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Faculty recognized for their professional contributions and statures

(University of Rochester illustration / Julia Joshpe)

An NSF CAREER Award, a ‘best publication’ honor, and leadership positions with national organizations comprise recent faculty achievements.

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University of Rochester faculty regularly earn regional, national, and international awards and honors for their professional contributions to research, scholarship, education, and community engagement.

As part of an ongoing series, we’re spotlighting their accomplishments.

Ernesto Aparicio-Puerto awarded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions fellowship

Postdoctoral associate Ernesto Aparicio-Puerta, hosted by the McCall Research Group at the Medical Center, has been awarded the European Commission’s highly competitive Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Global Fellowship. The selection process evaluates the applicant’s merits as well as the scientific quality of the host laboratory and the proposed project.

Aparicio-Puerta’s miRAQEL project aims to optimize several aspects of microRNA sequencing analysis to overcome the limitations of currently available methods. Changes in microRNA expression have been linked to numerous diseases, so improving the estimation of microRNA levels could boost our understanding of their roles in health and disease. The fellowship provides additional funding to establish collaborations with other leading labs in the field.

Brandon Barnett receives NSF CAREER Award

Brandon Barnett, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, has received a 2023 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). CAREER awards are the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research.

The award will fund Barnett’s work to create and study biologically inspired iron complexes—compounds containing iron ions along with other molecules or ions—that can break strong carbon-hydrogen bonds during chemical reactions. Bonds between carbon and hydrogen are abundant in many classes of chemicals, including pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and biomass. Breaking carbon-hydrogen bonds in a controllable fashion can enable functionalized reactions, which give molecules new properties. Barnett and his lab will develop methods to precisely control these events, turning the iron complexes into catalysts that efficiently convert abundant feedstocks—the raw materials or substances used in chemical reactions—into valuable materials, such as forming methanol directly from natural gas. The research is important in developing greener technologies.

Barnett’s award will also fund initiatives to train early-career scientists and engage students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, in chemistry research. The project includes a summer workshop series for undergraduate researchers and integrates virtual reality technology into graduate-level courses.

Benjamin Partridge receives Young Investigator Research Program award

Benjamin Partridge, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, has received a 2024 Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) award. Awarded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), the honor spans three years with funding of up to $450,000. Individuals must have received their PhD in the last seven years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research for the Department of the Air Force. This award will fund Partridge’s research in the development of impact-resistant soft materials, which are lightweight alternatives to common protective structures such as metals and concrete. Partridge’s approach utilizes the same molecular recognition found in DNA, to build strong fibrous materials that can withstand blunt force. Potential applications of these materials include coatings for electronic components and protective layers within lightweight, impact-resistant garments.

Huaxia Rui stands and gestures in front of a white board filled with equations and numbers written in blue marker.
Huaxia Rui. (Simon Business School photo)

Huaxia Rui and coauthors

A paper coauthored by Huaxia Rui, the Xerox Professor of Computers and Information Systems at the Simon Business School, has won a Best Information Systems Publications Award for 2023 from the Allocation for Information Systems (AIS) and the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS). The paper, titled “Racial Bias in Customer Service: Evidence from Twitter,” unveils large-scale evidence of B2C (business-to-customer) bias on digital platforms.

Elizabeth Santos elected president of National Geriatric Psychiatry Association

Elizabeth Santos, an associate professor of psychiatry, will lead the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry beginning March 18. She is the latest of at least four AAGP presidents with ties to the University of Rochester Medical Center.

School of Nursing faculty Lauren Ghazal and Chen Zhang 

Lauren Ghazal, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing, has been named one of the American Psychosocial Oncology Society’s 2024 Health Equity Scholars. The program is dedicated to achieving health equity in psychosocial oncology by educating and mentoring the next generation of professionals in the field.

Chen Zhang, a fellow assistant professor in the school, has been selected to participate in the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Diversity Scholars Network, a competitive program that enhances the funding success of early career investigators from diverse backgrounds.

Diptych featuring portraits of Lauren Ghazal and Chen Zhang.
Lauren Ghazal and Chen Zhang. (University of Rochester School of Nursing photos)

Jin Xiao tapped for ADA Council on Scientific Affairs

The American Dental Association has appointed Jin Xiao, an associate professor at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, to its Council on Scientific Affairs. The council, which comprises 20 renowned US oral health researchers and clinicians, assists the ADA in developing policies that sustain the scientific basis of the dental profession. It also supports product standards and evaluation, research priorities, safety and efficacy of patient procedures, the ADA Seal of Acceptance Program, and more.

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