Faculty, staff, and students recognized for research excellence

Faculty, staff, and students recognized for research excellence

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The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development recognized research and innovation excellence among UI students, faculty, and staff April 3 with its inaugural Distinguished Research Awards.

Recipients were honored Thursday at a private dinner and ceremony at hotelVetro alongside colleagues who had pitched new ideas, founded 2013 startup companies, or who held new patents, licenses and options.

Vicki Grassian
Vicki Grassian

Scholar of the Year Award: Vicki H. Grassian

The Scholar of the Year Award honors a tenure, research, or clinical track faculty member for nationally recognized achievements in research.

Grassian is the F. Wendell Miller Professor in the Department of Chemistry and holds appointments in the Departments of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and Occupational and Environmental Health.

She has published more than 240 peer-reviewed publications and 16 book chapters, and has given more than 200 talks and presentations. Her research on the chemistry and global impacts of small particles is internationally recognized and highly cited, transforming the study of atmospheric chemistry, climate and the environment.

Since she joined the UI faculty in 1990, Grassian has mentored more than one hundred students in her laboratory, many of whom have gone on to develop research programs of their own at academic institutions and national laboratories. She has been awarded a number of UI honors, and is a past recipient of the American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology.

David Cwiertny
David Cwiertny

Early Career Scholar of the Year Award: David Cwiertny

The Early Career Scholar of the Year Award honors faculty members who have served five years or less at the UI, and who are currently involved in research or scholarly activity that shows significant promise.

Cwiertny is an assistant professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He joined the UI in 2011 as part of the Water Sustainability Initiative. His research group focuses on chemical pollutants in natural and engineered water systems, with a particular emphasis on the environmental effects of pollutants and the development of treatment technologies that promote water reuse.

The recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award, Cwiertny serves as an editorial advisory board member for Environmental Science and Technology, the leading journal in his field. He has developed courses at both the graduate and undergraduate level related to society’s pursuit of sustainable water resources, and is the current director of Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate studies.

Witold Krajewski
Witold Krajewski

Leadership in Research Award: Witold Krajewski

The Leadership in Research Award honors a UI faculty member for extraordinary leadership of a large, collaborative, interactive team science grant.

Krajewski holds a number of positions at the UI, including director of the Iowa Flood Center, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and faculty research engineer for IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering.

In response to the 2008 floods, Krajewski co-founded the Iowa Flood Center, which uses cutting-edge research and technology to improve the preparedness of Iowans, and is developing a flood forecasting, information and monitoring system.

He has been with the university for more than 25 years, during which time he has also helped establish a consortium dedicated to furthering hydrology studies. According to colleagues and nominators, Krajewski has “unquestionable leadership skills” and pushes the boundaries of research “to levels others may only dream of.”

Mary Cohen
Mary Cohen

Distinguished Achievement in Publicly Engaged Research Award: Mary Cohen

The Distinguished Achievement in Publicly Engaged Research Award recognizes a faculty member who has put public needs and engagement related to improved quality of life at the forefront of academic activities.

Cohen is an associate professor in the UI College of Education's Department of Teaching and Learning and the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' School of Music. She researches wellness through music-making, and her scholarly works explore this area with respect to prisons, writing and songwriting, and collaborative communities.

In February 2009, Cohen began the Oakdale Community Choir, comprised of more than 60 males and females who come into the prison and incarcerated men in the medium security unit of the Oakdale Prison. The choir regularly performs original songs, one of which internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed along with five members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Cohen’s research is published in many distinguished journals and in edited books including the Advances in Music Education series. She holds many awards and accolades from the university and surrounding community, including the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Outstanding Outreach and Public Engagement Award.

Ed Folsom
Ed Folsom

Creative Distinguished Achievement in Research Award: Ed Folsom

The Creative Distinguished Achievement in Research Award recognizes a distinguished achievement in scholarship and research in the Arts and Humanities.

Folsom is the Roy J. Carver Professor in the Department of English, where he has for 30 years edited the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, and where he co-directs the online Walt Whitman Archive—an international research and teaching resource accessed by more than 30,000 users every month.

As editor of the Whitman Series at the University of Iowa Press, Folsom has overseen the acquisition and editing of more than 20 books on Whitman and his work. He is the author or editor of 12 books on American poetry and numerous essays on American authors.

Along with International Writing Program Director Christopher Merrill, he is offering the UI’s first massive open online course. Folsom is a past department chair and has served in several administrative positions and on multiple college and university committees. Past awards include the President and Provost's Teaching Award and the Graduate College's Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award.

Rosemary Stratton
Rosemary Stratton

Distinguished Research Administrator Award: Rosemary Stratton

The Distinguished Research Administrator Award recognizes a UI staff member who is an exceptional research administrator. It is co-sponsored by the Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations and the Vice President for Research & Economic Development.

Stratton has been the departmental administrator in Biochemistry since 2005, and began employment with the university in the Grant Accounting Office in 2001. She earned an undergraduate degree in accounting and a Masters of Business Administration degree, both from the University of Iowa.

Stratton is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor, and Professional in Human Resources. She is involved in various collegiate committees, and “greatly enjoys” assisting Biochemistry faculty with their research, financial, and human resource needs.

William Kurth
William Kurth

Distinguished Research Professional Award: William Kurth

The Distinguished Research Professional Award recognizes a UI staff member who has performed exceptional service in support of research. It is co-sponsored by the Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations and the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.

Kurth is a research scientist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy where he has resided since completing his doctorate in 1979. His primary interests are in planetary radio astronomy and plasma waves in space.

He has worked on the Voyager mission to the outer planets and to interstellar space for his entire career. Kurth is currently a co-investigator on the Cassini mission in orbit at Saturn, on the Juno mission to Jupiter, and on the Van Allen Probes mission currently studying Earth’s radiation belts.

Kurth was the recipient of NASA’s 2013 Outstanding Public Leadership Medal and holds a 2010 University of Iowa Outstanding Staff award.

Rebecca Fagan
Rebecca Fagan

Postdoctoral Fellow Research Excellence Award:Rebecca Fagan

The Postdoctoral Fellow Research Excellence Award honors postdoctoral research fellows’ performance and scholarly activity that is recognized as highly original and makes a significant contribution to the field.

After receiving her doctorate in Biological Chemistry from the University of Michigan, Fagan moved to Iowa City for her postdoctoral studies, where she joined Charles Brenner’s laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry.

Her research has focused on DNA modifying enzymes that are responsible for altering gene expression in development and disease. She is the recipient of an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellowship, and has published four manuscripts on the biochemical characterization and discovery of novel small molecule inhibitors of a specific enzyme that methylates DNA and is a promising cancer drug target.

Fagan has presented her research at various scientific conferences, including at last year’s Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference in Chicago. She is currently completing the final year of her fellowship and has accepted an assistant professor of chemistry position at Bucknell University beginning this fall.

Distinguished Mentor Awards: Madeline Shea, Tori Forbes, and Charles Frohman

Distinguished Mentor Awards are presented to University of Iowa faculty or professional and scientific staff who have mentored undergraduates as they complete research and creative projects. Current students nominate their mentors for this award.

Shea is a professor of biochemistry. According to her nominators, she “encourages the integration of independent thought and collaborative effort.” Her students go on to say that Shea “demonstrates unlimited patience and pedagogical care of every one of her researchers and students,” and note, “We could not have asked for a better mentor to help us begin our careers."

Forbes is an assistant professor of chemistry. As one nominator notes, "My chemistry career has undoubtedly been the most challenging, rewarding, and frustrating endeavor in my life. However, I am confident that without the mentoring of Forbes, I would have abandoned this field of study. Forbes has continuously gone above and beyond, and for that I am extremely grateful.”

Frohman is a professor in the Department of Mathematics. "I can confidently say that Frohman has influenced my education here at the University of Iowa more than any other single individual,” writes a nominator. “Frohman helped me transition from a student of mathematics to a junior researcher."

Excellence in Undergraduate Research Awards: Colin Peterson and Grant Young

The Excellence in Undergraduate Research Awards recognize outstanding accomplishments in scholarly investigation, artistic creation, or performance by undergraduates. It is presented to UI juniors and provides a stipend to attend professional development in a chosen field, as well as a research fellowship.

Peterson is a Sociology and Philosophy double major working with Michael Lovaglia. Peterson has been involved in a wide variety of inter-disciplinary social science research over the past three years.

Young is a biochemistry major and chemistry minor working with Lori Wallrath. He has focused his research on the pathological basis of muscular dystrophy caused by specific genetic mutations. He is also the recipient of an undergraduate fellowship from the American Heart Association.


Amy Mattson, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0070


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