OXFORD, Mississippi — Two respected University of Mississippi professors with a combined 50 years of teaching, research and service have been named professors emeritus by the university.
Kenneth J. Sufka, professor of psychology and pharmacology, and Robert Van Ness, holder of the Bruce Moore professorship in finance, received the honorary title Friday, May 6, during the spring meeting of professors.
Created in 2018, the title of Professor Emeritus recognizes top faculty members with sustained excellence at the university. The award was created in response to the university’s strategic initiative to develop post-professional recognition.
“The Professor Emeritus Award recognizes individuals for sustained careers of achievement that have had a significant influence on their disciplines,” Provost Noel Wilkin said. “This year’s two winners, Dr. Sufka and Dr. Van Ness, are no exception.
“They both had productive careers that helped transform their research fields and enhanced their students’ educational experiences.”
A leading international researcher in behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology, Sufka joined the UM faculty in 1992. He has ongoing collaborative projects with Mahmoud ElSohly, professor of pharmacy and drug administration at UM and director of the university’s Marijuana Project; Kevin Freeman, associate professor of psychiatry at UM Medical Center; Stephen White, a former Ole Miss doctoral student working at Sam Houston State University; and Johnny Roughan, at Newcastle University.
“During his career, he has produced an impressive body of work in the field of behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology, which has led to incredible breakthroughs in the treatment of depression, chronic pain and addiction”, wrote ElSohly in support of Sufka’s nomination. . “Most notably, his research led to the discovery of the first and still only drug-effectiveness screening procedure for treatment-resistant depression, for which he was granted a patent in 2015.”
In collaboration with ElSohly and others, Sufka received a second patent in 2020 for a new cannabidiol analog that shows analgesic activity on par with opioids but without the side effect profile or abuse liability typical of this class of analgesics. This compound, which has the potential to solve the current crisis of opioid abuse, is licensed to a biotechnology company and is moving towards clinical trials.
Sufka’s work is transforming research to help fight chronic pain, ElSohly said.
“Dr. Sufka’s lab developed an innovative method to quantify the effects of analgesic drugs in animal models of chronic pain that is now routinely used in leading pain laboratories in the United States and abroad,” said he declared.
Sufka was often ahead of his time, said Jeffrey Mogill, EP Taylor professor of pain studies at McGill University in Montreal, citing a 1994 study in which Sufka found that conditioned place preference could be used as an indirect measure of chronic pain to assess potential analgesics.
“This idea was so ahead of its time that the article only garnered 17 citations in the first decade after publication,” Mogill noted.
“In the past five years alone, Sufka, 1994 has been cited 40 times,” he continued. “I should point out that at present, CPP is the most commonly used technique in the pain field to measure spontaneous (or ongoing) chronic pain, and it is now widely accepted that this symptom of pain is the #1 priority for preclinical pain research.
“More and more people in the field are using a technique that Ken single-handedly invented in 1994.”
Widely hailed as a talented, dedicated and effective teacher who is passionate about student success, Sufka is the first UM professor to be named Case-Carnegie American Professor of the Year. His other awards include the 2006 Thomas F. Frist Student Service Award, the 2005 Outstanding Faculty Award, and the 1996 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award.
He has turned his passion for student success into a widely used book for undergraduates, “The A Game,” now in its second edition and translated into Spanish and Arabic. With over 250,000 copies in print, his book has been adopted by a number of colleges and universities for distribution to their freshman classes.
Van Ness came to UM in 2002 after serving on the faculty at Marshall University and Kansas State University.
Promoted to the rank of professor in 2009, he has held the Moore Professorship since 2013. He co-edited, with Bonnie Van Ness, The Financial Review from 2009 to 2015. Widely recognized as one of the most eminent scholars in his field, His main area of research examines financial markets and securities trading, commonly referred to as market microstructure research.
“His work has always been excellent, and I have no doubt that his future work will continue to meet the very high standards he has set for himself,” wrote Michael Pagano, professor of finance at the Villanova School of Business. “As his CV attests, Dr. Van Ness is an excellent teacher as well as an academic, having received numerous awards for both teaching and research.
“He has also given back to the profession as a successful editor of The Financial Review as well as associate editor of the Journal of Banking and Finance and other respected financial journals.
“Indeed, Dr. Van Ness’s reputation has been critical in putting the University of Mississippi on the map in the area of finance and the subfield of market microstructure: when we in the profession think about the University of Mississippi, we think of Dr. Van Ness.
Van Ness’ expertise was also cited by other colleagues in support of his nomination.
“Within financial markets, market microstructure is how different trading mechanisms affect price formation and discovery and how transaction costs affect investor behavior,” wrote Daniel Bradley, Professor Lykes in finance and sustainability at the University of South Florida.
“Recently, the GameStop trade event in January 2021 underscored the importance of this area of research, as payment for order flow was heavily debated across all mainstream media and ultimately led to congressional hearings (the debate is still ongoing).
“When I think of the microstructure of the market, the first person I think of is Dr. Van Ness. He has been and continues to be at the forefront of this field.
One of the most prolific researchers and scholars in his field, Van Ness has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, has nearly 4,000 Google Scholar citations, and received 10 best paper awards at professional academic conferences, which further indicates his position as a researcher.
Primarily teaching MBA and PhD courses, he was highly regarded by students and won five teaching awards in the MBA program. The Director of Doctoral Programs, Van Ness has mentored numerous doctoral students, chaired or co-chaired 18 theses, and published with more than a dozen PhDs. students since arriving at Ole Miss.
No more than two eligible professors may be named emeritus professors in any given year.
Each school and college has its guidelines for nominations, but the university requires nominated faculty to have at least six years of service at the highest faculty rank, as well as exemplary achievements in research and creative achievement, teaching and service. In addition, winners are expected to have achieved a significant degree of national or international recognition.
The first distinguished professors in 2018 were John Daigle, Donald Dyer and Ikhlas Khan. Other faculty members who have earned the title are Alan Gross, Charles Hussey, Karen Raber, Arunachalam Rajendran, Michael Repka, Ron Rychlak, and Jay Watson.