DEKALB—The NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has selected faculty member James E. Erman of Elburn as one of four faculty honorees to receive a 2013 Distinguished Alumni, Faculty, and Staff Award. The awards celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of outstanding individuals in each category.
In making the award, the college cited Erman’s many decades of distinguished service to NIU as Presidential Research professor; Distinguished Research professor; interim director of the Institute for Nanoscience, Technology and Engineering; president of the Northern Illinois Research Foundation; interim vice president for Research; chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus; and Chair Emeritus.
Erman earned his undergraduate degree in physical chemistry from University of California Berkeley, and his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His post-doctoral work included a National Institutes of Health Fellowship in biophysics and physical chemistry with the Johnson Research Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania, and a position as senior research scientist with Chevron Research Corporation.
Erman came to NIU in 1970. In 1988, he was named a Presidential Research Professor, and then served as chair of the Department of Chemistry from 1998-2006. During his final year as chair, external research funding exceeded $1 million, and the number of undergraduate majors involved in research projects soared. Under his guidance, the number of chemistry majors increased from 87 in fall 2000 to 143 by fall 2005.
An early advocate of engaged learning, Dr. Erman helped create the context for NIU’s current emphasis on mentored research as a key aspect of the undergraduate experience.
After retiring, Erman not only continued to mentor students, but also maintained his research and publishing agenda. In addition, he answered NIU’s call to put his wisdom and experience to work again in key leadership positions. In 2008, he agreed to fill a “short-term” assignment as the interim vice president for Research and Graduate Studies—that appointment ultimately stretched through 2010. Other administrative duties included serving as president of the Northern Illinois Research Foundation (2009-10) and as interim director for NIU’s Institute of Nano Science, Engineering and Technology (INSET) (2010-11) during periods when both institutions were undergoing significant reorganization.
Throughout his career, Erman contributed to the college and the university in all areas—research, teaching, service, administration and program development. He is highly regarded in his field and widely recognized by the scientific community. His research grants have totaled over $2.2 million from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. He received the NIH Research Career Development Award, an extremely competitive and prestigious award reserved for only top-notch scientists. In addition, he has given the plenary lecture at the international meeting of The Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, an invitation reserved for the best in the field.
Erman helped put NIU on the map as a leading center for research, scholarship and learning. The recognition brought to the institution and the college as a result of his research, lectures, teaching and service are immeasurable and make him most deserving of this distinguished recognition.
Dean Christopher McCord presented the 2013 awards on Friday, Oct. 11 at a reception, dinner and program held in Altgeld Auditorium on NIU’s DeKalb campus.