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Clarissa Nobile and Asmeret Asefaw Berhe Honored as SNS Endowed Chairs

SNS filled two endowed chairs this summer, honoring faculty members who are making important contributions in their fields.

Professor Clarissa Nobile is the new Kamangar Family Chair in Biological Sciences. The Kamangar family’s gift supports teaching, research and public service focused on health sciences and biomedical research with an emphasis on nutrition and preventative medicine.

A retired orthopedic surgeon, Art Kamangar’s work in the field of orthopedic surgery helped other surgeons determine the optimal size of artificial hip joints for patients. Since retiring from medicine, Kamangar has been an active member of the Merced community and was a founding member of the UC Merced Board of Trustees.


Professor Clarissa Nobile

Professor Clarissa Nobile

Nobile’s discovery of how transcriptional networks underlie the regulation of gene expression during biofilm development, as well as her work on fungal and bacterial species interactions, has been recognized through:

  • a National Institute of Health Outstanding Investigator Award through the National Institute of General Medical Sciences; and
  • being named UC Merced’s first Pew Scholar in recognition of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health.


Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe has been awarded the Ted and Jan Falasco Chair in Earth Sciences and Geology. This chair was established in recognition of the founding of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. SNRI’s founding director Professor Samuel J. Traina, now the vice chancellor for Research at UC Merced, was also the first recipient of this chair.


Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe

Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe

Ted Falasco, a graduate of Stanford University and former Army officer, worked as a general and engineering contractor before creating Los Banos Gravel Group. He was a member of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees as well as various other local organizations. The Falascos have long been active members of the Merced County community and supporters of higher education. This endowed chair supports research, teaching and service in the fields of earth sciences and geology.

Berhe’s work in discovering how changing environmental conditions affect vital soil processes has garnered her many awards and accolades including:

  • The Bromery Award, Geological Society of America;
  • Being named an inaugural member of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s ‘New Voices in Science, Engineering and Medicine;
  • A National Science Foundation CAREER Award;
  • A Young Investigator Award; and
  • A Hellman Family Foundation Award


Endowed chairs are vital to support outstanding research accomplishments and are awarded based on recommendations from a nominee’s peers and the dean of their schools. Berhe and Nobile have contributed invaluable discoveries and insights in their respective fields and departments, and are well deserving of the recognition, honor and support the chairs provide.

“The generosity of the Kamangar and Falasco families will allow these creative and productive researchers to expand their research programs in new and promising directions,” said Dean Betsy Dumont. “The School of Natural Sciences is grateful to their support and proud of our stellar faculty.”

Receptions honoring Berhe and Nobile’s appointments to the chairs will be held this fall.