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Professors Selected for Annual Academic Excellence and Innovation Awards

Eight faculty members have been selected for IUP’s Academic Excellence and Innovation Awards.

The purpose of these awards, originated by IUP President Tony Atwater in 2007 and coordinated by the Office of the Provost, is to encourage innovative approaches in three categories: projects that have the potential for patents, projects that can lead to major external funding opportunities, and interdisciplinary projects that combine disciplines or areas of study into a new approach or model program. 

“The Academic Excellence and Innovation Grant initiative reinforces the university’s commitment to scholarship and the professional development of the faculty,” Atwater said. “I am very pleased that members of the faculty have taken advantage of this opportunity to win support for their exciting and meritorious projects.”

Twelve IUP faculty members submitted proposals for consideration for the 2009–2010 academic year. Grant awards of up to $10,000 are made on a competitive basis.

This year’s recipients and their proposals are as follows:

Prashanth BharadwajPrashanth Bharadwaj, Management, “Product Innovation Program.” His project will apply parallel and lateral thinking techniques to group processes to create innovative new products and services. The goal is to generate new product possibilities for area companies while integrating IUP’s capabilities into the product development process.

John FordJohn Ford, Chemistry, “Building Tools for the Production of Inexpensive, Efficient Cellulases from the Filamentous Fungus Trichoderma reesei.” Ford plans to use genetic engineering to create fungus strains more effective at converting cellulose to sugar than are currently available. The ultimate goal is to make cellulose-derived sugars available for use as a renewable source for biofuels, plastics, and other uses.

Richard KempRichard Kemp, Theater and Dance, “Theater Research Project: Storefront Faustus.” The project is designed to contextualize and enliven the original text of Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, published in 1604, with modern-day images and action to highlight the contemporary relevance of the play’s themes, with particular reference to the current global financial crisis. This will lead to work-in-progress performances in an open storefront in East Liberty in Pittsburgh.

Megan KnochMegan Knoch, Biology, “Characterization of the Role of Vesicular Zn2+ Within the Murine Suprachiasmatic Nucleus.” The project is to investigate whether Zn2+ and the neurotransmitter glutamate interact to modify circadian rhythms, which are necessary for coordinating physiological processes in living organisms within the environment in which they live.

Nathan McElroyNathan McElroy, Chemistry, “Determining the Effects of Acid Mine Drainage and Marcellus Shale Wells on Nonpolar Organic Contaminant Uptake in Semipermeable Membrane Devices.” The project will investigate the effects of low pH and Marcellus shale well discharge waste on the efficiency of semipermeable membrane devices that absorb pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from water. These semipermeable membrane devices, somewhat like a fake fish, will be used in the future to determine the presence of pesticides and PCBs from local waterways, some of which are also affected by acid-mine drainage and well discharge. 

Tim NuttleTim Nuttle, Biology, and Katie Farnsworth, Geoscience, “Improving Systems-Based Reasoning in Students Across Disciplines by Using Qualitative Reasoning Models.” The project aims to develop and bring to the classroom models that can be used by students to develop more fully their understanding of causal relationships in complex systems—for example, climate change. Katie FarnsworthOne of the main tenets of science education is instilling an understanding of causal theories of phenomena, including what happened when and what caused something to happen.

David PistoleDavid Pistole, Biology, “The Physiological Response of Aquatic Organisms to Stressors in Their Environment.” This project will expand Pistole’s current research collaboration with John Peles at Penn State, examining the influence of stressors in the environment on physiology of freshwater fish.

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