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Fall awards: Celebrating excellence in research and administration

By Srila Nayak

2019 Fall Faculty and Staff Awards

The College of Science celebrated research and administrative excellence at its 2019 Fall Faculty and Staff Awards ceremony and reception on November 21.

Dean Roy Haggerty delivered welcome remarks. This year, the College recognized exceptional achievement in advancing inclusive excellence, distinguished service, as well as highest quality performance beyond the call of duty. As a result, there were three new award categories: Inclusive Excellence, Distinguished Service, and Champion of Science awards.

Hearty congratulations to these award-winning faculty and staff who were recognized for their outstanding achievements:

Milton Harris Award in Basic Research

Ryan Mehl receiving award on stage with colleagues

Ryan Mehl with Roy Haggerty (left) and Andrew Karplus

Ryan Mehl, professor of biochemistry and biophysics, received the Milton Harris Award in Basic Research for his impactful, internationally recognized basic research in the area of genetic code expansion (GCE). The latter involves engineered protein synthesis machinery to incorporate novel chemical groups at pre-specified places. Mehl has several patents and 66 research articles to his credit, quite a few of which have been cited more than 4000 times.

Among his many distinguished research discoveries are groundbreaking studies providing the first evidences how the protein nitro-tyrosine contributes to pathology in Lou Gehrig’s disease and in artherosclerosis. Mehl has been awarded several NIH and NSF grants to support his research. At OSU since 2011, Mehl has established and leads the Unnatural Protein Facility, a unique, first of its kind in the world facility that promotes the use of GCE by non-expert researchers.

“This work has also established OSU as an international leader in this arena, and NIH has invited us to submit a proposal to establish an NIH Center focused on GCE technology development,” said Andrew Karplus, head of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

F.A. Gilfillan Award

Michael Blouin receiving award from colleagues on stage

Michael Blouin with Roy Haggerty and Virginia Weis

Professor of integrative Biology Michael Blouin was honored with the F.A. Gilfillan Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Science. The Gilfillan award honors a faculty member in the College whose scholarship and scientific accomplishments have extended over a substantial period of time.

Blouin’s contributions to the field of evolutionary and population genetics have been impressive. In his 24 years at OSU, Mike has developed a remarkably broad, distributed and well- funded research program that has spanned evolutionary genetics and parasite molecular ecology and evolution.

“We believe that Mike is performing transformational research in critical areas of biology. His scholarship has raised the profile of the College and the University,” said Virginia Weis, head of the Department of Integrative Biology.

In his early years at OSU, he essentially started the field of endo-parasite molecular ecology. Endoparasites are remarkably difficult to study given that they live within other organisms and are often microscopic in size. Blouin’s group used molecular markers to find these parasites in animal populations, opening up a whole new field of host-parasite populations.

In recent years, Blouin has made distinguished contributions in two new fields: salmonid conservation genetics and schistosome molecular biology. Schistosomiasis is a human infectious disease that is cause by a schistosome flatworm. It affects 200 million people worldwide and is under-studied, in large part because the affected populations live in developing nations that often lack clean water and resources to combat the disease.

In the case of salmonids, he has revealed the fundamental importance of life history traits in the success/limitations of hatchery fish in the Pacific Northwest.

Dean’s Early Career Impact Award

Kim Halsey receiving award from college on stage

Kim Halsey with Roy Haggerty and Jerri Bartholomew

Kim Halsey, associate professor of microbiology, and Rebecca Terry, associate professor of integrative biology, received the Dean’s Early Career Impact Award. At OSU since 2011, Halsey began her career as a microbial physiologist and biochemist studying the enzyme butane monooxygenase, and its role in the bioremediation of the environmental pollutant trichloroethylene. Her precise research on this process, which explored the role of protein structure in determining the substrate range of the enzyme, has been cited over 100 times.

“Her groundbreaking research and scholarship is opening new areas of scientific enquiry and has earned her the respect of the international scientific community,” said Jerri Bartholomew, head of the Department of Microbiology.

In addition to other areas, Halsey also studies the ocean carbon cycle, with a focus on photosynthetic energy producing phytoplankton, particularly diatoms, which alone account for over 25% of global primary production, and are a key to forecasting climate change.

Halsey became internationally respected for defining the fates of photosynthetic energy with unprecedented precision, in multiple phytoplankton taxa, and fitting this data into a theory of cell strategies for distributing photosynthetic energy.

Rebecca Terry talking with students in lab

Rebecca Terry with students

Rebecca Terry’s interdisciplinary research involving paleontology, ecology, and geography significantly broadens the research landscape at the College. The discipline of paleoecology — the ecology of fossil animals and plants — is constantly gaining importance as it reveals important insights into the past that can inform the future of our planet during the Anthropocene.

“Dr. Terry is highly respected by her peers for pushing the boundaries of what information can be deduced from fossilized remains of mammals. Dr. Terry develops innovative approaches and uses them to reveal important insights into the past,” said Virginia Weis, head of the Department of Integrative Biology.

Many of her publications appear in high impact journals, such a Nature and PNAS. On top of that, Terry’s work has received broad media attention; For example, the 2016 Nature paper that she co-authored was highlighted in 16 news outlets including the Washington Post, Science Daily, and Nature News and Views. It also won a 2016 Science Achievement Award from the National Museum of Natural History.

Inclusive Excellence Award

Vrushali Bokil receiving award from colleagues on stage

Vrushali Bokil with Roy Haggerty and Enrique Thomann

Professor of Mathematics Vrushali Bokil and the physics student club Physicists for Inclusion in Science (PhIS) received the College of Science Inclusive Excellence Award. Bokil’s leadership in advancing equity, justice and inclusion (EJI) at OSU has had a substantial impact on the Department of Mathematics and the College.

Bokil participated in the 60-hour immersive Oregon State Advance Seminar, which takes participants deep into the literature on difference, power and discrimination both theoretically and practically with STEM disciplines. She has developed and embedded ADVANCE materials into the professional development seminar for mathematics graduate students as well as for students across the College.

“Professor Bokil brings a deep understanding of the value of diversity for faculty and student success, and has put into play important structural changes that can ensure sustainable impact,” said her colleagues Edward Waymire, Enrique Thomann and Rebecca Warren.

Bokil has also supported a workshop on “Sexual Harassment in the Mathematical Sciences: Moving Towards Action” for the Association of Women in Mathematics and participated in recruiting/assisting students from underrepresented groups in pursuit of a Ph.D. in mathematics.

female students receiving award from science faculty on stage

PhIS members with Roy Haggerty and Henri Jansen

Physicists for Inclusion in Science (“PhIS”, pronounced “fizz”) grew out the Women in Physics group. The group supports members of underrepresented groups as they pursue their careers. The 2019/20 officers are Acacia Patterson (President), Gina Mayonado (Vice President), Abbie Glickman (Treasurer), Mattia Carbonaro (Secretary).

PhIS members walk the walk and have gone far beyond expectations of a standard student group. They have run several Diversity & Inclusion in Physics Instruction workshops for the first-year graduate students in physics, at the National Meeting of the AAPT, and at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Association for College Physics. PhIS was an important co-organizer of the CUWiP conference in Winter 2016. This was a big national event with over 200 participants. The OSU Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) was one of nine conferences held across the U.S.

“I am sure that several students stayed and received a degree from OSU mainly because of the activities of this group.”

“PhIS gives the physics department a clearly visible face in the area of diversity, even though our diversity numbers are small,” said Henri Jansen, professor of physics and associate dean for academic and student affairs.

College of Science Distinguished Service Award

Randall Milstein receiving award from colleagues on stage

Randall Milstein with Roy Haggerty and Janet Tate

Randall Milstein, physics instructor, and Margie Haak, senior instructor of chemistry, received the College of Science Distinguished Service Award. Milstein, who is also the Astronomer-in-Residence for the Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium, was recognized for his extraordinary efforts during the August 21, 2017 OSU’s total solar eclipse event which was witnessed by thousands of people in Corvallis.

“His effort represented hundreds and hundreds of hours of personally donated time to make this event as special as it was. It was truly above and beyond the call of duty,” said Janet Tate, professor of physics.

His activities ranged from high-level organization (OSU’s Total Solar Eclipse/OSU 150 Space Grant Celebration Planning Committee), to education (dozens of talks to help people understand, reaching nearly 4000 people), education workshops (solar filter parties to teach people to be safe), advertising (numerous radio and television interviews — Al Jazeera America, CBS News, Los Angeles CBS, etc.) and, of course, observation of stars and of the eclipse itself (telescopes, binoculars).

In the months ahead of the eclipse, he traveled the state tirelessly. His knowledge and enthusiasm reached thousands and OSU benefited beyond measure.

Margie Haak receiving award from faulty on stage

Margie Haak with Roy Haggerty and Paula Weiss

Haak has been a member of OSU Chemistry for 26 years. During this time, she has given countless hours in service to the chemistry department, the College of Science, Oregon State University, and surrounding communities.

Haak serves as the coordinator for the Mole Hole (Chemistry Help Center). She spearheaded the expansion of the Mole Hole from approximately 15 hours per week to over 60 hours per week. Because of her, the Mole Hole now has consistent hours that extend into the evening and weekends, which are prime study times for undergraduates. This space has had a large impact, serving several thousand undergraduate students each term.

“It’s an honor to work with Margie. She has helped thousands of students experience the beauty of science. Her impact has undoubtedly led many of them to go on to study science at OSU,” said Paula Weiss, senior instructor of chemistry.

Haak’s effort in science outreach are unparalleled in the chemistry department. For the last 17 years she has coordinated and presented Family Science & Engineering Nights and Family Math Nights at local elementary schools. She typically has 15 – 20 of these events each year. She has coordinated the Science Olympiad State Tournament at OSU. For 14 years she was the coordinator for Discovery Days, a two-day science outreach event attended by approximately 1800 K-9 students.

Champion of Science Award

Bettye Maddux receiving award from Roy Haggerty on stage

Bettye Maddux with Roy Haggerty

Bettye Maddux, Director of Research Development in the College of Science, received the Dean’s Champion of Science Award. This is the Dean’s award recognizing an individual or individuals who demonstrate excellence and extra effort that goes beyond what is requested, and the highest quality performance. The award is modeled, including its name, after the President’s Beaver Champion Award.

With more than 20 years of research experience in academic and industry, Bettye created the College’s Office of Research Development from scratch. In its first full year of operation, Bettye increased the value of science proposals submitted by 30% and increased the number of proposals submitted by 6%.

“In more than 25 years of funded research at several institutions, none of us have ever had as much help and expert advice as we have received from Dr. Maddux,” professors Juan Restrepo and Vince Remcho said in a statement.

“She is constantly seeking funding opportunities, she strategizes with us in the writing process, she helps us understand the requirements of every call for proposals, she oversees budget preparation, she interfaces with the Research Office on all matters concerning proposal requirements, and has led inter-institutional funding efforts with complex organizational requirements.”

Science Research and Innovation Seed Program Awards

award recipients holding up awards on stage with colleagues

Roy Haggerty with SciRis awardees (left to right) Matthew Graham, Richard Cooley, Victor Hsu, Ryan Mehl, Weihong Qiu, Chris Cebra and Siva Kolluri.

Six research teams won the Science Research and Innovation Seed Program (SciRis) and the Betty Wang Discovery Fund Awards for projects that contribute to physical chemistry, organic chemistry, solar cells and thin film display transistors, human health and the development of diagnostic tools.

The SciRis awards went to the following teams:

Assistant Professor of physics Bo Sun, along with collaborators from the University of California, San Diego and Northeastern University, was awarded $10,000 to elucidate the causes and consequences of cancer cell migrational phenotype plasticity, which contributes critically to the process of cancer metastasis. The research will potentially lay the groundwork to develop new classes of cancer screening assays and metastasis-targeting treatments.

Biochemists Ryan Mehl, Rick Cooley, physicist Weihong Qiu, and Chris Cebra and Shay Brachafrom the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine received the SciRis Stage 2 award for their project “Chemically Functionalized Nanobodies.” Nanobodies, a subclass of small antibody fragments, where discovered in 1989 and represent an exciting new technology for the development of therapeutic and diagnostic agents.

The $75,000 grant will help the researchers develop a unique technology platform that enables generation of chemically functionalized nanobodies which will function as new therapeutic and diagnostic tools opening up new avenues for medicine and basic research. The resulting chemically functionalized nanobodies will be engineered to bind a specific antigen/protein target and deliver a therapeutic antibody

Chris Beaudry, professor of chemistry, Victor Hsu, associate professor of biochemistry and Siva Kolluri in the College of Agricultural Sciences received the SciRis Stage II award for their project, “Homoharringtonine: Chemical Synthesis amd Evaluation of Designed Analogs.” The group will conduct research on analogs of Homoharringtonine (HHT) with improved pharmaceutical properties. HHT is a plant alkaloid isolated from the plum yew Cephalotaxus harringtonii.

HHT shows great promise as a starting point for the development of new medicines for multiple forms of cancer, however it is highly expensive and difficult to acquire both as a chemical and as a medicine. Among other objectives, the group will work on creating an efficient chemical synthesis of HHT which quadruples the chemical yield, and can be used for investigation in combination therapies and evaluation in modern drug delivery systems.

Physicist Matthew Graham and chemist Paul Cheong received a $10,000 SCiRIs Stage I award for their project “Performance Optimization of Transistors and Solar Photovoltaics by Ultrabroadband Photoconductance Microscopy of Trap-State Density and Lifetimes.” The team will further enhance and develop an ultrabroadband photoconductance microscope that was invented in the Graham lab in 2016. This novel microscope tackles fundamental grand challenges that inhibit the performance of photovoltaic and thin film display transistors.

The Betty Wang Discovery Fund made two awards to maintain state-of-the-art laboratories to advance fundamental discoveries in the basic sciences.

Associate professor of Chemistry Chong Fang was awarded funds for a new fluorometer in the ultrafast laser spectroscopy lab at Linus Pauling Science Center. Chemistry professors Chris Beaudry and Paul Blakemore received a grant to purchase an improved model of a microwave synthesis reactor, an essential technology for organic synthesis.

Awards for administrative excellence

Mary Fulton receiving award from Roy Haggerty on stage

Mary Fulton with Roy Haggerty

Mary Fulton, assistant to the head of the Department of Microbiology, received the Gladys Valley Award for Exemplary Administrative Support. Fulton was appreciated for her hard work, professionalism and exemplary administrative abilities.

“Working with Mary is truly a pleasure. She has the patience, intuition and persistence required to work with all kinds of people, traits that are valued by everyone in the department.”

I think the faculty perfectly captured that she is the soul of the department and highly deserving of this award,” said Jerri Bartholomew, head of the Department of Microbiology. Among other administrative accomplishments, Fulton’s successful event planning and coordination made microbiology one of the most successful departments in raising funds for the Annual Food Drive.

Bill Freund receiving award from colleagues on stage

Roy Haggerty with Bill Freund and Wei Kong

Bill Freund of the Department of Chemistry won the Outstanding Faculty Research Assistant Award. Freund has served as a faculty research assistant in Professor Wei Kong’s group since 2009. This award recognizes a faculty research assistant who has a record of outstanding job performance and contributions.

“He has been instrumental in almost all aspects of my laboratory, from design of new experiments to troubleshooting of equipment, and ultimately to completion of any project, large and small,” said Kong.

“He has also been a great mentor to all of my students and postdoctoral fellows, showing them problem solving skills and transferring to them his life’s experience in being a responsible and wise citizen.”

2019 Fall Faculty and Staff Awards Photos