Brown faculty members earn prominent awards, distinctions

In recent months, prestigious national and international organizations have recognized Brown faculty for their research, scholarship and leadership.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — During the 2019-20 academic year, Brown faculty members working in a range of academic disciplines, from American studies to emergency medicine to mathematics, earned prominent recognition from national and international organizations for their distinguished research, teaching and service. Among such distinctions earned in recent months are the following:

Eli Adashi, professor of medical science, was elected a fellow of the Hastings Center. Adashi, a globally renowned reproductive biologist and endocrinologist, is co-author of more than 500 professional articles and is co-author or editor of 16 books. His recent writings focus on the nexus of medicine, law and ethics.

Leticia Alvarado, associate professor of American studies, was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Creative Capital Arts Writers to support the writing of her second monograph. The book, “Cut/Hoard/Suture: Aesthetics in Relation,” will compare the works of artists from distinctly racialized communities.

Yuri Bazilevs, professor of engineering, has been selected to receive the 2020 Gustus L. Larson Memorial Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineering and Pi Tau Sigma. The award is presented to engineers with outstanding research achievements within 10 to 20 years following graduation with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or related field. Bazilevs’s research in computational mechanics addresses complex problems in the areas of renewable energy, biomechanics and medicine. 

Justin Berk, assistant professor of pediatrics, was awarded the 2020-22 Jeremiah A. Barondess Fellowship in the Clinical Transaction. The two-year, $50,000 fellowship from the New York Academy of Medicine will enable Berk to develop and test podcasting as a new medium for knowledge dissemination to medical students and residents.

Lalit Beura, assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, is one of 15 scientists named as Searle Scholars for 2020. Beura studies the role played by T-cells in establishing an immune barrier in mucosal surfaces, which are common bacterial points of entry into the body. The award provides $300,000 over three years to support research.

Ou Chen, assistant professor of chemistry, won a 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award, which goes to early-career faculty who excel in research, experience and academic leadership. Chen was recognized for his work on developing new functional materials using nanocrystals. Chen was also one of 14 Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar awardees for 2020. The award goes to researchers with an outstanding body of scholarship as well as a deep commitment to education.

Rui Gomes Coelho, postdoctoral research associate in archaeology and the ancient world, was awarded a National Geographic Early Career Grant. Coelho will use the grant to study the development of the slave trade port of Cacheu, Guinea-Bissau and the origins of unequal power relations between Europeans and Africans. The project explores two central questions: How did Cacheu become a cosmopolitan town, distinctive from European and African settlements? When did the balance of power shift to the Europeans?

Two faculty members, Tony Cokes and James N. Green, will receive 2020-21 Berlin Prizes from the American Academy in Berlin. The prizes are awarded annually to U.S.-based scholars, writers, composers and artists who represent the highest standards of excellence in their fields. Cokes, a professor of modern culture and media, will produce a series of essays and quotations that will become the basis for his new video text and sound animations. Green, a professor of Latin American history, will examine the multiple layers of interactions and sociability that took place in the Tiradentes Square in downtown Rio de Janeiro in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Two faculty members were named to NPR’s Best Books of the Year list for 2019. Bathsheba Demuth, assistant professor of history and environment and society, made the list for “Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait,” as did Emily Oster, professor of economics, for her book “Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool.”

Jack Elias, senior vice president for health affairs and dean of medicine and biological sciences, was elected to mastership in the American College of Physicians. Masters are selected because of "integrity, positions of honor, eminence in practice or in medical research, or other attainments in science or in the art of medicine."

Oded Galor, professor of economics, received an honorary doctorate from Poznan University of Economics and Business in Poland. The university cited in particular Galor’s work in development of unified growth theory, a means of explaining economic growth from the dawn of civilization to the present. 

The Brown University Bookstore chose a book by S. James Gates Jr., professor of physics, as the 2019-20 Brown University Book Award. The book, “Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe,” chronicles efforts to capture images of a solar eclipse to show evidence for Einstein’s theory of relativity. The book will be presented to outstanding high school juniors across the country at book award ceremonies. Gates was also recently elected to the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute board of directors.

Assistant Professor of Engineering Franklin Goldsmith was named to the 2019 Class of Influential Researchers by Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, a top chemistry/chemical engineering journal. For a special issue of the journal, Goldsmith contributed an article on software he’s developed to predict the most important reactions on catalytic surfaces. The software is particularly tailored to problems in energy conversion and fuel synthesis at high temperature.

Peter Howitt, professor emeritus of economics, was awarded The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Economics, Finance and Management. Howitt shares the award with fellow economist Philippe Aghion for “fundamental contributions to the study of innovation, technical change and competition policy.”

James Kellner, associate professor of environmental studies, was part of a team that was awarded 2019 Project of the Year by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program. Using remote sensing, the team increased the success of planting programs for threatened or endangered plant species in dryland ecosystems in Hawaiian drylands and other ecosystems. 

Three faculty members were named to the Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings for 2020. Matthew Kraft, associate professor of education; Susanna Loeb, director of the Annenberg Institute; and John Papay, associate professor of education, were named to the list, which curated by Education Week to spotlight the top 200 education scholars who move ideas from academic journals into the national conversation.

David Laidlaw, professor of computer science, was inducted into the IEEE Visualization Academy, which is among the most prestigious honors in the field of visualization. Laidlaw studies applications of computer graphics and computer science to other scientific disciplines. He led the development of Brown’s YURT, a state-of-the-art virtual reality theater. 

Monica Linden, senior lecturer in neuroscience, won the 2019 Carol Ann Paul Educator of the Year Award from the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience. The award recognizes notable efforts related to promoting effective teaching of neuroscience at the undergraduate level. Linden, who is affiliated with Brown’s Carney Institute for Brain Science, teaches a variety of undergraduate courses including “The Neurobiology of Love,” which employs popular science writing and primary literature to make sense of the biological mechanisms underlying love.

Katherine Mason, assistant professor of anthropology, won the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness Book Prize for her book “Infectious Change: Reinventing Chinese Public Health after an Epidemic.” The book investigates how the SARS outbreak of the early 2000s changed the field of public health in China, often in ways that failed to serve the Chinese people.

Saul Olyan, professor of Judaic studies and director of the Judaic studies program, was elected a fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research. His research focuses on the history, literature and religion of ancient Israel, and the history of biblical interpretation. 

The American Political Science Society awarded Marion Orr, professor of political science and urban studies, with the 2019 Hanes Walton Jr. Career Award, which recognizes a political scientist whose lifetime of distinguished scholarship has made significant contributions to our understanding of racial and ethnic politics. Orr's research is in the areas of American government and politics, urban politics, race and politics, community organizing, urban public policy, and the politics of urban schools. 

Jayanti Owens, assistant professor of international and public affairs and sociology, won a prestigious William T. Grant Scholars Award, which supports promising early career researchers. Owens’s work focuses on social disparities in children's behavioral problems and their consequences for educational inequality. 

Kemp Plumb, assistant professor of physics, was awarded a $700,000 grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) through the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program. The grant will support his research on quantum spin liquids, an exotic state of matter that gives rise to a range of strange phenomena including quasi-particles that behave as fractions of an electron. Plumb was also recently awarded a DOE Early Career Grant for a similar line of research.

A book by Barry Prizant, visiting scholar in theatre arts and performance studies, was listed number one on a list of the 100 Best Autism Books of All Time compiled by the Book Authority. Released in 2001, “Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism” suggests a major shift in understanding autism: Instead of classifying "autistic" behaviors as signs of pathology, he sees them as strategies to cope with a world that feels chaotic and overwhelming.

Brenda Rubenstein, assistant professor of chemistry, won an U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award for her research finding ways to break carbon dioxide down into useful components. The award provides $450,000 in research support over three years. 

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) honored David Savitz — interim dean of the School of Public Health and professor of epidemiology, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics — with the 2019 David Rall Medal, which is awarded for exemplary service on NAM committee assignments. Over 26 years of service to NAM, Savitz has led committees addressing a variety of contentious issues, from the effects of electromagnetic radiation to the public health ramifications of e-cigarettes. The academy noted his reputation as “a skilled judge of evidence, a rigorous critical thinker and a careful communicator of scientific findings.” For his research in reproductive and environmental epidemiology, Savitz also recently won the John Snow Award from the epidemiology section of the American Public Health Association. The award recognizes excellence in epidemiology practice or research.