Brown honors accomplished scholars with inaugural Research Achievement Awards

The new award program recognizes the work of both senior and early-career faculty members.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Six Brown faculty members were honored on Wednesday, April 19, with inaugural Brown Research Achievement Awards, presented by the University’s Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR).

“The pursuit of knowledge through research has led to many exceptional accomplishments at Brown,” said David A. Savitz, Brown’s vice president for research. “Research enhances all aspects of the University, including undergraduate and graduate education, and enriches society in many ways.”

Nominations for the awards were sought in several categories and then reviewed by a panel of Brown faculty. Savitz said those reviewers had their work cut out for them: “We faced the challenge of selecting a small number of awardees from a truly outstanding group of highly accomplished researchers,” he said.

The new awards program was launched with the support of the Brown’s president, Christina Paxson, and Provost Richard Locke in order to elevate the University’s recognition of the extraordinary research contributions of faculty, Savitz said. Each winner received a citation and a $5,000 research stipend; OVPR plans to present the awards annually.

“Here at Brown, we are committed to recruiting and rewarding exceptional scholars, providing them with the tools and the environment to engage in critical research across the disciplines,” said Locke, who presented the awards at an event on Wednesday. “Today, our faculty and students collaborate to identify innovative solutions to many of our most pressing societal issues, ranging from population health, energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, cures for chronic diseases, and more.”

Maurice Herlihy, professor of computer science, received the Research Innovation Award, which honors faculty members who have opened new research paths for their field that may prove to be of profound significance. Among other accomplishments, Herlihy helped to develop transactional memory, a technique that helps computers with multiple processors coordinate shared data revisions in real time. Both Intel and IBM have incorporated the technique into hardware architecture. He was also cited for the role he plated in shaping Brown’s computer science department.

Vincent Mor and Constantine Dafermos received the Distinguished Research Achievement Award, which honors faculty members with exceptional records of nationally acclaimed research throughout their careers at Brown.

Mor, professor of health services, policy and practice, was cited for his sustained success over decades in advancing research on how the delivery of health care affects the well-being of frail and chronically ill people, particularly the elderly. Since coming to Brown in 1981, he has made many contributions in assessing health care delivery and patient outcomes in long-term care settings. He was also cited for his leadership in building an outstanding public health research program at Brown.

Dafermos, professor of applied mathematics, has had many career achievements, including foundational work in nonlinear systems of hyperbolic conservation laws, which earned him the prestigious Norbert Wiener Prize in Applied Mathematics. In 2016, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He has also been influential in creating and shaping the Division of Applied Mathematics at Brown.

Susan Moffitt, Joseph Braun and Tim Kraska received Early Career Research Achievement Awards, which recognize faculty members who have built exceptional research portfolios in their first years at Brown.

Moffitt, associate professor of political science and international and public affairs, was cited for her work in American political institutions and public policy. Among her achievements is a recent multi-year grant that will fund an analysis of the impact of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a much-debated set of K-12 academic standards that aims to address educational inequality in the United States.

Braun, assistant professor of epidemiology, was highlighted for building a strong research program that has documented many important associations between prenatal and early life exposures to industrial toxicants, such as PFOA, and specific effects on human health including childhood adiposity and early termination of breastfeeding. He was also cited for providing excellent research mentorship.

Kraska, assistant professor of computer science, was cited for his research in developing new interactive data exploration tools and big data management systems. His work has earned him a Sloan Fellowship, a National Science Foundation CAREER award and funding to create a new platform to simplify the sharing of datasets. 

The Research Achievement Awards are one of several Brown internal programs supporting research. Also announced at the April 19 Celebration of Research program were winners of the annual Seed and Salomon awards.