Skip To Main Content Skip To Profile Details
Close up of ornate carved columns in the Jack K. Williams Building on the Texas A&M University campus

Five Texas A&M University professors recently have been appointed to endowed chairs and professorships within the College of Science, announced Dr. Valen E. Johnson, dean of the College of Science.

Alexey Belyanin has been appointed to the Ed Rachal Chair in Physics, established in September 1989 by the Ed Rachal Foundation of Corpus Christi through an unrestricted gift to Texas A&M that was designated by the then-university president toward an endowed position in high energy physics.

Kevin Burgess has been appointed to the Gradipore Chair in Chemistry, established in 2001 by Australian biotechnology company Gradipore Ltd. and later matched with funds made available from Texas A&M's Vision 2020 matching program to support research and teaching in the Department of Chemistry.

Tatiana Erukhimova has been appointed as the inaugural holder of the Marsha L. ’69 and Ralph F. Schilling ’68 Chair for Physics Outreach, established in November 2021 by Marsha L. ’69 and Ralph F. Schilling ’68 to support the teaching, research, service and professional development activities of the holder and outreach efforts in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Jennifer Marshall has been appointed to the Arseven/Mitchell Chair in Astronomical Statistics, established in November 2012 by 1974 Texas A&M statistics graduate Dr. Ersen Arseven and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation to benefit the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy along with the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Statistics. In addition to supporting the teaching, research, service and professional development activities of the holder, the chair is intended to accelerate the development of astronomical statistics capabilities at Texas A&M.

Michael Smotherman has been appointed as the inaugural holder of the Dr. Wesley Jay Thompson Chair in Neurobiology, established in March 2020 through a planned gift from the late Texas A&M biologist Dr. Wesley Jay Thompson to support the teaching, research, service and professional development activities of neurobiology faculty in the Department of Biology.

"Appointment to an endowed chair is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a faculty member at Texas A&M University," said Johnson, a distinguished professor of statistics. "I congratulate all five of these accomplished and most deserving professors."

Belyanin, a theoretical physicist and Mitchell Institute member, joined the Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy faculty in 2003 and is world renowned for his breakthrough ideas and developments in research fields spanning semiconductor physics, quantum optics, photonic devices and high-energy astrophysics. In addition to serving as associate head for undergraduate programs in the department, he is faculty advisor for the Texas A&M chapter of the Society of Physics Students. Belyanin received his Ph.D. from the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1995 and held research positions at the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences and at Texas A&M prior to joining the Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy faculty. He was granted early tenure in spring 2007. Belyanin’s research group specializes in the optics of semiconductors, nanostructures and topological materials. He has led Texas A&M efforts in two National Science Foundation-funded, multi-university consortiums for more than a decade. He is widely respected by his peers for his breadth of knowledge, his uncanny ability to bridge the gap between theory and experimentalists, and his ability to attract research funding. A fellow of the American Physical Society (2012), the International Society for Optics and Photonics (2015) and The Optical Society (2019), Belyanin previously has been recognized with an NSF CAREER Award (2006), the JoAnn Treat Research Excellence Award (2007) and lectureships at both Lund University (2011) and the University of Jena Abbe School of Photonics (2011). Beyond his research contributions and honors, Belyanin has developed a new graduate course at Texas A&M and taught several service courses, in addition to co-founding and co-organizing the annual Mitchell Institute Physics Enhancement Program (MIPEP) each summer since 2012 for physics teachers from Texas high schools. His extensive outreach activity during the past decade and a half includes hundreds of lectures and physics demonstrations for K-12 students, school teachers and the general public.

Burgess, an internationally recognized synthetic organic chemist, joined the Texas A&M Chemistry faculty in 1992 and previously held the Rachal Chair in Chemistry since 2004. For more than three decades, his research has been helping to make chemistry more efficient for industries at the intersection of medicinal research and pharmacology, thanks to his expertise in designing compounds to disrupt protein-protein interactions impacting a host of diseases, including cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders. In addition to new fluorescent dyes to monitor these disruptions, Burgess has developed a computational approach to aid in the process of finding small molecules capable of causing these disruptions, resulting in new possibilities in medicine as well as fundamental research. Burgess earned his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1980 from the University of Cambridge, where he also was a research fellow, and completed postdoctoral research at the University of Wisconsin prior to beginning his independent academic career as an assistant professor at Rice University in 1984. A fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2013), Burgess' many career honors include a Fulbright Scholar Award (2021), a Humboldt Research Fellowship (2016). the Royal Society's Pedler Award (2013), a Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Research (2010), a Novartis International Lectureship (2002-2003), an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship (1993-1995) and a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Career Development Award (1992-1997). He also has extensive experience as an expert witness on a variety of topics ranging from patent processes for drug manufacturing to DNA sequencing methodologies for fluorescent dyes.

Erukhimova, a 2017 Texas A&M Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence and 2021-2024 Eppright Professor in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence, joined the Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy in 2006, where she is an instructional professor and also serves as outreach coordinator. For the past decade and a half, she has excelled in teaching large introductory physics classes, combining high expectations with devoted support to transform the relationship her students have with physics. She is also known for involving undergraduate and graduate students in physics education research. Erukhimova’s passion for inspiring learning through science has motivated the creation of several innovative programs at Texas A&M that integrate education with science outreach and community service, including DEEP (Discover, Explore and Enjoy Physics and Engineering), the Texas A&M Physics ShowJust Add Science and Real Physics Live*. Since 2007, she has coordinated the annual Texas A&M Physics and Engineering Festival that attracts several thousand visitors to campus each spring. In addition, she is a co-organizer along with Belyanin of the annual Mitchell Institute Physics Enhancement Program (MIPEP). Erukhimova earned her Ph.D. from the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1999 and served four years as an assistant research scientist in the Texas A&M Department of Atmospheric Sciences (2002-2006) prior to joining the Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy faculty. She is a co-author along with Texas A&M Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Sciences Gerald R. North of the textbook Atmospheric Thermodynamics, published by Cambridge University Press (2009). Erukhimova's career honors include the Provost Academic Professional Track Faculty Teaching Excellence Award (2021), a Fish Camp namesake (2019), Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Awards for Teaching (2012) as well as Extension and Outreach (2019), the Sigma Xi Outstanding Science Communicator Award (2014) and the John E. Trott Jr. Award in Student Recruiting (2013). A fellow of the American Physical Society (2019), she also served as chair of the American Association of Physics Teachers Committee on Science Education for the Public in 2020.

Marshall, whose expertise spans the gamut of astrophysics, astronomical instrumentation and data science, joined the Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy faculty in 2010 as a research scientist and manager of the Charles R. ’62 and Judith G. Munnerlyn Astronomical Laboratory. A member of the Mitchell Institute, she earned promotion to assistant professor in 2015 and associate professor in 2021. She also has served as the project scientist for the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer since 2019. Marshall received her Ph.D. in astronomy from The Ohio State University in 2006 and was a Carnegie Fellow in Instrumentation at The Carnegie Observatories before coming to Texas A&M. Beyond an impressive record of scientific discoveries, she is well known for her work on astronomical instrumentation and development of astrophysical surveys that have pioneered new disciplinary frontiers, from exoplanets and galaxy formation to stellar kinematics and chemical abundances. Marshall led Texas A&M's involvement in the Dark Energy Survey, producing the calibration systems that enabled the unprecedentedly precise photometric measurements produced by the survey, and also in the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX), building the Visible Integral-field Replicable Unit Spectrograph (VIRUS). In addition, she is the instrument scientist and co-principal investigator for GMACS, the wide field multi-object spectrograph that will be a first-light instrument for the Giant Magellan Telescope in which Texas A&M is a founding partner. She also is an external collaborator in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and a member of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory's upcoming 10-year Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). To date, Marshall's efforts in teaching, science outreach and student mentoring have been recognized with the Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Award in Teaching (2019), College of Science Research Mentoring (2017) and Leadership in Equity and Diversity (LEAD) Awards (2016), the Montague-Center for Teaching Excellence Scholar Award (2015) and the Ethel Ashworth-Tsutsui Memorial Award for Mentoring (2011). She is a member of the American Physical Society, the American Astronomical Society and the Society for Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers.

Smotherman, an accomplished neurobiologist who is one of the country's leading authorities on bat behavior, joined the Texas A&M Biology faculty in 2004. A member of both the Faculty of Neuroscience and the Faculty of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, he has served as chair of the Texas A&M Institute for Neuroscience since 2017, overseeing the neuroscience Ph.D. program, seminar series and professional development activities. He earned his Ph.D. in physiological science from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1998, and spent six years as a postdoctoral fellow there studying auditory physiology prior to coming to Texas A&M. Smotherman’s independent research program applies numerous approaches to study the neural basis of echolocation in bats, including the investigation of auditory cortex activity to understand how bats process sound and navigate. This work is critical for many different concepts that are fundamental to understanding brain function, such as temporal coding and spatial representation of sensory processes within the brain. He studies multiple different species of bats, using evolutionary approaches to understand how brain function associates with an animal’s natural ecology while also applying behavioral analysis to determine how its neural activity relates to its actual behavior. Smotherman's research has been continuously funded by multiple federal agencies, including the NSF, NIH, Department of Energy and Department of Defense. He currently serves as co-principal investigator for a five-year, $1.25 NIH million grant to build a comprehensive student training and research program in aimed at promoting diversity efforts across the neuroscience community and broader Texas A&M campus. In addition, he has taught four different neuroscience courses (Neurobiology, Neurobiology Laboratory, Principles in Neuroscience II and Neurobiology Journal Club) while also playing a lead role developing Texas A&M's undergraduate neuroscience degree program, launched in fall 2020 and currently housed in the College of Arts and Sciences.

View a complete list of endowed chairs and professorships in the College of Science.

To learn more about endowed faculty positions and other development-related impact opportunities in the Texas A&M College of Science, go to

* This link is no longer active and has been removed.

About Research At Texas A&M University

As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including in science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M generated annual expenditures of more than $1.148 billion in fiscal year 2021. Texas A&M ranked 14th in the most recent National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development Survey based on expenditures of more than $1.131 billion in fiscal year 2020. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit Research@Texas A&M.