USC College Scholars Celebrated at Holiday Fête

Dean expresses gratitude and recognizes outstanding teaching, research efforts at annual reception

By Pamela J. Johnson
December 2005

In an annual holiday reception, USC College honored its faculty and graduate students for their outstanding performances during 2005.

“This is a time of celebration,” Dean Joseph Aoun said during the Dec. 6 event held at the Davidson Conference Center. “And indeed we are celebrating our colleagues here.”

The Albert S. Raubenheimer Award recognizing exemplary teaching, research and service went to four faculty members. Raubenheimer was a top official at USC from 1937 to 1960. He served as vice president for academic affairs and was dean of liberal arts, renamed during his tenure to letters, arts and sciences.

The Raubenheimer Award recipients were Thomas Habinek, professor of classics; Clifford Johnson, professor of physics and astronomy; and Sarnoff Mednick, professor of psychology. Each received $3,000.

Roumyana Ivanova Pancheva, assistant professor of linguistics and Slavic languages and literatures, received the Raubenheimer Award for outstanding junior faculty. She received $1,500.

Habinek, who earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1981, researches cultural history, with particular emphasis on archaic and classical Rome. His research examines literature’s involvement in the construction of social authority and distribution of power within traditional societies. He is currently studying the role of song in Roman culture, part of a new series of introductions to the ancient world published by Blackwell.

Habinek earned a USC Associates Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000 and an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship in 2003.

Johnson completed his undergraduate work at London University and earned his Ph.D. from Southampton University. His research focuses on the development of theoretical tools to better understand and describe the basic fabric of nature. He is part of an international effort attempting to describe the origin — past, present and future — of the universe. Specifically, he works on superstring theory, quantum gravity, gauge theory, and M-theory, studying objects such as black holes and D-branes, using techniques from mathematics and physics.

Johnson is one of five physicists who have created a blog site that follows the activities and lives of scientists. The blog,, also offers a discussion platform for scientists.

Mednick received his Ph.D. in 1954 from Northwestern University. A USC faculty member since 1977, he is the recipient of the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientist Award. His research and teaching specialties include fetal environmental exposures and adult schizophrenia, fetal neural development and schizophrenia, and the biological bases of antisocial behavior.

Widely recognized for his work on fetal viral infection and schizophrenia and the Copenhagen High Risk Project, Mednick’s other awards include a 1986–96 Research Scientist Award from National Institutes of Mental Health, and the Stanley R. Dean Award from the American College of Psychiatrists.

Pancheva received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. From 1998 to 2000, she worked as a research associate in the department of neuroscience at Georgetown University. She’s been at USC since the fall of 2000.

Her research in theoretical linguistics focuses on syntax, semantics and the interface between syntax and semantics. She’s worked on a number of related issues falling into three categories: the grammar of clitics, free relative clauses, and tense and aspect. Two main concerns run through her work — understanding variation in parametric terms and establishing the relative contribution of syntactic structure and the components that interpret it.

Some of the classes she has taught include the history of the Russian language, comparative Slavic linguistics and the syntax and semantics of aspect.

A variety of appetizers, desserts and refreshments were served during the reception.

“There will be no lecture, no agenda and no propaganda here tonight,” Aoun told an audience of about 100. “This is just our effort to say thank you.”

Other College awards presented at the holiday reception:

General Education Teaching Awards

Emily Hodgson Anderson, English

Gregory A. Davis, Earth Sciences

Douglas E. Hammond, Earth Sciences

Natania Meeker, French and Italian

Steven J. Ross, History

George J. Sanchez, History and American Studies and Ethnicity

Boris Wolfson, Slavic Languages and Literatures

Janelle Staci Wong, Political Science and American Studies and Ethnicity

General Education Graduate Assistant Award

Shayna Maskell, USC College Writing Program

Katie Mussack, Physics and Astronomy

Rebecca Sheehan, History

James Thing, Sociology

Advanced Writing Teaching Award

James Brecher, USC College Writing Program

USC College Doctoral Research Prize

Melissa Grunlan, Chemistry

Sara Pruss, Earth Sciences

Laura Sjoberg, International Relations