Over the course of nearly four decades, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation has developed an excellent track record of attracting to Grounds outstanding undergraduate and graduate students. In 2012, the Foundation moved further to serve the University by launching the Jefferson Scholars Foundation Chaired Professorship Program. This move is an extension of the Foundation’s mission to identify, attract, and nurture individuals of extraordinary intellectual range and depth who aim to enhance the University community.

Since the inception of its Chaired Professorship Program six years ago, the Foundation has established a series of $5 million Professorships designed to help President Jim Ryan and his academic team attract some of the world’s most outstanding professors to U.Va. To date, the Foundation has raised more than $50 million for this effort and has established partnerships with the College of Arts & Sciences, the Darden School of Business, the Law School, and the School of Medicine.  

The University and the Foundation expect the holders of the Chaired Professorships to be:

  • Nationally and internationally recognized scholars and leaders
  • Superior classroom teachers who are eager to engage with students
  • Dynamic lecturers
  • Leading-edge researchers in their fields
  • Willing to participate actively in the Jefferson Scholars Foundation community by serving on Foundation selection committees, attending Foundation events, and helping the Jefferson Scholars Foundation recruit Scholars and Fellows
  • Individuals whose presence on the faculty will help attract other outstanding colleagues to U.Va.
  • Individuals who embrace interdisciplinary collaboration and recognize its value to the creation of new knowledge
  • Active in, and involved citizens of, the University community

Jianhua “JC” Cang, the Paul T. Jones Jefferson Scholars Foundation Professor

Ph.D., University of Virginia, Biology (2001)
B.S., Peking University, Physiology and Biophysics (1996)

Prior to joining U.Va.’s faculty in fall 2017, Professor Cang was an associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Northwestern University. He helps lead U.Va.’s brain-science research efforts with joint appointments in the Departments of Biology and Psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences. His research focuses on two brain structures in the visual system—the cortex and the superior colliculus—as he works to identify treatments for visual impairments.

Kevin Pelphrey, the Harrison-Wood Jefferson Scholars Foundation Professor

Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Child Psychology (2001)
B.A., North Carolina State University, Psychology & Architecture (1996)

Professor Pelphrey joined the faculty at U.Va.’s School of Medicine in fall 2018. He has served on the faculty at several leading universities, including Duke, Carnegie Mellon, and Yale. Most recently, he was the Carbonell Family Professor in Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders at George Washington University. His research utilizes brain science to develop biologically based tools for detection, stratification, and individually tailored treatments for individuals with autism.




The Jefferson Scholarship is the premier undergraduate scholarship at the University of Virginia. Scholars are selected through a rigorous selection process that is based on exceptional performance in the areas of leadership, scholarship and citizenship.

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The Jefferson Fellowship is the premier graduate fellowship offered at the University of Virginia. Based solely on merit, the Fellowship seeks to attract Ph.D. and M.B.A. candidates.

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The Jefferson Scholars Foundation, like its namesake, knows that virtue and talent come from all walks of life. Indeed it is this knowledge that drives the Foundation to search the world over for its recipients.

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