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2 professors at UC Riverside receive Guggenheim Fellowships

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Two faculty members at the University of California, Riverside Norman Ellstrand and Juan Felipe Herrera have been awarded 2010 Guggenheim Fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of achievement and exceptional promise. Ellstrand, a professor of genetics, received the fellowship for genetics, genomics, and the many faces of hybridization. Herrera, a professor of creative writing, received the fellowship for poetry.

Norman Ellstrand:

"I am still in shock about the Guggenheim Fellowship because so few scientists receive this prestigious honor," Ellstrand said. "Because the Guggenheim Foundation has given the same award to so many of my heroes, be they scientists, artists, photographers, intellectuals or writers that I have been in awe of, I am doubly humbled. I could not have received this without the longterm support of my department, my college, and the other wonderful folks at UC Riverside, not the least of whom are 'TeamEllstrand,' the good-hearted and hard-working folks in my lab over three decades."

Ellstrand joined the UCR faculty in 1979 following a year's postdoctoral stint at Duke University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1978. His varied awards range from a Fulbright Fellowship to Sweden in 1993 to being named a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2000. Most recently, he received the 2010 Merit Award from the Botanical Society of America, the society's highest honor.

"Norm is internationally known for his research on the behavior of crop transgenes in nature, and more recently for his work on the role of hybridization in plant invasiveness," said Jodie Holt, chair of the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences. "He has also made significant contributions to UCR through his outstanding teaching, particularly his ability to explain complex subjects to a broad audience in an understandable and entertaining way. This award is well deserved!"

Ellstrand studies plant population genetics and is one of the country's foremost experts on plant gene flow, the movement of genes from one population to another. More recently, his research has come to focus on the evolution of invasiveness in plants. He was among the first to suggest that invasive species could evolve from relatively innocuous progenitors. His research group has found that hybridization (essentially interspecies gene flow) sometimes appears to play an important role in stimulating the evolution of new invasives.

He is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed research papers. He is author also of the book Dangerous Liaisons? When Cultivated Plants Mate with Their Wild Relatives (John Hopkins University Press, 2003) and is scientific advisor to the movie "Basmati Blues."

Juan Felipe Herera:

"The Guggenheim Fellowship is a supreme honor for me," Herrera said. "Most of all, it is for my wife, Margarita Robles, my familia, my students, my department, UCR, our Inlandia communities, our schools, teachers, librarians and libraries, my mentors, my dear friends who wrote letters in my behalf, my editors and publishers, and it is for all those whose voice has been cut short and those whose voice is beginning to blossom.

"I am here to tell you that you have a beautiful voice. Live the promise that you are, cross the borders of silence into your hard-earned freedom. I also dedicate this award to my father, Felipe, who arrived in Colorado in the late 1800s in search of new horizons, and my mother, Lucha, a natural poet, who migrated to El Norte during the Mexican Revolution."

Herrera, who holds the Toms Rivera Endowed Chair in the Department of Creative Writing, has won numerous awards for his poetry, novels and children's stories. Among those awards are the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for his poetry collection "Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems," which also was one of the New York Times Book Review's "100 Notable Books of 2008."

Tom Lutz, chair of the Department of Creative Writing, noted that Herrera is the third creative writing faculty member in four years to receive a Guggenheim fellowship. Last year's National Book Critics Circle Award and now the Guggenheim "are simply the latest honors in an incredibly productive and significant life as writer."

"I always say that Juan Felipe is a 24-hour poet, that I have rarely heard him speak in prose, something he does only under duress," Lutz said. "But the fact is that he writes not just poetry but fiction, children''s books, musicals, plays and other performance pieces, and unclassifiable things as well. He is a very important teacher for us, too, one who epitomizes the best of what makes UCR what it is, an energetic and empathetic educator in this home of incredible diversity and challenge."

The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera has written 24 books ranging from children's literature to poetry, produced plays and promoted the literature of other Chicano writers. He has more than 100 articles, poems, reviews and essays in print. Among his award-winning books are "187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border," "Downtown Boy," "Calling the Doves," "Crashboomlove" and Featherless/Desplumado."


Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

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