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Faculty Excellence Series: University scholars and distinguished university scholars

by UofL Today last modified Oct 21, 2010 10:23 AM

The University of Louisville started its University Scholar and Distinguished Scholar Program in 1995 to help recruit new faculty scholars and to retain existing faculty members who demonstrate superior creativity and scholarship in their fields of expertise.

Faculty Excellence Series: University scholars and distinguished university scholars

Susmita Datta is a new university scholar.

Since then, UofL has named 86 faculty members as University and Distinguished University Scholars. Scholars are nominated by their deans, reviewed and recommended by a faculty committee appointed by the executive vice president for research (which administers the program) and approved by the president.

University Scholars enjoy a national reputation in their fields; Distinguished University Scholars have an international reputation in their fields.

Administration honored seven new designees at the Oct. 13 Celebration of Faculty Excellence.

The following information comes from the Office of the President.

University Scholars

Susmita Datta, School of Public Health and Information Sciences

Susmita Datta is a professor in the Department of Bioinformatics & Biostatistics. Datta's research interests are interdisciplinary and include bioinformatics, proteomics, data mining, infectious disease modeling, statistical issues in population biology, stochastic modeling for systems biology and survival analysis. The underlying approach of all her research projects is to find an order to the apparent disorder in the data by statistical modeling. The research is useful for identifying the biomarker for such complex diseases as cancer or predicting patient survival by observing a group of genomic/proteomic biomarkers over time. Datta is principle investigator of two projects funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. She also is involved in funded collaborative research with scientists and is senior bioinformatics/biostatistician in three NIH supported centers at UofL.

Mary Hums, College of Education and Human Development

Mary Hums is a professor in the Department of Health and Sport Sciences. An expert in sport administration and disability sport, she is a research fellow at The Center for Sport and Society at Northeastern University in Boston where she helped write Article 30.5 of the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The document applies to hundreds of millions of people around the world by requiring countries to allow people with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities. Hums co-edited the textbook "Principles and Practice of Sport Management" (3d edition) and "Women as Leaders in Sport: Impact and Influence." She co-wrote the textbook "Governance and Policy in Sport Organizations" (2d edition), "Paralympic Sport: All Sports for All People," and "Profiles of Sport Industry Professionals." She is editor for the Sport Management Education Journal and has been published in multiple journals.

Steven Jones, School of Medicine

Steven Jones is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine and a member of the Institute of Molecular Cardiology. He is developing a multidisciplinary approach to investigating a novel area of cardiovascular biology that integrates a unique metabolic signal with events in cardiac myocytes, most notably cell survival. His lab focuses on a protein modification that arises from glucose and directly modifies the function of numerous cellular proteins. Jones' initial efforts have focused on characterizing how this modification changes in the heart during and after a heart attack, which proteins are affected by the sugar modification, and how the metabolic signal affects mitochondrial function. His work has significant implications for three major health issues: heart attacks, heart failure and diabetes.

Jones is a regular reviewer for NIH and AHA grant review study sections, regularly chairs sessions at national meetings and delivers lectures throughout the United States and abroad. He is a member of three editorial boards and he actively mentors trainees from undergraduate through post-graduate levels.

Gamini Sumanasekera, College of Arts & Sciences

Gamini Sumanasekera is associate professor in the Department of Physics and associate director of the Institute for Advanced Materials and Renewable Energy.

He has had more than 30 papers published in the most prestigious peer-reviewed journals in his field, including two articles in Science in which he and his colleagues explained for the first time the reason for the enhanced conductivity of hydrogen terminated diamond and how to condition the catalyst particles for well-controlled synthesis of carbon nanotubes. Since coming to UofL, Sumanasekera has been principle investigator or co-principle investigator on federally funded grants totaling more than $10 million. His work has resulted in three patents and five patents-pending. Three PhD students and 10 master's students have graduated under his supervision.

Mahendra Sunkara, J.B. Speed School of Engineering

Mahendra Sunkara is a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and an interim director for the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research and Environmental Stewardship. He came to UofL in 1996 and established a research program on advanced materials synthesis and characterization. He has attracted more than $10 million in funding to support a research program on such renewable energy technologies as solar cells, Li Ion batteries, production of hydrogen from water and process development for growing large crystals of diamond, gallium nitride and bulk quantities of nanowires. Those processes were discovered within his group. Sunkara has published more than 100 articles in refereed journals and proceedings, four book chapters and was awarded eight U.S. patents, with several U.S. patent applications pending. He co-wrote the book "Inorganic Nanowires: Applications, Properties and Characterization" (CRC Press). In the last seven years, three of his research articles appeared on the covers of the prestigious journals Advanced Materials and Advanced Functional Materials.

Michael Tunnell, School of Music

Michael Tunnell is professor of trumpet in the Applied Music Studies Division. He performs with the Louisville Brass, and is principal trumpet and principal corno da caccia with the Louisville Bach Society. Tunnell's recording credits include the CDs "Sonus Brass Captured" and "Louisville Brass: Season to Dance," as well as six solo recordings. He has performed throughout Europe, Asia and North and South America. As a founding member of the brass quintet Sonus Brass, he toured South America and the Far East. Tunnell has served four terms on the board of directors of the International Trumpet Guild. His UofL trumpet ensemble won top awards at the National Trumpet Competition, and his students hold posts in prominent colleges and orchestras and have enjoyed success in numerous solo competitions in the United States and in Europe.

Distinguished University Scholar

George Hajishengallis, School of Dentistry

George Hajishengallis is a professor in the Department of Oral Health and Rehabilitation and a member of the Oral Health and Systemic Disease Research Group. His research focuses on how microbes cause disease and a body's immunity to disease. Hajishengallis' work has shown that germs may exploit the human immune system and subvert it to their own advantage. One example he found is P.gingivalis, which uses a receptor, CR3, on the bacteria-eating white blood cells of the human immune system to circumvent the body's defenses and flourish in dental plaque. P. gingivalis actually may be targeting the CR3 receptor to pass into white blood cells, because, unlike other immune receptors, CR3 does not vigorously promote killing of bacteria.

Hajishengallis combines basic scientific and translational research to find new approaches to such clinical problems as periodontal disease. His discoveries have led to several invention disclosures and patent applications and have been published in such prestigious general science journals as PNAS, Science Signaling and Nature Immunology, as well as in leading disciplinary journals including the Journal of Immunology, Cellular Microbiology, Infection and Immunity. Hajishengallis also has published more than 80 peer-reviewed papers, reviews and book chapters.

The Celebration of Faculty Excellence took place at the Papa John's Cardinal Stadium Brown & Williamson Club. Administration honored:

  • the President's Distinguished Faculty Awards for outstanding service; teaching; and scholarship, research and creative activity
  • the President's Exemplary Multicultural Teaching Award
  • newly endowed chairs and professors
  • the Paul Weber Departmental Excellence in Teaching Award
  • university scholars and distinguished university scholars
  • creative work resulting in new patents and licenses

UofL Today featured recipients of the President's Distinguished Faculty Awards and the President's Exemplary Multicultural Teaching Award on Oct. 19 and newly endowed chairs and professors on Oct. 20. Tomorrow we will feature the Weber Award recipients.

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