Six UAlbany Faculty Appointed to New Named Professorships

A line of 13 people standing shoulder to shoulder on a stage in front of a blue screen that reads: "Fall University Address, President Havidan Rodriguez, October 26, 2023."
The recipients of UAlbany's named professorships and directorships were honored with medallions on stage at Thursday's Fall University Address. Six new named professorships were announced at the speech. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 26, 2023) —Six University at Albany faculty members have been appointed to new named professorships thanks to the philanthropy of University donors, President Havidán Rodríguez announced Thursday during his Fall University Address.

The new positions were established thanks to the generosity of the Massry family, William Newman ’81 and Linda Ackner-Newman ’83 MSW, and generous bequests from the estate of Margaret Raycheff-Williams ’44 and Roy O. Williams, increasing the total number of named academic positions at UAlbany from four to 16, of which 10 are currently occupied.

“These faculty members truly exemplify what makes UAlbany great—from advancing basic and applied research at the leading edges of their fields to sharing with our students their deep understanding of practice through mastery of their disciplines,” President Rodríguez said. “We are indebted to our generous donors who so clearly recognize the value of attracting and retaining leading scholars and practitioners to teach and mentor our students.” 

Photos of the medallion presentations are available in this gallery.

The new professorships are:

The Morris Massry Endowed Professorship 

Sanjay Goel, professor and chair of the Department of Information Security and Digital Forensics, School of Business.

Goel’s research is focused on cybersecurity and warfare-related projects that include the investigation of computer security threats such as botnets and malware, risk analysis, security policy development and evaluation, security modeling and the development of self-organized complex systems.

The Esther Massry Endowed Professorship 

Na Dai, professor of finance, School of Business.

Dai is a global expert on alternative investments whose work has broadened our understanding of entrepreneurial finance, venture capital and hedge funds and has published in elite business/finance journals, including the Journal of International Business Studies.

Williams-Raycheff Endowed Professorship in Chemistry

Igor Lednev, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry and a researcher at The RNA Institute, College of Arts and Sciences.

Lednev uses laser spectroscopy and advanced chemometrics to study forensic science, medical diagnostics and fundamental biochemistry. His work has led to new ways of identifying evidence recovered at crime scenes as well as screening tools to detect early Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Williams-Raycheff Endowed Professorship in Chemistry

Rabi Ann Musah, associate vice provost for the Learning Commons and professor in the Department of Chemistry and a researcher at The RNA Institute, College of Arts and Sciences.

Musah’s research examines the forensic identification of plant- and animal-derived materials using ambient ionization mass spectrometry and artificial intelligence. She also is the principal investigator on UAlbany’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute Driving Change grant.

Williams-Raycheff Endowed Professorship in Biology

Melinda Larsen, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and a researcher at The RNA Institute, College of Arts and Sciences.

Larsen’s research in salivary gland biology examines the contribution of the microenvironment to tissue formation during development, tissue repair and regenerative processes, with the potential to help us better understand how adult tissues can be repaired or regenerated. She is also a co-investigator on the UAlbany NSF ADVANCE grant to promote gender equity in science.

The Ackner/Newman Professor of Practice

Heidi Knoblauch, lecturer in management in the School of Business and senior director at New York Ventures, a division of Empire State Development.

At New York Ventures, Knoblauch manages a fund of funds that invests in fund managers who invest in exceptional New York State founders. She has significant experience in venture capital and is passionate about helping female and non-binary founders start and grow their companies in New York State.

“We are deeply grateful to the donors who have chosen to support this important priority,” said UAlbany Vice President for Advancement Fardin Sanai. “These professorships ensure UAlbany continues to attract and retain world-class faculty who do groundbreaking research and enrich their students’ academic experience.”

The six newly announced professorships join four others previously established and currently filled:

  • The Carla Rizzo Delray ’42 Endowed Professorship (Professor Marina Petrukhina, Department of Chemistry)
  • The Dorothy G. Griffin Professorship in English Education (Professor Robert P. Yagelski, Department of Educational Theory and Practice and affiliated with the Department of English)
  • The Standish Professorship in Entrepreneurship at UAlbany’s School of Business (Professor William Wales, associate dean for research in the School of Business and chair of the Department of Management)
  • The Opalka Endowed Directorship at the New York State Writers Institute (Paul Grondahl, director of the NYSWI)