Date November 21, 2017
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Brown faculty members earn awards, distinctions

In recent months, prestigious national and international organizations recognized Brown faculty for their research, scholarship and leadership in areas ranging from dance to climate science.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —This summer and fall, Brown faculty members working in a range of academic disciplines, from medicine to music, were recognized for distinguished research, teaching and service from national and international organizations. Among such distinctions earned in recent months were the following honors:

Nicole Alexander-Scott, an associate professor of pediatrics, medicine and health services, policy and practice at Brown and director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, was named president-elect of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) in October. ASTHO members are the chief health officials in each U.S. state, and the organization develops and guides public health policy in state-based public health practice with the ultimate goal of improving the nation’s health. Alexander-Scott will spend a year working with the current president to help steer the organization before assuming that role in September 2018. ASTHO Executive Director Michael Fraser said Alexander “brings unique experience to this role as a practicing physician who specializes in adult and pediatric infectious diseases.”

In September, Joseph Braun, an assistant professor of public health and epidemiology, was named one of 20 pioneers under 40 in environmental public health by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a nonprofit dedicated to educating people on how the environment impacts human health and well-being. For this recognition, nominators choose individuals whose work promises to drive environmental health science and advocacy in new directions. Braun researches whether environmental chemical exposures during fetal development or early childhood adversely affect infant and child health. In particular, he explores whether certain chemicals increase the risk of disorders like learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression and obesity. “These young scientists are doing exciting, innovative work that will influence how we address environmental challenges to our health in the future,” said nominator Linda S. Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program.

Andrew G. Campbell, dean of the Graduate School and a professor of medical science, and Susan Gerbi, a professor of biochemistry and biology, have been named fellows of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). One of the highest honors the society can bestow on its members, induction as a fellow recognizes Campbell’s and Gerbi’s sustained and significant impact on the discipline. The award, which went to 67 scientists and thought-leaders this year, acknowledges both long-term efforts to advance cell biology and its applications and service to the international community of cell biologists. The research program of Campbell’s lab focuses on Ribonuclease H, while Gerbi, who served as president of ASCB, analyzes the structure, function and evolution of eukaryotic nucleic acids through DNA replication and ribosomal RNA.

Assistant Professor of the Practice of Behavioral and Social Sciences Medeva Ghee was named one of INSIGHT into Diversity magazine’s 2017 Leaders in STEM. Ghee — who is also the executive director of the Leadership Alliance, a consortium based at Brown that supports scholars from historically underrepresented groups pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math — was recognized for motivating and encouraging the next generation of young people to pursue STEM education and careers. The magazine noted Ghee’s efforts to expand the Leadership Alliance’s work beyond its flagship summer program to support faculty development and the curricular needs of institutions, as well as her research on the topic of HIV/AIDS and drug resistance.

John Lonks, an associate professor of medicine and medical science, was named the 2017 Charles C.J. Carpenter, M.D., Outstanding Physician of the Year at the Miriam Hospital in July. An infectious disease specialist, Lonks was nominated for the award by David Marcoux, an internist affiliated with Miriam Hospital, who said, “Dr. Lonks has steadfastly done his work as an infectious disease specialist to the great benefit of patients and the physicians who have requested his consultations. He has worked tirelessly and ably on behalf of patients, physicians and the Miriam… I think it’s time that his selfless efforts, his great care of patients and respect for all the members of the Miriam community is recognized.”

Amanda Lynch, director of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society and a professor of environment and society and earth, environmental and planetary sciences, was appointed to the management team of the Commission for Atmospheric Sciences (CAS) at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) during its October summit in Geneva. The WMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations, dedicated to international cooperation and coordination on the state and behavior of the earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the land and oceans, the weather and climate it produces, and the resulting distribution of water resources. As a member of the CAS management team, Lynch will work to support research in atmospheric science in order to reduce and mitigate disasters related to natural hazards, protect the environment and enhance understanding and response to environmental change.

In July, Josiah Rich, an infectious disease specialist at the Miriam Hospital and a Brown professor of medicine and epidemiology, won the 2017 Charles “Bud” Kahn, M.D., Lifetime Leadership Award. Rich is the director and cofounder of the hospital’s Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights as well as a leader in efforts to combat opioid abuse. Joseph Garland, one of the doctors who nominated him for the award, noted Rich’s work providing care to prisoners at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, saying he “has become a national leader in inmate health. It was his advocacy work that led to the decriminalization of syringes, which has led to a remarkable and sustained decline in HIV infections among injection drug users.”

Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies lecturer Sydney Skybetter was named one of the “Most Influential People in Dance Today” by Dance Magazine in June. “Known as dance’s tech guru, Sydney Skybetter has changed the way we think about dance at least three or four times,” arts writer Nancy Wozny wrote in the magazine. Skybetter is also a public humanities fellow at Brown and the founder of the Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces as well as a choreographer. Some of his research explores how technologies like motion-detecting game systems, networked surveillance cameras, robots capable of affective computing, and virtual reality platforms choreograph human bodies and parse human intentions through algorithmic analysis of gesture, physical features and speech. 

H. Curtis Spalding, a professor of the practice of environment and society at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Awardfrom the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany in Oct. 20. Spalding, who was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator for the New England region and executive director of Save the Bay, was among six distinguished individuals honored for their outstanding contributions in the areas of political science, public administration, leadership and continuing professional development. 

Jeff Titon, a professor emeritus of music, was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by the University of Minnesota, his graduate school alma mater, in October. The award is conferred on graduates or former students of the university who have attained unusual distinction in their chosen fields and who have demonstrated outstanding achievement and leadership. Titon, who directed the doctoral program in ethnomusicology at Brown from 1986 until his retirement in 2013, has published eight books; served as the editor of Ethnomusicology, the Journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology; and received numerous grants and awards. In addition to his work on ethnomusicology, he researches ecomusicology and is a musician.