Memorandum to: The Faculty of Arts and Science Community

From: Thomas Carew, Dean for the Faculty of Arts & Science and Gérard Ben Arous, Director of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences

Re: Announcement of 2015-16 Silver Professorships

Dear Colleagues,

It is our great pleasure to announce the distinguished professors to be recipients of Silver Professorships this academic year.

The 2015-16 Silver Professorship honorees are as follows:

Fedor Bogomolov

Professor of Mathematics
Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Science

Carolyn Dinshaw
Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and English
Faculty of Arts and Science

Paula England
Professor of Sociology
Faculty of Arts and Science

Subhash Khot
Professor of Computer Science
Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Science

Alec Marantz
Professor of Linguistics and Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Science

Michael Purugganan
Professor of Biology and Genomics
Dean for Science
Faculty of Arts and Science

Eero Simoncelli
Professor of Neural Science, Mathematics, and Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Science

David Stasavage
Professor and Chair of Politics
Faculty of Arts and Science


A reception will be held in the spring (March 29) to formally induct and celebrate our colleagues; please save the date, a formal invitation is forthcoming.


The 2015-16 Silver Professorship honorees' brief biographies can be found below:

Fedor Bogomolov received his Ph.D. from the Steklov Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1974, where he continued to work as a researcher until coming to NYU in 1994.

Fedor has contributed fundamental insights to a wide range of fields, from his early papers in topology, differential and algebraic geometry, to number theory, group theory, invariant theory and many others. His decomposition theorem is the basis of classification of varieties and forms the foundation of modern string theory and mirror symmetry, some of the most important concepts in modern mathematical physics. It is also the basis of the theory of holomorphic symplectic varieties, which have been intensely studied in recent years, as they encode highly nontrivial algebraic integrable systems. Bogomolov stability, Bogomolov-Miyaoka-Yau inequality, Beauville-Bogomolov form, Bogomolov conjecture about Galois orbits of points on abelian varieties - these are just a few of his deep ideas, which continue to inspire researchers worldwide. Bogomolov’s most recent work, on almost abelian anabelian geometry, unraveled hidden structures in function fields of algebraic varieties, allowing the reconstruction of these fields from their Galois symmetries. This is a tremendously significant development, creating a whole new philosophy in higher-dimensional birational geometry.

Fedor has published more than 110 papers, given plenary talks at major international meetings, and served on editorial boards of leading mathematical journals.  Bogomolov is one of the giants of modern algebraic geometry.


Carolyn Dinshaw is a Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and English, and has just completed a successful term as chair of SCA. Dinshaw received her PhD in English Literature from Princeton, and her BA from Bryn Mawr College. She has been interested in the relationship between past and present ever since she began to study medieval literature. Her 1982 dissertation, subsequently published as Chaucer and the Text in 1988 (Garland Press), explored the relevance of new critical modes for older literature, while in her 1989 book, Chaucer's Sexual Poetics (University of Wisconsin Press), she investigated the connection of past and present via the Western discursive tradition of ideas about gender. In her ground-breaking book, Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern (Duke University Press, 1999), which studied a wide range of thinkers from Margery Kempe to Roland Barthes, she insisted on the importance of connections to the past in contemporary literature, culture, and community formation. In her most recent book, How Soon is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time (Duke University Press, 2012), she looks directly at the experience of time itself, as it is represented in medieval works and as it is experienced by readers of those works.

In the early 1990s, along with classicist David M. Halperin, Dinshaw founded GLQ, a flagship journal of gay and lesbian studies.  She has served as president of the New Chaucer Society, and has held several distinguished fellowships, including the Stanford Humanities Center and the Australia Research Council. She has won the John Nicholas Brown Prize from the Medieval Academy of America, the Distinguished Editor Award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, and the MLA Crompton-Noll Prize.

In the classroom, Dinshaw regularly teaches materials past and present, in courses ranging from “Medieval Misogyny” to “Queer New York City.”  Making the most of her joint appointment in English and SCA, she has been instrumental in bringing together undergraduates to pursue topics across disciplinary lines. Her reputation among undergraduates – she has consistently received outstanding feedback from her students – attests to her commitment to supporting creative thinking and excellent writing.


Paula England is a Professor of Sociology and Director of Graduate Studies for the NYU Department of Sociology. Educated in Whitman College and the University of Chicago, she joined NYU, from Stanford, in 2010. She served as President of the American Sociological Association from August 2014 to August 2015.

England is author of two books, editor or coeditor of five more books, and author of numerous scholarly papers in prestigious professional journals.  Her work is very widely cited and republished, with over 13,000 citations on Google Scholar and an H-index of 54 … both very high numbers for a sociologist. Her paper “The wage penalty for motherhood” in the American Sociological Review (2001) has so far received 1257 citations and her book Comparable worth: Theories and evidence (1992) has so far received 1075 citations.

England’s research explores changing family patterns; care work; sexual behavior; contraception; gender & labor markets. A lot of her work has concerned various forms of discrimination against women, in particular those that are less obvious. For example, she has shown that predominantly female occupations are associated with lower pay, adjusting for all relevant differences between occupations in the skills and education required, for both men and women. She argues that this is because the gender composition of different occupations influences employers when they set pay levels. When the gender composition of an occupation changes, furthermore, wage levels tend to decline in relative terms. More recently she has been doing considerable work on the effect of gender roles on casual sex and the “hookup” culture.

This body work has been widely recognized by numerous awards. These include: the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) Jessie Bernard Award for Distinguished Scholarship on Gender;  a Distinguished Career Award from the ASA section on Sociology of the Family; the Frances Perkins Fellowship from the American Academy of Political and Social Science; and the Harriet Presser award from the Population Association of America.

England makes crucial mainstream contributions to the undergraduate and graduate teaching of Sociology, in demography and research methods as well as gender issues. She has also played an important role in the development of Sociology teaching at NYU Abu Dhabi, chairing the faculty recruitment committee on more than one occasion as well as teaching short courses there.

Overall, England is a very senior and widely recognized sociologist who has played in important part in the steep upwards trajectory of the Department of Sociology at NYU.


Subhash Khot obtained his bachelor's degree in computer science in 1999 from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and his doctorate in computer science in 2003 from Princeton University. After a year at the Institute for Advanced Study, he joined Georgia Tech as an assistant professor in 2004, and moved to the Courant Institute, NYU, in 2007, first as associate professor, and then, effective 2012, as professor of computer science.

Professor Khot's specialty is computational complexity. This studies the inherent difficulty of computational tasks, attempting to determine which computational problems can be solved with little computation, which problems can be solved only with large amounts of computation, and which cannot be solved at all. The area has been intensely studied by theoretical computer scientists and mathematicians for fifty years, and is now a highly sophisticated, deep, and complex mathematical theory. A central question in this field is the so-called "P=NP" question, which, despite intense study, still remains an open question.

Khot's most celebrated work, and the one that led to his recent Nevanlinna Prize, is on the "Unique Games conjecture." He introduced this in 2002 and since then has led the community's steady efforts to understand its deep and surprising implications, to find connections to other areas, and to prove (or disprove!) it. Today, this question is the most studied conjecture in theoretical computer science.

The conjecture addresses the main question in computational complexity: how hard are problems to solve or approximate? For over three decades, the main approach to this question was through NP-hardness: namely, we provide strong evidence for the hardness of a problem by showing that it is as hard as any other problem in the class NP. Assuming that NP contains hard problems, as most experts strongly believe, we deduce that our problem is hard. This paradigm has been extremely fruitful and has led to a complete understanding of some important combinatorial optimization problems. Yet, a large number of problems did not succumb to this approach, and their hardness remained a mystery for many years.

Khot's Unique Games conjecture (UGC), introduced in his ingenious 2002 paper, turned out to be the missing key. His conjecture says that the so-called Unique Games problem, a mild variant of the standard NP-complete constraint satisfaction problem, is hard. So in order to show that a problem is hard based on UGC, one needs to show that it is as hard as the Unique Games problem. Using the UGC, one can show that many natural optimization questions are hard. Moreover, one can often nail down precisely the best approximation factor achievable. In a series of remarkable papers by Khot and others, it was then realized that for a large family of problems, the UGC gives the precise approximability factors.

Subhash Khot's research has received extraordinary levels of recognition and honor.  In 2014 he won the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize, the highest scientific award in theoretical computer science, awarded once every 4 years at the International Congress of Mathematicians, for outstanding contributions in Mathematical Aspects of Information Sciences. In 2010 he was awarded the NSF Alan T. Waterman award, given annually to a single scientist in the U.S. aged 35 or younger. He was named a Simons Foundation Investigator in 2015. In 2010 he was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians. He has received an NSF CAREER award, a Sloan Foundation Fellowship, and a Microsoft New Faculty Fellowship.


Alec Marantz is a Professor of Linguistics and Psychology at NYU, which he joined in 2006 from MIT, where he had been Head of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy and the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Linguistics. He served as Chair of the Linguistics department at NYU from 2007-2013.

Co-founder of the theory of the architecture of grammar known as Distributed Morphology, Professor Marantz is world-renowned for his work on morphology and syntax, and more recently, his work on neurolinguistics, carried out at NYU in Neuroscience of Language Lab (NeLLab), located jointly in the Departments of Linguistics and Psychology. Within NeLLab, Marantz focuses on word structure and innovative MEG (magnetoencephalography) methods for functional neuroimaging. Integrating linguistic theory and psycholinguistic models with observed neural activity in the brain, this work explores: how the ability to use natural language is implemented in the brain; how the brain mediates the most critical aspects of our communication system; and which properties of the mind/brain facilitate the seemingly effortless human processing of language. Existing research in this field is typically based on the English language.  Therefore, a particularly innovative aspect of Marantz’s work is located in the NYU Abu Dhabi site of NeLLab, the lab's location in Abu Dhabi. This has a focus on speakers of Arabic, a language of special importance for the study of the neural correlates of linguistic representations and computations, as well as many other languages, such as Hindi, Greek, Hebrew, and Tagalog.

This work has resulted in an impressive list of publications in prestigious journals and marks Marantz as one of NYU’s most high profile world-class scholars in an important, cutting-edge and rapidly-developing new field.


Michael Purugganan is the Dorothy Schiff Professor of Genomics; Professor of Biology; and in 2011 was appointed Dean for Science in the FAS.  Professor Purugganan studies the evolutionary forces that act in plant developmental networks at the species level, which involves mapping and isolating genes that underlie natural variation that are responsible for plant adaptation. His interests also include exploring the “ecological transciptome” – the dynamic gene networks found in plants in ecological environments. This work combines concepts and techniques in evolutionary and quantitative genomics, developmental biology, evolutionary ecology, and computational biology.

Dr. Michael Purugganan received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of the Philippines (1985), an M.A. from Columbia University (1986) and a Ph.D. in Botany with a Global Policy minor at the University of Georgia (1993). After obtaining his Ph.D., he did postdoctoral research as an Alfred P. Sloan Molecular Evolution Fellow at the University of California in San Diego, studying the evolution of development (1993-1995).

Dr. Purugganan is an internationally recognized leader in the field of evolutionary and ecological genomics. The deep theme of his work focuses on identifying the molecular basis for evolutionary adaptations that occur in nature. Prior to joining the NYU faculty in 2006, he was the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Genetics at North Carolina State University, where he also won the Outstanding Faculty Research Award and the Sigma Xi Research Prize. He is the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Young Investigator Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, is a Kavli Fellow, and in 2005 was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Purugganan is on the editorial boards of the journals Genome Biology and Evolution, Molecular Biology and Evolution and Trends in Plant Science.

In addition to his outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of evolutionary biology, Dr. Purugganan is a gifted teacher who is deeply committed to both graduate and undergraduate education. For example, upon arriving to NYU in 2006, he created a very popular Freshman Honors Seminar class entitled “Bread, Wine and Genes: The Evolution of Food Species”. He was also instrumental in modernizing and improving a major course in his department, Principles of Biology, a key entry-level biology course, which he then helped to team-teach for 6 years. At the upper-division level, he developed an “Evolutionary Genomics” course and has contributed significantly to creating and teaching Foundations of Science at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Finally, Dr. Purugganan has been extremely active in providing undergraduates a hands-on research experience in his laboratory.  He has mentored more than 30 undergraduate students, several of which are co-authors in peer-reviewed research papers. As a reflection of the impact of this mentoring and training, undergraduates who spent time in Dr.  Purugganan’s  laboratory have gone on to graduate school or medical school at Duke, Princeton, UNC Chapel Hill, Mt Sinai, Cornell, and UC Berkeley.


Eero Simoncelli is an outstanding computational neuroscientist who is working to understand how sensory systems arrive at reliable interpretations of the world, allowing us to make predictions and perform difficult tasks with surprising accuracy. His work specifically aims to answer several key questions in this area: How do populations of neurons encode sensory information, and how do subsequent populations extract that information for recognition, decisions, and action? And from a more theoretical perspective, why do sensory systems use these particular representations, and how can we use these principles to design better man-made systems for processing sensory signals? Dr. Simoncelli uses a combination of computational theory and modeling, coupled with perceptual and physiological experiments, and has provided crucial insights that address these key questions in neuroscience.

One area of study by his group is the optimal encoding of visual information.  Since the mid 1990's his group has developed successively more powerful models describing the statistical properties of local regions of natural images, using them in parallel to understand the structure and function of both visual and auditory neurons, and more recently pioneering the development of new forms of signal-adaptive representations.  He has also contributed to the experimental characterization of neural and perceptual responses, and developed key models for understanding neuronal cell activities and neuronal mechanisms. Finally, he has worked on problems in optimal decoding and its relationship to human visual perception.

His work has been widely recognized by the scientific community.  He has held the prestigious position of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator since 2000. He has been awarded an NSF CAREER Award (1996-2000), a Sloan Research Fellowship (1998-2000), and was named a Hilgard Visiting Scholar at Stanford in 2013. In 2008, he was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).  He serves as associate editor of the Annual Review of Vision Science, and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Vision. In the past, he has served as an associate editor IEEE Transactions on Image Processing and as a member of the Faculty of 1000 Theoretical Neuroscience section.  In 2015, he was awarded an Engineering Emmy Award from the Television Academy, for his work on computational modeling of perceived visual quality of images.

Although his teaching has primarily focused on graduate-level education, he did teach the Undergraduate Tutorial Research course, and has mentored a number of undergraduates doing research projects in his group.


David Stasavage is a Professor of Politics and since 2012 has been chair for the Department of Politics.  Educated at Cornell and Harvard, he came to NYU in 2006, from a position as Reader at the London School of Economics. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015.

The author of three books and numerous well-published journal articles, his areas of scholarly interest are well summarized in the recent titles of these publications. The books are: Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Sacrifice in the United States and Europe (Princeton 2016); States of Credit: Size, Power, and the Development of European Polities (Princeton 2011); Public Debt and the Birth of the Democratic State: France and Great Britain, 1688-1789 (Cambridge 2003). Recent articles include: "Representation and Consent: Why They First Arose in Europe and Not Elsewhere", Annual Review of Political Science (2016); “Was Weber Right?  The Role of Urban Autonomy in Europe’s Rise” American Political Science Review (2014); “Technology and the Era of the Mass Army” Journal of Economic History (2014); “What Democracy Does (and Doesn’t Do) for Basic Services: School Fees, School Quality, and African Elections” Journal of Politics (2014); “Democracy, War, and Wealth: Evidence from Two Centuries of Inheritance Taxation” American Political Science Review (2012).

This impressive body of work can crudely be summarized as (long run) historical political economy. While this is not a common intellectual path for a rigorously trained modern political scientist to take, Stasavage’s scholarship has been extremely well-received and influential within the profession, and has built into a very distinctive intellectual contribution to a field of study that has become particularly associated with him. He has become a distinctive, high-impact, and therefore very respected and sought-after, voice in the profession. This, in turn, gives him a strong claim to a named chair in any excellent university.

Stasavage’s distinctive voice makes him an invaluable asset in the education of both undergraduate and graduate students at NYU. A key feature of the Politics Department at NYU is that it is extremely strong in “high-tech” formal theoretical and statistical modeling. Given his graduate training and research interests, Stasavage can interface with this formal work, but his fundamentally historical interests (he is an affiliated professor in History) mean that he can address the needs of a very wide range of students at all levels whose interests are more broadly based and not purely technical. His scholarship and expertise are therefore a distinctive and invaluable component of the department’s teaching profile.