Every year, the University of Minnesota awards a select group of outstanding faculty across the system, designating them as McKnight Presidential Fellows or Distinguished McKnight University Professors. This year, three U of M Medical School faculty members received these top awards. 

The 2020 McKnight Presidential Fellows is a three-year award given to outstanding faculty who have recently achieved tenure and promotion to associate professor. It recognizes their accomplishments while supporting their ongoing research. This year, Ryan Langlois, PhD, was one of six recipients.

Dr. Langlois, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, maintains an interest in researching immunity to influenza virus infections. One of his research goals is to address fundamental questions in virology and viral immunology that have been difficult to dissect using conventional approaches.

“This is certainly the most meaningful honor I have received in my academic career. I owe a large debt of gratitude to my laboratory for their creativity and dedication and to my mentors who have helped me tremendously along the way. In the coming years, we hope to continue to make progress on understanding innate immune responses to virus infections and how viruses emerge from zoonotic reservoirs to cause pandemics,” Dr. Langlois said.

He joins two other Medical School faculty who received a different award, the 2020 Distinguished McKnight University Professor. This award recognizes mid-career faculty members who have achieved full professor status, especially those who have made significant advances in their careers at the University, whose work and reputation are identified with the University and whose accomplishments have brought renown and prestige to Minnesota. This year’s recipients are Essa Yacoub, PhD, and David Masopust, PhD, who were two of seven to receive the award.

In general, Dr. Yacoub’s research interests are in developing and applying high field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and functional MRI (fMRI) for human applications. As a professor in the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR), he has focused on pushing the spatial and temporal resolution limits of fMRI, using high magnetic fields and MRI pulse sequence developments.

“I am extremely honored to receive the Distinguished McKnight University Professor award. The award is an important distinction as it recognizes the significance of the work we have been doing at the CMRR and its value to the University of Minnesota community at large,” Dr. Yacoub said. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with many incredible people at the CMRR over the years, and I hope to continue doing so in an effort to better understand human brain function and organization, as well as how it changes during development, aging or in disease.”

Dr. Masopust, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, works on T cell migration, differentiation and memory development in response to infections. The Masopust Lab has graduate students and postdoctoral fellows researching T cell responses to a variety of viral and bacterial infections to better understand the development of immunological protection from re-infection.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be included among the Distinguished McKnight University Professors. My research is helping us to understand the principles of the immune system and leveraging that knowledge to treat infections, cancer and inflammatory diseases,” Dr. Masopust said.