Three Appointed to Named Chairs in Arts and Sciences

May 21, 2014

Dean Steven J. Fluharty is pleased to announce the appointments of three faculty members to named chairs in the School of Arts and Sciences.

David Brainard has been appointed RRL Professor of Psychology. A member of the Department of Psychology and Director of Penn’s Vision Research Center and its Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, Brainard’s research focuses on human and machine vision and computational modeling of visual processing. He is working to advance understanding of how the visual system estimates object properties. Using psychophysical experiments, Brainard investigates such questions as how object color appearance is related to object surface properties under a range of illuminations, and how color is used to identify objects. Brainard is also working to understand neural mechanisms of vision and develop machine visual systems that can mimic human vision.

The author of dozens of articles and abstracts, Brainard frequently collaborates with faculty across the University on interdisciplinary projects. He has received the Macbeth Award from the Inter-Society Color Council for his ground-breaking research on how people experience the phenomena of color, and he has been named a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and of the Optical Society of America. Last year he received the Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching, the highest teaching honor in the School of Arts and Sciences.

The RRL chair was established in 2011 by anonymous donors to recruit or retain a preeminent scholar and teacher in the Department of Psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences. It is the first chair in the School to be designated exclusively for psychology, and Brainard is its inaugural recipient.

Anna Weesner has been appointed Dr. Robert Weiss Professor of Music. A composer, Weesner has written many commissioned works and had her compositions performed across North America. Her music has been recorded on the CRI and Albany Records labels. She is the recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship and has won many other awards, including a 2006 Award for Excellence in the Arts by the Virginia Center and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She has been in residence at the MacDowell Colony, the Wellesley Composers Conference, the Seal Bay Festival, and at Fondation Royaumont in France. 

George A. Weiss endowed this chair in memory of his father, who held Ph.D.s in chemistry and music from the University of Vienna and was both a research chemist and a concert pianist. The chair, created in 1994, supports a composer of world-class stature. In creating it, George Weiss enabled the University to achieve the Campaign for Penn’s goal of 150 endowed chairs. George Weiss, who is an emeritus Penn trustee, received Penn’s Alumni Award of Merit in 1985.

Emily Steinlight has been appointed Stephen M. Gorn Family Assistant Professor of English. She specializes in nineteenth-century British literature, with a focus on the relationship between political thought and literary form, as well as the history and theory of the novel, mass media and mass politics, the Victorian social sciences, and critical theory. 

Steinlight is currently completing revisions on a book manuscript titled The Biopolitical Imagination: Literary Form and the Politics of Population, which reveals how Romantic and Victorian writing gave form to a theoretical surplus of human life and recast that surplus as the necessary condition for modern politics. Her next book project, Unmanageable Thoughts, examines the interplay of Victorian psychology and the social division of labor. Steinlight’s essays appear in such journals as ELH, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, and Narrative

This chair was established by the Stephen M. Gorn Family Foundation in 2008 for a preeminent scholar and teacher in the Department of English. In addition to endowing this chair, Mr. Gorn also helped fund the renovation of Fisher-Bennett Hall and served on the Major Gift Committee of the University’s Making History campaign.