University Professors- Four Earn Highest Faculty Distinction at Carnegie Mellon

Carnegie Mellon University President Jared L. Cohon and three professors, Dennis Epple, Marcel Just and Steven E. Shreve, have received the elite distinction of University Professor, the highest academic accolade a faculty member can achieve at Carnegie Mellon.

The rank of University Professor recognizes a faculty member for representing the intellectual leadership of Carnegie Mellon through their expertise and accomplishments in their respective fields of study.

Jared L. Cohon

Cohon will be stepping down as CMU’s eighth president on June 30 after leading the university to unparalleled growth during the past 16 years.         


“While Jerry’s presidential contributions are fully appreciated by university professors and the entire university community, this prestigious honor is based on his truly exceptional scholarly and professional accomplishments outside of and on top of his presidency,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Mark S. Kamlet.


A member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cohon, who was elected chair of the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities in 2010, is an expert on environmental and water resource systems analysis, a field that combines engineering, economics and applied mathematics. He has worked on water resource problems in the United States, South America and Asia and on energy facility siting, including nuclear waste shipping and storage. He is president of the Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development and chairman of the ALCOSAN Regionalization Review Panel, a committee that provides recommendations to improve water quality in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County. 

Prior to coming to CMU, Cohon was dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies at Yale University from 1992 to 1997. His career started in 1973 at Johns Hopkins University, where he enjoyed a 19-year tenure as a faculty member in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering. He also served as assistant and associate dean of Engineering and vice provost for Research at Johns Hopkins.

President Bill Clinton appointed Cohon to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board in 1995 and appointed him chairman in 1997. In 2002, President George W. Bush named Cohon to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and in 2009 President Barack Obama reappointed him. He has served as chairman of the council’s Academe, Policy & Research Senior Advisory Committee and was named vice chair of the Advisory Council’s Sustainability and Efficiency Task Force.

After a sabbatical, Cohon will join the CMU departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy.


Dennis Epple

Epple is the Thomas Lord Professor of Economics at the Tepper School of Business and head of the economics program.

“Dennis is clearly one of the leading public economists of his generation and his body of research exemplifies the interdisciplinary spirit at Carnegie Mellon. Combining the principles of economics with other fields such as organizational behavior, operations research and political science, he has expanded our ability to make quantitative assessments of policy where previously only qualitative assessments were feasible,” said Robert M. Dammon, dean of the Tepper School of Business.

“In addition to the quality of his research, Dennis is also an exceptional teacher. He demonstrates a passion for his field and commitment to making sure that his work is understood by others and that his students learn how to apply fundamental concepts that they need to be successful in the marketplace,” Dammon said.

Since joining the faculty in 1974, Epple has made fundamental contributions to the field of economics and provided outstanding leadership for the university’s economics program. Combining disciplines to develop new approaches to policy questions, Epple’s research achievements are notable in diverse fields on important topics such as learning curves, hedonic regressions, the economics of education and mobility and redistribution.

Epple is co-editor of the Journal of Public Economics and is a former co-editor of the American Economic Review. He also has served on the Board of Editors of several other premier academic publications and was elected as a fellow of the Econometric Society in 2003. Epple also has served the university in a variety of official capacities, including head of Economics and as acting dean of the Tepper School of Business (1990-91). He is a recipient of the school’s George Leland Bach Teaching Award, which is selected by MBA students to recognize excellence in the classroom.


Marcel Just

Just is the D. O. Hebb Professor of Psychology and director of CMU’s brain-imaging facility and the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging.

 “Marcel Just is one of the leading researchers in the field of brain science,” said John Lehoczky, dean of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “His research has had tremendous impact on the use of brain imaging to gain an understanding of human cognition and important societal issues such as autism and dyslexia. I am sure that he will continue to have a major impact in the years to come.”

Just is an internationally renowned neuroscientist who focuses on how language comprehension and problem solving emerge from brain processes. He has made major contributions to understanding reading comprehension, autism, dyslexia, multi-tasking and computational modeling.

Just’s eye-fixation research produced a major theory of reading. Recently, he developed a prominent explanation for autism, proposing that compromised communication between the frontal cortex and other brain areas causes autistic behavior such as social and communication disorders and restricted interests.

Additional groundbreaking discoveries include showing that reading remediation physically changes the white matter in the brains of dyslexic children while improving their reading performance and demonstrating that listening to someone speak during driving massively decreases the brain activity associated with driving.

Just and CMU colleague Tom Mitchell applied trailblazing machine-learning techniques to identify a person’s thought from its brain activation signature, culminating in a “mind-reading” demonstration on “60 Minutes.” The research shows that the inherent organization of the brain shapes the structure of all human concepts (e.g. objects, numbers, emotions, social interactions) and established the field of neurosemantics.

Just addresses public policy issues relevant to his research. He’s testified on autism before the Congressional Subcommittee on Human Rights & Wellness and on distracted driving to the Pennsylvania Congressional Transportation Committee.

He received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Society for Text and Discourse and the Senior Scientist Award from the National Institutes of Health.


Steve E. Shreve

Shreve, the Orion Hoch Professor of Mathematical Sciences, has been a member of the Carnegie Mellon faculty since 1980.

Working with students and colleagues, including Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean John Lehoczky, Shreve has played a key role in laying the foundations for the modern mathematical theory of optimal portfolio construction in the presence of market uncertainty, work that has built on that of Nobel Laureate Robert Merton. He has become internationally recognized for this and his other work in mathematics applied to finance, including the development of models for pricing exotic derivative securities and convertible bonds.

 “Steve Shreve is among the top mathematical finance researchers in the world,” said Fred Gilman, dean of the Mellon College of Science. “While his research accomplishments alone would make him worthy of being named a University Professor, he has contributed even more by bringing his expertise to the classroom. His dedication to the mathematical and computational finance programs at the university has made Carnegie Mellon one of the best universities in the field.”

In addition to his research, Shreve helped found Carnegie Mellon’s highly regarded bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in computational and mathematical finance. These programs bring together the expertise of the Department of Mathematical Sciences in the Mellon College of Science, the Department of Statistics in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Tepper School of Business and the School of Public Policy and Management in the Heinz College. The programs have been ranked among the top in the country, and the programs’ graduates are in high demand at the world’s top financial institutions.

Shreve has authored many important books on the mathematics of financial derivatives, including “Methods of Mathematical Finance” and the two-volume “Stochastic Analysis for Finance.” He has served as the president of the Bachelier Finance Society, the leading professional society for quantitative finance, and is a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.