Thursday, April 18, 2024

Four University of Iowa faculty members have been selected as recipients of the Iowa Mid-Career Faculty Scholar Awards for 2024. 

This is the third year for the award, which provides funding and development opportunities for outstanding tenured associate professors who have established national or international reputations in their disciplines and are exceptional teachers in and out of the classroom. 

This year’s recipients are:

  • James Ankrum, associate professor in the Roy J. Carver Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering
  • Natoshia Askelson, associate professor in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health
  • Abbey Dvorak, associate professor in the School of Music in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • David Miles, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

“This year’s Iowa Mid-Career Faculty Scholars are a strong representation of the talent, ambition, and excellence of our faculty,” says Kevin Kregel, executive vice president and provost. “We look forward to supporting the continued growth of these four individuals and seeing how they will further impact our university and their fields in the coming years.” 

Each awardee will receive $25,000 annually for the next three years to support their scholarly activities. In addition to the financial support, scholars will work with mentors to create a tailored development plan and participate in an annual symposium showcasing their work to the university community. Development conferences—covering topics such as research leadership, mentoring, and resource management—will allow awardees to engage with members of previous cohorts and institutional leaders while forming a community of scholars across disciplines.

The Iowa Mid-Career Faculty Scholar Award program highlights the university’s commitment to recognizing and nurturing the professional development of its exceptional faculty. By supporting the growth and success of these scholars, the university continues to advance its mission of excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. 

James Ankrum

James Ankrum

Ankrum is a distinguished researcher who has made significant contributions to the field of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. His team engineers therapeutics based in mesenchymal stem cells—cells that can self-renew—to combat inflammation and heal wound an ischemia damaged tissues. He has also developed in vitro models of fat tissue to study how environmental toxins in the body contribute to diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Ankrum has published 46 peer-reviewed journal papers since coming to Iowa. He is also an academic editor for Stem Cell Research and Therapy, is on the advisory board of Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation, and was recently named a Fulbright Scholar. 

Ankrum has been instrumental in enhancing courses in the Roy J. Carver Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering, including revamping the department’s second-year professional seminar course and the two-course senior design sequence, as well as developing a new course, Communicating Science. The course, ideal for engineers who want to communicate with nonexpert audiences, has been a particular success, with graduate students from outside the biomedical engineering program registering for it. 

“Dr. Ankrum is an extremely productive scientist and a blossoming world-class scholar,” says Kim Blackwell, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “Simultaneously, he excels in the classroom, is an outstanding mentor, and is generous in service.”

Ankrum received a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering from Iowa, a Master of Philosophy in engineering design from Cambridge University, and a PhD in medical engineering and medical physics from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. He joined the faculty at Iowa as an assistant professor in 2014.

Natoshia Askelson 

Natoshia Askelson

Askelson is a renowned behavioral science researcher in the areas of maternal and child health and prevention. She is deputy director for the UI Prevention Research Center for Rural Health, one of 26 such CDC-funded centers in the U.S. She also leads the Iowa Immunization Research Network; is the director of the Research and Evaluation Core for the Institute for Public Health Practice, Research, and Policy; and was appointed as the interim Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement at the UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Askelson has served as principal investigator or project director for major grants that funded research into topics such as COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and reducing cancer disparities in African American communities. Askelson involves Iowa students in implementing her research projects and is a sought-after mentor.

“Dr. Askelson’s scholarship and research impact, in addition to her leadership roles, undoubtably indicate a promising and productive career trajectory,” Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health, and Mark Vander Weg, department executive officer for community and behavioral health, say in a letter of support. 

Askelson earned a Bachelor of Arts in global studies and German from Iowa, a Master of Public Health in international health and health education from Emory University, and a PhD in Community and Behavioral Health from Iowa. She joined the faculty at Iowa as an assistant professor in 2015.

Abbey Dvorak 

Abbey Dvorak

Dvorak leads Iowa’s distinguished music therapy program, one of the few in the country that offers training from the undergraduate to doctoral level. She is considered a leading scholar in the field, with more than 30 publications appearing in major music therapy journals. At Iowa, she has developed four new graduate courses, chaired four doctoral committees and 21 master’s committees, and mentored over 30 student research presentations and publications.

Dvorak is researching the long-term effects on young music therapy professionals who take course-based undergraduate research experiences, or CUREs, where research projects are embedded into a course. While CUREs are most often used in science-based fields, Dvorak’s research supports their use in arts-based healthcare disciplines. With her research team, she created and facilitated the first CUREs for music students in the areas of music therapy and music education.

“In her four years at the University of Iowa, Dr. Dvorak has made a significant impact not only on the School of Music, but Iowa’s reputation in the field,” Tammie Walker, director of Iowa’s School of Music, says in a letter of support. “As a prolific researcher, she has set the bar very high for her students but has also provided them with the support they need to achieve success.”

Dvorak earned a Bachelor of Arts in music education from Briar Cliff University and both her Master of Arts in music therapy and PhD in music education/music therapy from Iowa. She was an assistant professor at the University of Kansas before joining Iowa in 2020.

David Miles

David Miles

Miles ranks among the top of experimental space physicists at research universities worldwide and leads a highly respected instrumentation and science program at Iowa. His research on instruments used for measuring magnetic fields has reestablished the country’s ability to develop and manufacture such devices to measure magnetic fields associated with the northern lights and strong geomagnetic storms. These measurements also can be used to understand the properties of other planets, moons, and asteroids. 

Miles has worked on major space projects at the university and has provided critical leadership to the TRACERS mission, which received the largest federal award in UI history. He became the principal investigator of the mission last year. He has also obtained funding to support students participating in the biannual sounding rocket field school in Norway, where undergraduate students build and launch instruments, and is working on a sounding rocket project at Iowa.

"Professor Miles is a highly respected scientist who is a dedicated teacher and mentor,” says Mary Hall Reno, department executive officer for the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “Already a mission leader of a major space physics project, he is seen as a departmental leader. Professor Miles will continue to expand his leadership, continue his outstanding track record in research, and … further his development to take on new roles at the university and in the field of space physics.”

Miles earned a Bachelor of Engineering in computer engineering from the University of Victoria, a Master of Science in physics from the University of Alberta, and a PhD in geophysics from the University of Alberta. He was a trust professional at the University of Alberta for 10 years before joining Iowa as an assistant professor in 2017.