Faculty and staff members and a few students from across the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus gathered April 14 in the rotunda of the Millennium Student Center to recognize the work of faculty members in areas of research, invention and commercialization.
“This time of year, we celebrate some of our wins, and this has been a good year in terms of research to celebrate those wins,” said Chris Spilling, vice chancellor for research and economic and community development, as he welcomed attendees to the reception. “Looking at the data for our research expenditures and grant awards, we’re breaking all records this year. In fact, in terms of grant awards, we’ve already exceeded where we were for the total year last year in awards. So congratulations, faculty.”
The Office of Research and Economic and Community Development hosted the event and presented awards to six faculty members whose work stood out even amid all the successes of the past year.
Vijay Anand, an associate professor in the Department of Information Systems and Technology, was honored as the Innovator of the Year. Xuemin “Sam” Wang, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor in Plant Sciences in the Department of Biology, was named the Senior Investigator of the Year. Ryan Carpenter, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, was chosen the Junior Investigator of the Year.
Natalie Bolton, an associate professor in the College of Education was honored along with colleagues Phyllis Balcerzak, an associate teaching professor, and Chanua Ross, the director of project and program operations, professional learning and innovation, for their collaboration, winning recognition as Co-Investigators of the Year.
Haitao Li, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Supply Chain and Analytics, also was inducted into the UMSL Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors, though he could not attend the event. He joined 23 previous inductees, all of whom are inventors named on issued U.S. patents. Li was named on a patent last year that is directed toward optimizing large industrial projects in areas such as construction and pharmaceuticals for significant cost and time savings.
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.
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.
Each awardee receives a $500 prize.
Read more about the projects that were honored through this year’s research and innovation awards:
Faculty Innovator of the Year: Vijay Anand
Anand holds advanced degrees in computer and electrical engineering and has experience working at a multinational technology company. He joined the UMSL faculty in 2019. He currently has a pending patent application through the university directed at overcoming a major deficiency in blockchain transactions and has also led the implementation of a new, cross-disciplinary invention program – UMSL Innovation Labs – which is based on his previous work in industry. It was launched last year to help identify and address major issues facing society.
Senior Investigator of the Year: Xuemin “Sam” Wang
Wang joined the UMSL Department of Biology in 2004 after previously serving as professor of biochemistry at Kansas State and director of the Kansas Lipidomics Research Center. He was recognized with the first-ever UMSL Innovator of the Year Award in 2013 after developing now-patented methods to increase oil production in plants including crops. Wang, a member and principal investigator at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, has most recently been collaborating with Bing Yang from the University of Missouri–Columbia on a project titled “Mechanisms of Pollen-Specific Phospholipases in Maize Haploid Production.” The work is funded by the National Science Foundation, and the results should advance knowledge with potential applications for crop improvement. He’s also been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Junior Investigator of the Year: Ryan Carpenter
Carpenter earned a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Missouri–Columbia and completed a clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship at Brown University. He received a Career Award from the National Institutes of Health to support a five-year, multi-phase study, titled “Project BEST (Better Experiences in Substance Treatment).” With the $805,849 in funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Carpenter is, among other things, examining how alcohol use contributes to opioid death among Black men.
Co-Investigators of the Year: Natalie Bolton, Phyllis Balcerzak and Chanua Ross
Bolton, Balcerzak and Ross won a $4 million grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation to form the UMSL Charter School Translational Fellowship program to provide mentorship and professional training across charter school sites. They seek to address site-identified problems by embedding the science of learning best practices to promote and sustain successful student outcomes while also improving teacher practice. The overarching goal of this program is for postdoctoral fellows in education, psychology and learning services to serve the K-12 education system in St. Louis and address instructional needs to promote more equitable and inclusive classroom experiences.
Below are lists of the past recipients of each award. (Note: Not every award is given out each year.)
Faculty Inventor/Innovator of the Year Award
- 2023: Vijay Anand, associate professor, Department of Information Systems and Technology
- 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
Senior Faculty Investigator of the Year Award Winners
- 2023: Xuemin “Sam” Wang, E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor in Plant Sciences, Department of Biology
- 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
- 2023: Ryan Carpenter, assistant professor, Department of Psychological Sciences
- 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
- 2023: Natalie Bolton, associate professor, Department of Educator Preparation and Leadership; Phyllis Balcerzak, associate teaching professor, Department of Educator Preparation and Leadership; Chanua Ross, director of project and program operations, professional learning and innovation, Department of Professional Learning & Innovation
- 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