By David Porreca
Two UI scholars have been appointed to endowed professorships made possible by a gift from the late Maybelle Leland Swanlund.
Swanlund, who died Aug. 10, 1993, provided an endowment of $12 million for 10 chairs to attract leading figures in the arts and sciences to the university or to recognize outstanding scholars already on the faculty.
Selected as holders of Swanlund Chairs were Nina Baym, professor of English, and Klaus Schulten, professor of physics.
Baym, who joined the English department in 1963, is a leading scholar in the study of American fiction, 19th-century American literature and American women's writing. In June she was appointed to a professorship in the Center for Advanced Study, the highest recognition the campus bestows on its faculty.
Baym received her doctorate at Harvard University in 1963. She earned her bachelor's degree at Cornell University in 1957 and her master's degree at Radcliffe College in 1958.
Baym's work has revolutionized and revitalized her field. She has written or edited a dozen books and more than 50 articles dealing with such major American writers as Nathaniel Hawthorne and opening up the previously neglected study of American female novelists. Her books include "Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and About Women in America, 1820-1870" (Cornell University Press, 1978; second edition, UI Press, 1993) and "The Shape of Hawthorne's Career" (Cornell University Press, 1976).
For her most recent book, "American Women Writers and the Work of History, 1790-1860" (Rutgers University Press, 1995), which she describes as her most ambitious, Baym unearthed 350 books of history written by women. Her current project is to define women's role in science as portrayed by American literature.
Baym also is recognized as a superb teacher. Her undergraduate courses are regularly oversubscribed, and her graduate seminars are the most sought-after in the English department.
Schulten, who joined the physics department in 1988, specializes in the study of theoretical physics and theoretical biology. After studying the molecular basis of photosynthesis for a decade, Schulten and his research group developed MDScope, sophisticated software that employs high-performance parallel computers and high-end graphics to elucidate fundamental principles of structural biology. By employing that technology and using X-ray scattering data from a collaborating experimental laboratory, Schulten's group discovered the structure of the protein in bacteria that captures sunlight with extreme efficiency.
Schulten, who directs the Theoretical Biophysics Group at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, currently is studying the structure and function of supramolecular systems in the living cell and is working on the development of new algorithms and efficient computing tools for structural biology. He is writing a textbook on algebraic methods in quantum mechanics and another on theoretical biophysics.
After earning a degree in physics from the University of Muenster, Germany, in 1969, Schulten pursued graduate studies in chemical physics at Harvard University, receiving his doctorate in 1974. He worked at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry from 1974 to 1980 and was professor of theoretical physics at the Technical University of Munich from 1980 to 1988.