuinely creative” and “cutting edge.”

With more than 150 published articles, four books, and multiple appearances in documentaries, Blumberg is a leader in his field who has also effectively communicated his research findings to a wider audience. He has garnered nearly $10 million in external funding over the past decade, including support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a prestigious MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health. His numerous awards and honors also include being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2021 and winning a Senior Investigator Award from the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology in 2020.

Blumberg excels as a leader in the classroom, laboratory, and in administration. He is an outstanding educator with a deep commitment to mentoring graduate students, fostering a diverse lab environment and serving the academic community as a member of numerous university and collegiate committees and organizations. As chair of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Blumberg has worked to enhance the department’s national and international visibility. He has also collaborated with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute to help build the neuroscience community at Iowa by, for example, nurturing the new undergraduate major in neuroscience and recruiting faculty to strengthen expertise in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience.

Keri Hornbuckle, College of Engineering

Keri Hornbuckle

Hornbuckle, who has been a faculty member at Iowa for 25 years, is an internationally recognized leader in environmental engineering. Throughout her career, she has focused on the exposure and emission of air pollutants, including insecticides, herbicides, surface active compounds, fragrances, and industrial chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

She has published more than 100 research studies in prestigious scientific journals. After her appointment as director of the Iowa Superfund Research Program (ISRP) in 2018, she led the program’s successful renewal of a $13 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her ISRP studies on PCBs in public schools, indoor air, building materials, and children’s blood have been widely cited and featured in major media outlets, ultimately leading to important policy changes.

Hornbuckle demonstrates exceptional dedication to teaching and service. She has chaired or co-chaired multiple high-level committees, reviews, and searches at Iowa. She serves as an associate editor for Environmental Science & Technology, reviewing about 200 papers a year, and is a member of the National Advisory Environmental Health Council that advises NIH leadership on environmental health research. While serving as associate dean of academic programs in the College of Engineering, she helped lead curricular initiatives that brought creativity-focused, hands-on interdisciplinary experiences to engineering students. She has received numerous accolades, including the Regents Award for Faculty Excellence in 2022 and the College of Engineering Faculty Excellence Award for Service in 2020.

Year Named faculty rank department college
2022 Peter Thorne Professor Occupational and Environmental Health College of Public Health
2022 Lea VanderVelde Professor   Law
2021 Stanley Perlman Professor Microbiology and Immunology Carver College of Medicine
2021 Michelle Scherer Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering College of Engineering
2020 Corinne Peek-Asa Professor Emeritus Occupational and Environmental Health College of Public Health
2020 Caroline Tolbert Professor Political Science College of Liberal Arts and Sciences