Two U-M faculty members receive Guggenheim fellowships

April 7, 2023

Two University of Michigan scholars are among recipients awarded 2023 fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

LSA faculty members Monica Dus and Petra Kuppers were selected to receive the prestigious honor for their distinguished achievement and exceptional promise for future accomplishment.

“I am absolutely delighted to see that two LSA faculty have been selected as Guggenheim Fellows,” said Anne Curzan, dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. “Dr. Kuppers and Dr. Dus are a testament to the impressive community of scholars in LSA and how their work is not only impacting, but transforming the liberal arts and sciences and the world. I deeply admire both of their research and their scholarly public engagement, and this recognition is much deserved.”

Monica Dus
Monica Dus

Monica Dus, associate professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, conducts research on how dietary components interact with genes to shape taste function and feeding behavior.

Her long-term goal is to uncover the rules that regulate the relationship between food and the brain, and to understand how they play a role in metabolic and neural diseases. Because the interactions between nutrients and neural physiology are so complex and far-reaching, the lab uses animal models like flies and rats and integrates the tools of neuroscience, molecular biology and metabolism, she said.

“I am so profoundly honored to have received the 2023 Guggenheim Fellowship, which will fund my sabbatical research for a popular book on food-gene interactions, a field known as nutrigenomics,” she said.

Dus notes there are competing nutritional messages, resource chaos, information overload and disinformation about nutrigenomics. For example, despite lacking scientific and clinical validity, companies and influencers aggressively push for a “DNA diet” with expensive and unregulated genetic testing and supplements.

Meanwhile, proven advances in nutrigenomics, like the combination of nutritional and target therapies for diseases, remain obscure even to physicians. To navigate this world, people need a map where the boundaries of the scientific consensus, controversies, applications and implications are clearly drawn, she said.

“This is the book I wanted to research and write during my sabbatical, and now, thanks to the generous support of the Guggenheim Foundation, I can actually do it,” Dus said.

Petra Kuppers
Petra Kuppers

Petra Kuppers, the Anita Gonzalez Collegiate Professor of Performance Studies and Disability Culture and professor of English and women’s studies, is a disability culture activist and a community performance artist. She creates participatory community performance environments that think and feel into public space, tenderness, site-specific art, access and experimentation.

For the project, Kuppers addresses disabled and mad presences in asylum spaces and in dance archives through participatory performances grounded in disability culture. She will write a book on two performance series that she (co-)created: the Asylum Project (2015-2020) and the Crip/Mad Archive Dances (2021-ongoing). As part of the writing and research process, she said she will co-create more of these arts-based research performances with local communities and in archives based around a number of different sites in the U.S. and beyond.

“It is such a great honor to receive a Guggenheim for community performance work, and for disability culture practices—two areas of creative and critical endeavor that are slowly gaining more recognition in the world,” Kuppers said. “I am so thankful for the many collaborators and engagement partners who are carrying this work with me.”

The Guggenheim Foundation awarded fellowships to 171 American and Canadian scientists, scholars in the social sciences and humanities, and writers and artists of all kinds, selected from nearly 2,500 applicants.

“Like Emerson, I believe that fullness in life comes from following our calling,” said Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Foundation. “The new class of fellows has followed their calling to enhance all of our lives, to provide greater human knowledge and deeper understanding. We’re lucky to look to them to bring us into the future.”

Since its establishment in 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has granted nearly $400 million in fellowships to more than 18,000 individuals, among whom are more than 125 Nobel laureates, members of all the national academies, and winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award and other internationally recognized honors.