The prestigious honor recognizes faculty nationally and internationally renowned for their scholarship, teaching, and service
Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Mark Blumberg, F. Wendell Miller Professor and chair in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Keri Hornbuckle, Donald E. Bently Professor of Engineering, have been named recipients of the 2023 University of Iowa Distinguished Chair.

    The accolade represents one of the most prestigious honors granted to faculty members at Iowa. It acknowledges scholars who are distinguished at a national and global level, and have made significant contributions to the university, the state of Iowa, and beyond through outstanding achievements in research, teaching, and/or service. Those selected for the honor receive additional financial resources to support their professional activities, enabling them to further extend their scholarly impact. 

    “We are proud to honor and celebrate the contributions of these esteemed faculty members with the University of Iowa Distinguished Chair,” says Kevin Kregel, executive vice president and provost. “Our two newest honorees have had a profound impact on our university and within their respective fields. Their exceptional scholarship, along with their commitment to teaching excellence, elevates our institution and inspires our next generation of leaders.”

    Both Blumberg and Hornbuckle will hold the title of University of Iowa Distinguished Chair for the duration of their faculty appointments at Iowa. In accepting the title, they will relinquish their previously held endowed positions. They join the ranks of previous University of Iowa Distinguished Chair recipients Peter Thorne, Lea VanderVelde, Stanley Perlman, Michelle Scherer, Corinne Peek-Asa, and Caroline Tolbert.

    Mark Blumberg, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

    Mark Blumberg headshot

    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 headshot

    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.

    Previous University of Iowa Distinguished Chair awardees

    • Lea VanderVelde, professor of law and the Josephine R. Witte Chair, College of Law (2022)
    • Peter Thorne, professor of occupational and environmental health, College of Public Health (2022)
    • Stanley Perlman, professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Carver College of Medicine (2021)
    • Michelle Scherer, professor of civil and environmental engineering, College of Engineering (2021)
    • Corinne Peek-Asa, professor, College of Public Health (2020)
    • Caroline Tolbert, professor of political science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (2020)