Deborah Chung and Ann Bisantz named SUNY Distinguished Professors

Distinguished Professor Medal.

Deborah Chung and Ann Bisantz double the number of female faculty who have held the distinction in SEAS history. 

By Elizabeth Egan 

Published May 7, 2024

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Deborah Chung and Ann Bisantz were the first School of Engineering and Applied Sciences faculty to be named SUNY Distinguished Professors.

Deborah Chung, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Ann Bisantz, a professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and University at Buffalo dean of undergraduate education, have been named SUNY Distinguished Professors. 


While the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has had 29 faculty members become distinguished professors since 1977, Chung and Bisantz are only the third and fourth female faculty members to hold the title in SEAS. Esther Takeuchi, a former faculty member in the Department of Electrical Engineering and the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, was the first female faculty member to receive the distinction in 2009 and Aidong Zhang, professor emerita in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, became a distinguished professor in 2014. 

The rank of distinguished professor is an order above full professor and is the highest rank in the SUNY system. The distinction is earned through extraordinary contributions to the recipient’s field of study that has the potential to elevate the standards of scholarship or creative activity of colleagues within and beyond their academic field.

Deborah Chung headshot.

Deborah Chung

For Chung, this is far from her first time being a trailblazer. She was not only the first woman to earn a degree in engineering and applied sciences from the California Institute of Technology but also one of the first four female undergraduate students to graduate from the university since it was founded in 1891.

A 2022 ranking from Stanford University that examined over 300,000 researchers (living and deceased) in the field of materials research ranked Chung as the top female researcher and No. 13 overall.

Her research areas have included smart materials, multifunctional structural materials, concrete, carbon fibers and nanofibers, electromagnetic interference shielding materials and vibration damping materials. She invented smart concrete, concrete with short carbon fibers added to the conventional concrete mixture, providing the ability to detect stress and deformations, opening up new possibilities for smart structures research. She is the founding director of UB’s Composite Materials Research Laboratory.

Since joining the SEAS faculty in 1986, Chung has been the recipient of numerous honors, most recently receiving the 2024 University at Buffalo President’s Medal. She has been named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest scholarly societies in the United States, and of the American Carbon Society.

Additional awards have included the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, the SUNY Outstanding Inventor Award, and the Hsun Lee Award, jointly awarded by the Institute of Metal Research (Chinese Academy of Sciences) and the Shenyang National Laboratory for Materials Science. Chung also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alicante in addition to the PhD she earned from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A dedicated educator, Chung has graduated nearly 40 PhD students and received the Teacher of the Year award from the engineering society Tau Beta Pi.

To help inspire young people to pursue science careers, she served as the editor for the book series, “The Road to Scientific Success: Inspiring Life Stories of Prominent Researchers”. Chung has also authored or co-authored over 600 journal articles and has authored multiple books, including “Functional Materials,” “Carbon Materials” and “Composite Materials.”

Ann Bisantz.

Ann Bisantz

Bisantz is a past chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering where she led successful undergraduate accreditation efforts, developed new undergraduate and graduate programs and increased the size and diversity of the faculty.

As dean of undergraduate education at UB, Bisantz oversees academic policies and curriculum management to help all undergraduate students at UB achieve academic success. She also provides leadership for campus-wide undergraduate advising, and oversight of the Exploratory and Pre-Professional Advising Center and the Finish in 4 program, providing support to keep students on track to graduate in four years.

Bisantz was the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the SUNY Chancellors Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. She is a pioneer in the fields of human factor engineering and cognitive engineering, which uses cognitive psychology and systems engineering methods to support or improve user cognitive processes and system safety.

Her research areas research work to understand aspects of human trust in automated systems, particularly those in complex human technology work environments, including health care, military systems, transportation and emergency management.

In 2020, she was named the Woman Mentor of the Year by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, recognizing her extensive history of mentoring, sponsoring or otherwise advancing female professionals in the field of human factors. She was named a fellow of the society in 2013, and she received its Paul M. Fitts Education Award for exceptional contributions to the education and training of human factor specialists in 2017. She is also on the steering committee for UB’s Women in Science and Engineering program.

Bisantz came to UB in 1997 after earning her PhD in industrial engineering and cognitive science from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering from UB in 1989 and 1991, respectively.