Two faculty members named Steenbock Professors

August 12, 2014 By Chris Barncard

University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty members Jin-Yi Cai and Robert Hamers have been named Steenbock Professors.

Endowed more than 30 years ago by Evelyn Steenbock — wife of Harry Steenbock, an emeritus biochemistry professor — Steenbock Professorships provide a group of outstanding UW–Madison faculty with 10 years of financial support for their research programs.

Photo: Jin-Yi Cai

Jin-Yi Cai

Cai, who joined the Department of Computer Sciences in 2000, is the Steenbock Professor of Mathematical Sciences.

A fellow of both the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Cai’s research in theoretical computer science focuses on computational complexity theory, the study of difficulties inherent in solving computational problems. His most recent work has explored the classification of counting problems, and he has produced proofs — some running beyond 100 pages —for dichotomy theorems classifying computational problems as polynomial-time computable or polynomial-time intractable.

Photo: Robert Hamers

Robert Hamers

Hamers, the new Steenbock Professor of Physical Sciences, joined the Department of Chemistry in 1990.

His research into the unique properties of surfaces and interfaces has yielded important descriptions of the atomic and electronic surfaces of silicon, and enabled the creation of ultra-stable surfaces with applications in biological sciences and efficient chemical transformations.

A fellow of AAAS and the American Vacuum Society, Hamers is cofounder of Silatronix — a UW–Madison spin-off company commercializing electrolytes for safer lithium batteries — and is inventor on 13 patents.

The remaining Steenbock professors are: Gordon Mitchell, behavioral & neural sciences; Barry Ganetzky, biological sciences; Laura Kiessling, chemical sciences; James Dumesic, engineering; Edward Ruby, microbiological sciences; and James Ntambi, nutrition.