UMSL celebrates work of its faculty researchers and innovators

by | Apr 18, 2022

Jerry Dunn, Lon Chubiz, Aimee Dunlap, Nathan Muchhala, Felia Davenport and Uma Segal were honored at the Research and Innovation Reception on April 8.
Jerry Dunn is presented with the Senior Investigator of the Year Award and is joined by Chris Spilling, Kristin Sobolik and Steven Berberich

Jerry Dunn (second from left center), the executive director of Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis, was named the Senior Investigator of the Year. Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic and Community Development Chris Spilling (at left), Chancellor Kristin Sobolik and Provost and Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Steven J. Berberich presented her with the award at the Research and Innovation Reception on April 8 in the Science Learning Building. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Members of the University of Missouri-St. Louis community gathered on April 8 to recognize outstanding faculty in the areas of research, invention and commercialization.

The Office of Research and Economic and Community Development hosted the Research and Innovation Reception near the UMSL innovation wall in the lobby of the Science Learning Building.

Jerry Dunn, a clinical professor and the executive director of Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis, was honored as the Senior Investigator of the Year. Lon Chubiz, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, was chosen the Junior Investigator of the Year.

Biology faculty members Nathan Muchhala, Aimee Dunlap and Lon Chubiz at the Research and Innovation Reception

Biology faculty members Nathan Muchhala (left) and Aimee Dunlap (center) were named Co-Investigators of the Year for their research studying pollination in urban orchards. The work is funding by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Their colleague Lon Chubiz (right) was named the Junior Investigator of the Year after receiving a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation.

Two of Chubiz’s biology colleagues – Aimee Dunlap and Nathan Muchhala – were recognized as the Co-Investigators of the Year.

Felia Davenport, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Media, and Uma Segal, a Curators’ Distinguished professor in the School of Social Work, were named Innovators of the Year.

“It was wonderful to gather in person again to recognize the work of our outstanding faculty,” said Chris Spilling, vice chancellor for research and economic and community development. “These six individuals are making a difference in the lives of people in our community and far beyond, and they demonstrate the tremendous value UMSL can bring to the region through the development of knowledge. I hope they serve as examples all of our faculty can emulate.”

The Research and Innovation Reception was not held last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so Friday evening also served as an opportunity to recognize last year’s winners – Senior Investigator of the Year Jerome Morris from the College of Education; Junior Investigator of the Year Michael Gearhart from the School of Social Work; Co-Investigators of the Year Nancy Singer, Katherine O’Daniels and Shea Kerkhoff from the College of Education; and Innovator Jianli Pan from the Department of Computer Science.

Felia Davenport and Uma Segal are recognized as Innovators of the Year

Felia Davenport and Uma Segal were named Innovators of the Year for their work developing materials that help students, community members and social organizations better understand the experiences of refugees in the United States.

Pan also was inducted into the UMSL Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors, becoming its 19th member.

The investigators of the year were chosen based on criteria including but not limited to the amount of grant funding during the previous calendar year, largest increase in funding during the previous calendar year, the potential significance of the nominee’s research in their discipline and the novelty of their research.

The Innovator of the Year is selected with consideration of a discovery or invention’s contributions or potential contributions to public good, the economy, research funding to UMSL, regional entrepreneurship and the advancement of science and useful arts.

Each awardee receives a $500 prize.

A crowd gathered in the lobby of the Science Learning Building for the Research and Innovation Reception

Faculty members from across campus turned out April 8 to recognize their colleagues during the Research and Innovation Reception in the lobby of the Science Learning Building.

Read more about the projects that were honored through this year’s awards:

Senior Investigator of the Year: Jerry Dunn

Dunn’s clinical and research interests involve assessment and treatment of high-risk children and their family members in community- and school-based settings. One of her current initiatives, funded by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, is Project ASSIST, which works to improve outcomes for children exposed to traumatic events. Dunn has been principal investigator on externally funded grants that, over the last 10 years, total more than $27 million.

Junior Investigator of the Year: Lon Chubiz 

Chubiz was promoted to associate professor last fall, but he was still an assistant professor in February 2021 when he received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the foundation’s most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Chubiz’s research focuses on using genetic and biochemical approaches to address questions in bacterial drug resistance and more.

Co-Investigators of the Year: Aimee Dunlap and Nathan Muchhala

Dunlap and Muchhala lead a team of researchers from across the St. Louis region to study urban agriculture, particularly ways to maximize pollination in urban orchards with support of a $633,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This work, in collaboration with Gateway Greening, is designed help inform how to best leverage such orchards for increased food security in cities.

Faculty Innovators of the Year: Felia Davenport and Uma Segal

Davenport and Segal developed an important and very timely package of materials for use by middle schools, high schools, community and social organizations, and others to help youth and adults better understand and empathize with the experiences of refugees who have made their new home in the United States. The “We Came as Refugees: an American Story” play script, professional production available on video, study guides with activities to help audience members learn, and pre- and post-screening surveys to gage learning by the audience is an incredibly important tool – now more than ever. This work was partially funded by an internal university grant, and there is an effort to license it broadly across the country for high impact.

Below are lists of the past recipients of each award. (Note: Not every award is given out each year)

Senior Faculty Investigator of the Year Award Winners

  • 2022: Jerry Dunn, clinical professor and executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis
  • 2021: Jerome Morris, E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Urban Education, Department of Educator Preparation & Leadership
  • 2020: Brendolyn Bailey-Burch, senior research associate, Missouri Institute of Mental Health
  • 2019: Beth Huebner, professor, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice
  • 2018: David Tate, associate research professor, MIMH
  • 2017: Alexei Demchenko, Curators’ Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • 2015: Sharon Johnson, professor, Social Work
  • 2014: Robert Paul, professor, Department of Psychology
  • 2013: Matthew Hile, research associate professor, MIMH

Junior Faculty Investigator of the Year Award Winners

  • 2022: Lon Chubiz, associate professor, Department of Biology
  • 2021: Michael Gearhart, assistant professor, School of Social Work
  • 2020: Sharlee Climer, assistant professor, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
  • 2019: Billy Dunaway, assistant professor, Department of Philosophy
  • 2018: Jianli Pan, assistant professor, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
  • 2017: James Shuls, assistant professor, Department of Educator Preparation & Leadership
  • 2014: Mindy Steiniger, assistant professor, Department of Biology
  • 2013: April Regester, assistant professor, College of Education

Co-Investigators of the Year Award Winners

  • 2022: Aimee Dunlap, associate professor, Department of Biology; and Nathan Muchhala, associate professor, Department of Biology
  • 2021: Nancy Singer, associate dean and associate professor, College of Education; Katherine O’Daniels, assistant teaching professor, Department of Educator Preparation & Leadership; and Shea Kerkhoff, assistant professor, Department of Educator Preparation & Leadership
  • 2020: Keith Stine, professor and chair, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Alexei Demchenko, Curators’ Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • 2019 (new award in 2019): Melinda Bier, senior research scientist, Center for Character & Citizenship Education; and Marvin Berkowitz, Sanford N. McDonnell Endowed Professor for Character Education, Department of Education Preparation & Leadership

Faculty Inventor/Innovator of the Year Award

  • 2022: Felia Davenport, associate professor, Department of Communication and Media; and Uma Segal, Curators’ Distinguished Professor, School of Social Work
  • 2021: Jianli Pan, associate professor, Department of Computer Science
  • 2020: Carl Bassi, Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor, College of Optometry
  • 2018: George Gokel, professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • 2017: Zhi Xu, associate professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • 2015: Haitao Li, associate professor, College of Business Administration
  • 2014: Janet Braddock-Wilking, associate professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • 2013: Xuemin “Sam” Wang, E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Plant Science, Department of Biology
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