The University of Central Florida has many outstanding faculty members, and to continue to recruit and retain faculty who have world renown accomplishments, the UCF Trustee Chair Professorship exists.

Created by former UCF President John C. Hitt in 2003, the Trustee Chair title is a prestigious one, and only held by a handful of faculty. The position is a five-year appointment, and faculty may re-apply once their term is up. They receive $50,000 every year for the duration of their appointment.

“We are honored these faculty are part of our institution, and grateful for their impact in the lives of our students and in their respective fields of research.” — Alexander N. Cartwright, UCF president

Faculty who are awarded this professorship have an established national and international reputation for being a leader in their field of research or creative activity.

“UCF will become a top public metropolitan research university because of our incredibly talented and renowned faculty, like those named as Trustee Chairs,” says President Alexander N. Cartwright. “We are honored these faculty are part of our institution, and grateful for their impact in the lives of our students and in their respective fields of research. Our faculty continue to help our university excel in everything that we do and position us for even greater recognition, academic excellence and impact.”

The most recent appointees are leaders in fields and disciplines as diverse as the UCF campus itself. Meet them and see why they are so deserving of this honor:

Deborah Beidel, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Medical Education

Deborah Beidel is known around the world for her development of effective treatments for PTSD for veterans, active-duty personnel, first responders and survivors of mass shootings.

Her clinic, UCF RESTORES was founded in 2011 and is a nationally known nonprofit trauma research center and treatment clinic. The organization’s mission is to change the way PTSD is understood, diagnosed and treated. The organization’s unique approach to treatment — which combines exposure therapy using emerging technology, like virtual reality, and individual and group therapy sessions has resulted in 66% of participants with combat-related trauma and 76% of first responders no longer meeting the diagnostic criteria for PTSD following three weeks of intensive treatment.

Beidel’s impact was most recently demonstrated at the site of the Surfside Condo collapse. Beidel and her team provided psychological first aid — meeting with the search and rescue teams combing the rubble for survivors.

Zenghu Chang, Professor of Physics and Optics 

Zenghu Chang is best known for his research in attosecond science, establishing the world record two times over for the shortest laser pulse. Attosecond light sources in this window are highly desirable in disciplines such as chemistry and materials sciences since they can be used to spectroscopically identify elements such as carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen, as well as the oxidation, charge states, and spin states of those elements. He is also a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America, the two main professional organizations in his field.

Chang has also demonstrated tremendous success in securing external funding to support his research. Over the past five years he has amassed $16.3 million in grants. The students he has supervised have gone on to become scientists, tenured faculty members and engineers.

He is a preeminent scholar in his field and is respected world-wide. He is an extraordinary optical and laser physicist.

Peter Delfyett, Professor of Optics and Photonics

From lasers that are used to cut Gorilla Glass for Samsung phones to fiber-optic cable technology that allows the internet to operate more efficiently, Peter Delfyett’s work has been making waves for over three decades.

Delfyett’s personal contributions to the base of scientific knowledge include 44 patents that apply directly to the advancement of everyday life. As a result of his work, he was elected as a Member of the National Academy of Engineering for contributions to the development and  commercialization of low-noise, high-power ultrafast semiconductor lasers. Delfyett’s election to the NAE is a milestone for UCF since it represents the first faculty member at the university to be elected to a national academy for work done here.

In addition to his research accomplishments, Delfyett is known as an amazing teacher. One of his strengths is connecting with students and lecturing on difficult subjects they can digest and understand.

Peter Hancock, Provost Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology

Peter Hancock is a world-renowned expert in the field of ergonomics and human factors — particularly in the areas of stress and cognitive workload. His work focuses on human interaction with automation and autonomous systems, such as trust effects associated with human-robot interaction. He is ranked in the top 1% of all scientists in human factors ever, by the journal PLos One (2020). Hancock was also recently honored as one of UCF’s first faculty members to be elected to the National Academy of Kinesiology, a privilege considered the pinnacle career achievement in the field.

Hancock has published a series of works on trust effects, most frequently associated with human-robot interaction. This has resulted in a number of now classic works that form the standard references in the area.

Hancock has been awarded 175 grants and contracts worth $21.6M, with $13.5M of this since his arrival at UCF, and $2.3M since 2016. Hancock’s lab, Minds in Technology, Machines in Thought (MIT2), supports the work of more than 60 researchers and provides these opportunities for undergraduates, master’s, and doctoral students. His students have gone onto

Careers in faculty positions at institutions such as MIT, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and to corporations, such as Raydon, Microsoft and NASA, among others.

Talat Rahman, Professor of Physics

Talat Rahman is a world leader in computational physics and nanoscience. Her research centers on the development of techniques to create materials at the nanoscale. She’s discovered fundamental and theoretical computational results and has applied them to new technologies. Her most recent work explains how electrons, when excited by light, gain and redistribute energy overtime.

Rahman has published over 300 refereed journal articles and has received 9,671 citations. She has received about $14 Million in external contracts and grants during her career. This is just in part why she is a world-renowned scientist.

At UCF, she has been instrumental in reforming physics pedagogy. She’s also conducted research into student learning on a U.S. National Science Foundation grant. Her efforts to improve how physics is taught has also helped local K-12 science teachers. Rahman also mentor’s women and underrepresented minorities, which has had a lasting impact on the diversity of the Ph.D. students and helped bring American Physical Society Bridge program to UCF.

Jeff Rupert, Professor of Music, Director of Jazz Studies 

Jeffrey Rupert has built UCF’s jazz studies program into one of the most highly respected programs in the nation. He is also in very high demand as an artist, clinician, composer/arranger and performer world-wide.

Rupert has recorded over 40 albums as a featured soloist and has won a Grammy Award. Ten of his albums broke into the top 50 on the national jazz charts and two appeared in the top 10. His music has also been used in commercials for Warner Brothers, Sony and ABC. Rupert has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Tokyo Forum.

At UCF Rupert directs the Flying Horse Big Band, with which he has recorded five CDs, appeared on two TV shows and with the band, has presented nearly 300 performances. He also has continued to write and create for students — including an education TV show that airs on WUCF-FM.

In his 26-year tenure at UCF, he has had a direct influence on improving all music programs in the School of Performing Arts. His work has even had an impact on the state’s assessment program of jazz studies.