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Science faculty recognized for excellence at 2018 University Day

By Debbie Farris

2018 University Day

The College of Science is proud to announce that science faculty were among this year’s recipients of OSU’s most prestigious annual awards for scholarship, teamwork, mentoring and service. A total of eight faculty were recognized for their distinguished accomplishments at OSU's 2018 University Day on Tuesday, September 11, including chemist Xiulei (David) Ji who nabbed two awards.

“I am extremely proud to see the outstanding accomplishments of our faculty recognized at the university level,” said Roy Haggerty, dean of the College of Science. “I commend them for their scholarship, teaching and mentoring and the collaborative spirit to connect their efforts to a broader community.”

Congratulations to these faculty for their perseverance, dedication and exemplary achievements.

A distinguished career

With dual appointments in the Colleges of Science and Veterinary Medicine, Professor of Microbiology Michael Kent received the OSU Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award for his superior academic performance, professional renown and service to the University and to the public. Award criteria include exceptional scholarly achievements and publications, strong teaching in terms of reputation and quality, active participation in University affairs and visibility and recognition in Oregon, the nation and the world.

Kent’s research is focused on two major research areas: diseases of zebrafish in research facilities and the impacts of pathogens on wild salmonid fishes. Specifically, he studies chronic infectious diseases. Kent’s work has been supported continuously by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP) since he arrived at OSU in 1999. He is also a co-PI at the Zebrafish International Resource Center, where he assists with health studies and their diagnostic service.

Michael Kent holding up tank of fish in lab

Michael Kent, Professor of Microbiology

Kent established a Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) zebrafish research colony at OSU in the Sinnhuber Aquatic Resource Center in collaboration with Robyn Tanguay, a Distinguished Professor of Molecular Toxicology at OSU. Their work is supported by the NIEHS Environmental Health Sciences Center and NIH’s ORIP, the latter of which enables them to provide biomedical research training to veterinarians using aquatic models.

In collaboration with colleagues at OSU and across the country, the Kent Lab is developing zebrafish as models for infectious diseases in humans. They were able to demonstrate that zebrafish can become infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a pathogenic parasite that infects about one-third of the world population and the second most significant cause of lethal food-borne infections in the United States. This was the first time this infection was reported in a fish.

Achieving excellence in mentoring and scholarship

Associate Professor of Chemistry Xiulei (David) Ji received the Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring Award, which recognizes and encourages outstanding mentoring of postdoctoral appointees by OSU faculty. The award is given to faculty who best exemplify the role of a mentor and who has provided exceptional mentoring to one or more postdoctoral scholars during the past year. The interaction between the faculty mentor and postdoctoral scholar plays a crucial role in the professional development of a postdoc.

Ji also received OSU’s Promising Scholar Award, which recognizes the scholarship of junior faculty. The award criteria include outstanding scholarly and creative activities that represent significant intellectual work validated and communicated through peer review.

Ji leads a highly motivated team of graduate students and researchers from all over the world in his chemistry lab, which is focused on pushing the boundaries of ion storage chemistry in solids. In 2017, he and graduate student Xingfeng Wang developed the world’s first battery to use only hydronium ions as the charge carrier, which shows promise for sustainable, high-power energy storage. This summer he received a $475K award from the University of California, San Diego for his project “Aqueous Iron-Sulfur Batteries.”

Xiulei Ji receiving award from Ismail Rodriguez and Roy Haggerty

Chemistry graduate student Ismail Rodriguez Perez (left), Dean of Science Roy Haggerty (center) and chemist Xiulei (David) Ji (right)

Last winter, Ji received the College of Science Loyd Carter award for his inspirational and superb mentorship and teaching of graduate students. He was nominated by chemistry graduate student Ismail Rodriguez Perez, who presented him with the award.

“Dr. Ji is an outstanding professor,” said Rodriguez Perez. “In my eyes, what makes him inspirational and outstanding is his true passion for the subject at hand, which makes me want to learn more. Dr. Ji also does a fantastic job relating his teachings to real-world applications, which is quite inspiring.”

In 2016, Ji received a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award for five-year grant of $530K for his project, “Carbon Anodes in Potassium-Ion Batteries.” The award is NSF’s top honor for junior faculty with outstanding and innovative research and effective application of that research.

In this video, he reflects on his own path in science.

Advancing student success

Team Math received the 2018 Student Learning and Success Teamwork Award! The award recognizes departments or interdisciplinary teams at OSU that have demonstrated exceptional teamwork in creating and sustaining an exemplary teaching and learning environment to advance the university’s strategic goal of student success and excellence.

Team Math as they have become known across campus has been working for more than a year to improve student performance and learning in introductory pre-calculus courses at OSU, which have been identified as having the strongest impact on the success and retention of STEM students.

Math faculty standing together outside Kidder Hall

Team math, aka the department of mathematics faculty

Team Math includes mathematics faculty Sara Clark, Scott Peterson, Lyn Riverstone, Dan Rockwell, Katy Williams and David Wing as well as campus colleagues Susan Fein, an instructional designer in Ecampus, Lynn Greenough in Academic Technology, Liz Jones, a mathematics instructor in OSU’s Educational Opportunities Program and Cub Kahn, coordinator of the Hybrid Course Initiative.

Since spring 2017, the group has redesigned college algebra and algebraic reasoning by integrating active learning technologies and other innovative student engagement strategies. They achieved very encouraging results: they created a successful teaching and learning environment in precalculus courses that is welcoming to students, empowers faculty to challenge students in their understanding and enhances student participation—a significant achievement in the introductory mathematics classroom at OSU.