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Ohio State honors four at autumn commencement - 12/07/07

COLUMBUS – Four individuals will be honored at The Ohio State University's autumn 2007 commencement for their contributions to society and academics, and their dedication to the university. Ceremonies begin at 1 p.m. Sunday (12/9), at St. John Arena.

Honorary doctorates will be presented to Wolfgang Ketterle, nobel laureate and professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and John M. Opitz, distinguished physician-scientist at the University of Utah.

Distinguished Service Awards will be presented to Herb Asher, professor emeritus of political science at The Ohio State University and counselor to the university president, and W. Rodney Sharp, former faculty member in the College of Biological Sciences who continues to maintain close ties with the university.

Wolfgang Ketterle, Doctor of Science

Wolfgang Ketterle has been the John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1998. He leads a research group exploring the properties of ultracold gases.

A native of Germany, Ketterle received a diploma (equivalent to a master's degree) from the Technical University of Munich in 1982 and a PhD in physics from the University of Munich in 1986. He did postdoctoral work at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, and at the University of Heidelberg in molecular spectroscopy and combustion diagnostics. In 1990, he came to MIT as a postdoctoral research associate and joined the physics faculty in 1993.

His research is in the field of atomic physics and laser spectroscopy and includes laser cooling and trapping, atom optics and atom interferometry, and studies of Bose-Einstein condensation and Fermi degeneracy. A major focus is the exploration of new forms of matter, in particular, novel aspects of superfluidity, coherence, and correlations in many-body systems. His observation of Bose-Einstein condensation in a gas in 1995 and the first realization of an atom laser in 1997 were recognized with the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics, together with E.A. Cornell and C.E. Wieman.

Professor Ketterle is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Physics. He is a member of the German Physical Society, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Academy of Sciences in Heidelberg, the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, and the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, and he is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, his honors include a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship, the Rabi Prize of the American Physical Society, the Gustav-Hertz Prize of the German Physical Society, the Fritz London Prize in Low-Temperature Physics, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, and the MIT Killian Award.

John M. Opitz, MD, Doctor of Science

John M. Opitz is professor of pediatrics, pathology, human genetics, and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center in Salt Lake City.

A native of Germany, Dr. Opitz received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Iowa, followed by specialty training in pediatrics and medical genetics at Iowa and the University of Wisconsin, where he began his intensive studies in developmental genetics and the pathology of congenital malformations.

His distinguished career as a physician-scientist spans nearly a half-century. Following training, he first served as a member of the Department of Medical Genetics and Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, where he directed the Wisconsin Clinical Genetics Center. He moved to Montana in 1979 to serve as chair of the Department of Medical Genetics at Shodair Children's Hospital and director of the Montana Medical Genetics Program. He also served as an adjunct professor at Montana State University. In 1994 he was named University Professor of Medical Humanities in Montana State's Department of History and Philosophy. He joined Utah's faculty in 1997.

His research interests include sex determination, development of the genital system and its associate malformations, embryology and genetics of growth and skeletal abnormalities, and multiple congenital syndromes associated with mental retardation. He has provided a unifying concept linking human evolution, genetics, and development, and he has described a large number of human developmental abnormalities, several of which are named for him.

Dr. Opitz has published more than 500 papers and has written or edited 15 books. He is the founder and editor-in-chief emeritus of the American Journal of Medical Genetics. He has twice served as a visiting professor to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus and is frequently invited as a distinguished lecturer worldwide.

His many honors include the 1996 Humboldt Prize, the March of Dimes Colonel Harlan Sanders Lifetime Achievement Award for work in the field of genetic science, the Medal of Honor of the German Society for Human Genetics, and election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is an honorary member of the Society of Pediatric Pathology and a number of international medical genetics societies, including those of Japan, Russia, South Africa, and Israel. He is also a member of the German Academy of Scientists Leopoldina.

Herbert B. Asher, Distinguished Service Award

Herb Asher is professor emeritus of political science at The Ohio State University and counselor to the university president, a position he has held during five university administrations beginning with that of Edward Jennings.

A nationally known political analyst and expert on voting behavior, Professor Asher is respected by students, teachers, scholars, and politicians of all affiliations.

He holds a bachelor of science cum laude in mathematics from Bucknell University and a master's and doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan. He joined Ohio State's faculty in 1970 as an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, becoming a full professor in 1979.

During his 25-year tenure on the regular faculty, he served as the university's chief liaison with state and local government, as well faculty advisor to several student organizations.

Following his 1995 retirement, Professor Asher remained very involved with the university on many levels, continuing to serve as counselor to the president. At President William E. Kirwan's request, he undertook the development of the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy, serving as its founding director from 1998 to 2000. The Glenn Institute has since grown into the nationally respected John Glenn School of Public Affairs. Professor Asher continues to teach several political science courses each year, including the popular Campaign Politics course in which students participate in an actual political campaign of their choice.

He also continues to serve as faculty advisor to the Undergraduate Student Government, the College Democrats, and two fraternities. He is a member of the executive committee and board of trustees of Hillel and a past president of The Ohio State University Faculty Club.

Among the numerous books and articles he has authored or coauthored are Polling and the Public: What Every Citizen Should Know (2007); Presidential Elections and American Politics (1992); and "The Media and the 1996 Campaign" in Re-election 1996: How Americans Voted (1998).

Professor Asher is a former member and chair of the Ohio Ethics Commission and a former member of the board of trustees of the Columbus Metropolitan Club. He currently serves on the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission as well as on the board of trustees for Community Research Partners.

W. Rodney Sharp, Distinguished Service Award

With a background in biotechnology, business, and technology transfer, W. Rodney Sharp currently serves as an advisor and consultant to the Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, where he was formerly dean of research and director of research.

After earning his bachelor and master's degrees from the University of Akron and his PhD in plant cell biology from Rutgers, Sharp joined the faculty of The Ohio State University in 1969 as an assistant professor in the College of Biological Sciences, becoming a full professor in 1978. In 1979, he left the university to become director of Pioneer Research at the Campbell Institute for Research and Technology. He went on to become founder and/or director of several successful biotechnology companies, including DNA Plant Technology, Agri-Diagnostics, DNA Pharmaceuticals, ESCAgenetics/PHYOpharmaceuticals, and Wellgen.

He continued to maintain close ties with Ohio State, serving as a non-salaried adjunct professor and sharing his experience and expertise with students in the Department of Microbiology. He has long fostered an entrepreneurial spirit among Ohio State's faculty and has promoted and facilitated several global partnerships, notably with the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and Cairo University in Egypt. In 1999, he established the Rod Sharp Professorship in Microbiology at Ohio State, and he has visited the university frequently to give research seminars, to participate in symposia, and to provide counsel to students, faculty, administrators, and alumni.

Sharp is a member of Ohio State's Colleges of the Arts and Sciences Advisory Committee and a member of the Jennings Hall Leadership Committee for the College of Biological Sciences. He holds the title of Eminent Professor at the University of Sao Paulo and received that university's Luiz Queiroz Distinguished Service Medal. In addition, the University of Sao Paulo honored him by naming the William "Rod" Sharp Biotechnology Conference Facility for him.

Sharp has authored more than 70 original research papers, abstracts, and books in the field of plant cell biology, including the five-volume Handbook of Plant Cell Culture.