Multiple professors at the University of New Mexico were promoted to the rank of Distinguished Professor last week. The recipients are professors Timothy Graham, Greg Taylor, Vallabh Shah, Mohamed El-Genk, Karl Karlstrom and Mahmoud Taha.

Distinguished Professor is the highest rank and title one can earn at UNM. 

The process begins by a professor being nominated by a colleague, but the nomination is not required to originate from a colleague in the same department.

Next, the nominations find their way to the deans of the professors' colleges, and the deans decide if the nominees are qualified to proceed. If so, then the dean will ask the departments to find scholars from outside of UNM to evaluate the nominees’ research.

Then, if the outside scholars agree that the nominees have earned this distinction, the evaluated nominees go back to the dean. The dean will either accept the decision of the outside scholars, or he will reject it. If the former is the case, then the dean sends the nominees case to the office of the provost, who in turn has the final say.

Meet the recipients

Graham is from southern England and has been a professor at UNM since 2008. He received his bachelor's and master’s in History from the University of Cambridge, and his Master of Philosophy in Renaissance Studies from the Warburg Institute in London.

The title of Distinguished Professor is a rare one, and Graham paid his respects to his fellow title earners and to UNM.

“It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be recognized alongside other accomplished people,” he said. “UNM has given me the opportunity to fulfill my potential.”

Graham wasn’t alone in these feelings.

Taylor is a longtime New Mexico resident and has been a professor at UNM since 2005. Professor Taylor received his bachelor’s degree in physics and computer science from Duke University, and his doctorate in radio astronomy from University of California, Los Angeles.

For Taylor, being a Distinguished Professor extends beyond an individual accomplishment.

“It means recognition for all the effort (my students and I) have put in over the years,” he said.

Since his commencement as a professor at UNM, Taylor said he has employed dozens of students in nearly all of his projects, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and across multiple departments.

Taha began as a professor at UNM in 2003. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s in structural engineering in Egypt, and his doctorate in civil/environmental engineering in Canada. Taha is now the sole Distinguished Professor in the department of civil engineering at UNM.

Taha said being a Distinguished Professor isn’t all applause and pats on the back.

“It’s a very big honor and also a very big responsibility,” he said. “As Distinguished Professors, we demonstrate the highest strength of our University.”

Shah, better known as “Raj” to his students, coworkers and friends, came to the U.S. in 1983 from East India. There he received his doctorate in human genetics.

Shah said he is currently working on a home-based kidney care program with the primary goal of finding the genes that cause diabetes and kidney diseases.

Earning this title is an honor, but Shah said he is adamant to remain focused on his research — research that has the potential to save lives.

Shah said the world contains too many problems, and while being a Distinguished Professor is respected and valued, the best way to find the solutions is to keep working.

The other two recipients, El-Genk and Karlstrom, did not respond in time for the publication of this article.

Derek Olsen is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at or on Twitter @Derek_Olsen2117.