Date January 27, 2022
Media Contact

Faculty at Brown earn prestigious awards, distinctions

From late 2020 to early 2022, many of Brown’s faculty received prominent awards, fellowships and other recognition for their path-breaking scholarship and bold ideas.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted activities across the globe — but it hasn’t stopped Brown faculty from making a positive impact through research and scholarship.

Over the last year, faculty members at Brown have been honored for outstanding research, service and leadership in their fields of study with numerous awards, fellowships and other honors. The scholars, whose fields range from literary arts and education to applied math and biostatistics, earned both national and international recognition and support for their work. 

Among such distinctions were the following honors: 

Dr. Jasjit Singh Ahluwalia, a professor of medicine and behavioral and social sciences, was invited to serve on the Food and Drug Law Institute’s 2020 Tobacco and Nicotine Products Committee, which brings diverse stakeholders together for high-level discussions on tobacco products regulation and policy.

Ahmed Abdelfattah, an assistant professor of neuroscience, was one of 15 scientists named as Searle Scholars for 2021, an honor that came with $300,000 over three years to support his research. Abdelfattah, who is affiliated with Brown’s Carney Institute for Brain Science, uses bioengineering and chemical approaches to develop molecular tools to visualize and study the brain. 

Ariella Azoulay, a professor of modern culture and media and comparative literature, was among 22 scholars, writers, artists and composers to receive the prestigious Berlin Prize in the 2021-22 academic year. Azoulay will spend a semester at the American Academy in Berlin’s lakeside Hans Arnhold Center, a historic 19-century villa, writing a series of letters as part of a larger effort to draw attention to the experiences of Algerian Jews.

Yuri Bazilevs, a professor of engineering, won the 2021 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Materials Division Centennial Mid-Career Award, which recognizes impactful work at the interface of materials and mechanics. Bazilevs’ work in computational mechanics addresses problems ranging from renewable energy to blood flow in the heart.

Sara Becker, an associate professor of behavioral and social sciences and psychiatry and human behavior, won the 2020 G. Alan Marlatt Mid-Career Research Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies for her program of rigorous research in the field of addiction psychology.

Dr. Justin Berk, an assistant professor in the departments of medicine and pediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical School, was among eight early-career physicians and researchers to be selected by the American Board of Medical Specialties to participate in its 2020–21 Visiting Scholars Program. During the yearlong, part-time scholarship and leadership development program, Berk’s research will focus on the role of medical education podcasts in continuing professional development. 

Dr. Richard W. Besdine, a professor of medicine and health services, policy and practice, received the Charles “Bud” Kahn, M.D., Lifetime Leadership Award from the Miriam Hospital Medical Staff Association for "outstanding leadership over a lifetime of service." Besdine retired from his position as director of the division of geriatrics and palliative medicine in the department of medicine, and chief of geriatrics, for Lifespan after 20 years of service.  

Melody Chan, an associate professor of mathematics, was named a 2022 fellow of the American Mathematical Society, a designation that recognizes people who have made outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization of mathematics. Chan was honored for her research at the interface of algebraic geometry and combinatorics, and for mentorship and mathematical exposition.

Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences Patricia Cioe was named by the University of Rhode Island College of Nursing as one of 75 “luminaries” representing the best nurses and nurse scientists to have come through its nursing program over the years, excelling in professional practice, education, research and advancement of the college, and making lasting contributions to the profession of nursing.

Professor of Modern Culture and Media Anthony Cokes has been selected to participate in the 2022 Whitney Biennial, which features a constellation of some of the most relevant art and ideas produced by Americans in the last two years. Work by Cokes will be on display at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art from April to September 2022.

Pradeep Guduru, a professor of engineering, won the 2020 James R. Rice medal from the Society of Engineering Science. Named for a former Brown professor, the award celebrates pioneering contributions to the field of engineering sciences. Guduru was honored for his work in energy storage, catalysis, surface adhesion and other areas.

David Henann, an associate professor of engineering, received the 2020 Eshelby Mechanics Award for Young Faculty from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Henann, who studies the physics of granular materials, was honored for “creative use and development of mechanics” in his research.

Tim Herbert, a professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences, was named a 2020 fellow of the American Geophysical Union, an honor bestowed on 0.1% of the AGU’s 60,000 members. Herbert reconstructs ocean temperature and biological production through time.

Professor of Literary Arts Laird Hunt was a finalist for a National Book Award in the fiction category for his novel “Zorrie.” Hunt’s novel follows a woman searching for her place in the world and finding it in the daily rhythms of life in rural Indiana. Since 1950, the National Book Award has celebrated much of the best writing in the United States.

Sorin Istrail, a professor of computer science, was one of 13 top researchers elected as 2021 Fellows of the International Society for Computational Biology. Before coming to Brown, Istrail was head of informatics research at Celera Genomics, where his group played a central role in the construction of the sequence of the human genome. At Brown, he develops computational methods for cutting edge genomic research.  

Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the School of Public Health, was honored with the Meeting the Moment in Public Health Award from Johnson & Johnson Research! America. Jha was recognized for “playing a key role in communicating public health information and developments to members of the public” and for his “masterful ability and tireless commitment to conveying key information about COVID-19 to a wide array of audiences.”

George Karniadakis, a professor of applied math and engineering, received the SIAM/ACM Prize in Computational Science and Engineering in March 2021 for “pushing applications to extreme computational scales and mentoring many leaders” in the field of computational modeling. The award is given biennially by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and the Association for Computing Machinery.

Associate Professor of Education Matthew Kraft was given the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness Early Career Award for his research on efforts to improve teacher and organizational effectiveness in K-12 public schools. “Matt has become a leading national voice on education policy,” read a statement from a colleague who nominated Kraft for the award. “His research and public engagement has helped shape the national dialogue on how best to design and implement effective teacher evaluation systems.”

Greg Landsberg, a professor of physics, was named chair of the publications committee for the CMS Collaboration, one of the major particle physics experiments happening at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. The publications committee assures the quality of around 100 research papers produced by the CMS Collaboration each year.

Dr. Tracy Madsen, an associate professor of epidemiology and emergency medicine, was selected by the National Academy of Medicine as the 2021 American Board of Emergency Medicine Fellow. During her two-year fellowship, Madsen will collaborate with eminent researchers, policy experts and clinicians from across the country and will help facilitate initiatives convened by the National Academies to provide nonpartisan and evidence-based guidance to policymakers, academic leaders, health care administrators and the public.

Francesca Mari, a visiting lecturer in literary arts, was awarded a fellowship by the organization New America, which gives new generations of policy experts and public intellectuals the time, space and resources to confront society’s most pressing problems through research, reporting and analysis. As a New America Fellow, Mari is writing a book about why housing in the U.S. is so expensive, charting the consequences of financialization on the lives of neighbors on a single block in Los Angeles.

Associate Professor of Brain Science Kate O'Connor-Giles was one of five recipients of the 2021 National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship by an NINDS Investigator. The award recognizes faculty members who have shown dedication to superior mentorship and training in neuroscience research, and includes a $100,000 grant supplement to support efforts to foster the career advancement of additional trainees.

Iris Montero Sobrevilla, an assistant professor of Hispanic studies, won the 2021 Robert F. Heizer Article Award for “The Disguise of the Hummingbird: On the Natural History of Huitzilopochtli in the Florentine Codex.” The award, granted by the American Society for Ethnohistory, recognizes the best article in the field of ethnohistory and seeks to feature cross-disciplinary approaches to Indigenous histories.

Dr. Christine Montross, an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior, and medical science, was a finalist for a 2020 L.A. Times Book Prize in the current interest category for her nonfiction book, “Waiting for an Echo: The Madness of American Incarceration.” In what the L.A. Times called a “riveting glimpse into America’s prison system,” Montross, a practicing inpatient psychiatrist, illuminates the human cost of mass incarceration and mental illness.

Elias Muhanna, an associate professor of comparative literature and history, was awarded the 2022 John Nicholas Brown Prize for his monograph “The World in a Book: Al-Nuwayri and the Islamic Encyclopedic Tradition.” Awarded by the Medieval Academy of America, the prize is awarded annually for a first book or monograph on a medieval subject judged by the selection committee to be of outstanding quality. 

Assistant Professor of Literary Arts Sawako Nakayasu received a $35,000 fellowship for digital publication from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The fellowship will enable Nakayasu to conduct research for a digital monograph on the reception and legacy of modernist Japanese poet Chika Sagawa.

Jayanti Owens, an assistant professor of international and public affairs and sociology, was selected as a 2020 William T. Grant scholar. With a $350,000 award, Owens will develop different aspects of an ongoing project investigating what drives racial and ethnic disparities in school discipline. Launched in 1982, the prestigious William T. Grant scholars program supports the professional development of early career researchers in the social, behavioral and health sciences. 

Owens also received the ​​Promising Scholar Award from the Foundation for Child Development for her research on school discipline disparities. The foundation seeks to help researchers, policymakers and advocates develop high-quality, evidence-based early childhood systems to serve the needs of all children.

Applied mathematics professor Kavita Ramanan was named a 2021 Vannevar-Bush Faculty Fellow, the most prestigious research award from the U.S. Department of Defense. The $3 million award supports “supports out-of-the-box ideas where researcher creativity intersects with the unknown.” Ramanan’s research in probability theory and stochastic processes investigates the uncertain outcomes and random effects that pervade science, engineering and everyday life.

Dr. Ranna Rozenfeld, a professor of pediatrics who specializes in pediatric critical care medicine, is one of 55 new members of the American Pediatric Society. New members are nominated by current members through a process that recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves as child health leaders, teachers, scholars, policymakers and/or clinicians.

Brenda Rubenstein, a professor of chemistry, won a 2021 Teacher-Scholar Award from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. She was one of 16 people nationwide to win the award, which goes to faculty within the first five years of their academic careers who have created an outstanding body of scholarship and are deeply committed to education. Rubenstein was also named one of Popular Science’s Brilliant 10, the magazine’s list of “the most innovative up-and-coming minds in science.”

Jim Russell, a professor and chair of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences, won the Willi Dansgaard Medal from the American Geophysical Union, which honors high-impact, interdisciplinary work in paleoceanography and paleoclimatology. Russell uses key indicators trapped in lake and ocean sediments to reconstruct past climate conditions.

Dr. Samir A. Shah, a clinical professor of medicine at Brown and chief of gastroenterology at the Miriam Hospital, was elected the 2021-22 president of the American College of Gastroenterology, a national medical organization representing more than 17,000 clinical gastroenterologists and other specialists in digestive diseases. Shah will direct ACG’s programs, which include continuing medical education in the clinical, scientific and patient-related skills of gastroenterology; activities involving national and state medical affairs; health policy issues; and clinical investigation.

Chi-Wang Shu, a professor of applied mathematics, was awarded the 2021 John von Neumann Prize by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. The prize is awarded for outstanding and distinguished contributions to the field of applied mathematical sciences and for the effective communication of these ideas to the community.

Anita Shukla, an associate professor of engineering, won a Dr. Ralph and Marian Falk Medical Research Trust Transformational Award. The $1 million award is intended to provide the bridge to the technology transfer process for moving an exciting health care innovation to the next step in commercial development. Shukla is investigating the antibacterial potential of hydrogels, with the expectation that these materials will greatly improve treatment options for difficult to treat wounds prone to infection, such as diabetic ulcers and burns.

Chemistry professor Richard Stratt won the 2021 Joel Henry Hildebrand Award in the Theoretical and Experimental Chemistry of Liquids from the American Chemical Society. Stratt’s research group studies molecular mechanisms of events such as solvation and vibrational relaxation — the elementary steps that determine the course of chemical reactions in liquids.

Adam Teller, a professor of history and Judaic studies, was named a National Jewish Book Awards finalist in the history category for his book “Res­cue the Sur­viv­ing Souls: The Great Jew­ish Refugee Cri­sis of the Sev­en­teenth Century.” The Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards were estab­lished by Jew­ish Book Coun­cil in 1950 to rec­og­nize out­stand­ing works of Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture.

Associate Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice Kali Thomas was the inaugural recipient of the Terrie Fox Wetle Rising Star Award in Health Services and Aging Research from the American Federation for Aging Research for her work applying health services research to inform policies and practices that improve health and quality of life for older adults. The award is name for the founding dean of Brown’s School of Public Health.

Kimani Toussaint, a professor and associate dean of engineering, was elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows, a select group of the top two percent of medical and biological engineering professionals. Toussaint was elected for his outstanding contributions to biomedical engineering using both novel photonic materials and optical imaging systems.

Assistant Professor of Humanities Daniel Vaca received an honorable mention in the Modern Language Association’s Matei Calinescu Prize announcement for his book “Evangelicals Incorporated.” The prize committee shared that Vaca’s book “uncovers a new archive for the history of religion in the United States: the flourishing for-profit business of evangelical publishing.”

Lai-Sheng Wang, professor and chair of chemistry, won the 2020 E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy from the American Chemical Society. Wang’s lab creates new forms of matter called nanoclusters, then uses a technique called photoelectron spectroscopy to study their properties one atom at a time. His discoveries include boron analogs to the carbon nanomaterials graphene and fullerene.

Ian Wong, an associate professor of engineering, was one of 60 of the most promising early career engineers from the United States and Japan chosen to participate in the National Academy of Engineering’s 2021 Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. Wong engineers new miniaturized technologies based on biomaterials and microfluidics to investigate cancer cell invasion, drug resistance and heterogeneity.

Kenneth Wong, a professor of international and public affairs, education policy and political science, was among 39 leaders who were elected as new fellows of the National Academy of Public Administration in 2021. As a NAPA fellow, Wong joins a cadre of former cabinet officers, members of Congress, governors, mayors and state legislators, prominent scholars, business executives, nonprofit leaders and prominent public administrators.

Samuel Zipp, an associate professor of American studies and urban studies, was awarded the Robert H. Ferrell Prize for his book “The Idealist: Wendell Willkie’s Longtime Quest to Build One World.” The prize, given annually by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, is designed to reward distinguished scholarship in the history of American foreign relations, broadly defined. Members of the prize committee heralded Zipp’s book as “enormously inventive… richly researched and written with verve and artfulness.”

Andrew R. Zullo, an assistant professor of health services, policy and practice and epidemiology, was named a 2020 Health in Aging Foundation New Investigator Awardee by the American Geriatrics Society for his original research reflecting new insights in geriatrics and his commitment to the discipline’s role in academia.

In early January 2022, six faculty members from Brown were among 200 American scholars recognized by Education Week for their highly influential educational research. The annual Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings seek to spotlight United States researchers who did the most to shape educational practice and policy in the last year. Among those listed were Professor of Economics Emily Oster; Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform Susanna Loeb; Associate Professor of Education Matthew Kraft; Professor of Sociology Prudence Carter; Associate Professor of Education Policy Lindsay Page; and Associate Professor of Education John Papay