Research Achievement Awards honor early, mid-career Brown scholars

The annual awards program recognizes outstanding faculty scholarship; new this year were awards for Brown inventor and startup of the year.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University presented eight professors in various fields of study with Research Achievement Awards at its annual Celebration of Research program in April.

“This prestigious awards program, now in its sixth year, recognizes extraordinary research contributions by our faculty,” said Jill Pipher, vice president for research at Brown. “Each of these award winners is nominated by their peers for showing exceptional scholarship and for advancing knowledge in their field in important and innovative ways.”

Pipher presented the awards along with Provost Richard M. Locke at Sayles Hall during the first in-person Celebration of Research since 2019 due to COVID-19 precautions.

The awards program has historically recognized early-career and distinguished faculty achievements, Pipher noted. New this year was the presentation of Mid-Career Research Achievement Awards, which moving forward will alternate annually with the Distinguished Research Achievement Awards.

Awardees were selected by a panel of Brown faculty. In addition to the award, winners receive a research stipend of $5,000. The recipients of the 2022 Research Achievement Awards include:

David Badre (cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences) received a Mid-Career Research Achievement Award. Badre is a leader in the neuroscience of cognitive control, which impacts how the brain translates goals and plans into concrete behaviors. His research has yielded influential insights into how the prefrontal cortex supports humans’ ability to guide memory retrieval and perform complex tasks involving multiple goals. His work has been recognized by a Sloan Fellowship, James S. McDonnell Fellowship and a Cognitive Neuroscience Society Young Investigator Award. Additionally, Badre was a finalist for the PROSE Award from the Association of American Publishers for his 2020 book, “On Task.” He chairs the cognition and perception study section of the National Institutes of Health.

Margaret Hanson Bublitz (psychiatry and human behavior; medicine) received an Early Career Research Achievement Award. Bublitz studies the pathways linking psychological stress before and during pregnancy to adverse perinatal health, as well as mind-body interventions to reduce stress and mitigate risk for adverse obstetric outcomes. She has published some of the first investigations of childhood maltreatment history on cortisol trajectories over pregnancy. Her next study on a phone-delivered mindfulness intervention, designed to reduce risk of developing hypertensive disorders during pregnancy, recently received funding from the National Institutes of Health. Bublitz is a practicing clinical psychologist and has been a leader in integrating behavioral health into the primary care and OBGYN departments at Lifespan’s Women’s Medicine Collaborative.

Dr. Gaurav Choudhary (medicine) received a Mid-Career Research Achievement Award. Choudhary is a physician-scientist conducting basic, clinical and epidemiological research on pulmonary vascular disease and right ventricular dysfunction. His clinical and epidemiological work on pulmonary hypertension has been influential in redefining the diagnostic criteria for this condition, while his basic science research has identified novel therapeutic targets. He currently serves as director of cardiovascular research at the Warren Alpert Medical School and Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute, and as associate chief of staff for research at the V.A. Providence Health Care system. He leads a research and clinical program in pulmonary hypertension funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health at the Providence V.A.

Hongjie Dong (applied mathematics) received a Mid-Career Research Achievement Award for his research on partial differential equations, which are mathematical equations that describe the fundamental laws of physics and engineering, among other sciences. He is considered a leading expert in this field and has developed novel tools to analyze elliptic and parabolic partial differential equations with important applications to the study of the theory of composite materials, fluid dynamics and kinetic theory. He is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Early Career Award and a prestigious Simons Foundation Fellowship. From 2014 to 2017, Dong was the director of undergraduate studies in Brown’s Division of Applied Mathematics.

Eric Nathan (music) received an Early Career Research Achievement Award for his instrumental and vocal compositions. By experimenting with musical structures, visual choreography and new performance techniques, Nathan manipulates the experience of live performance. His recent compositions include “Missing Words” and “Some Favored Nook.” He has been commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation at the Library of Congress, and the New England Philharmonic, where he is conducting as composer-in-residence for the 2021-22 academic year. Nathan has received a Guggenheim fellowship, the Walter Damrosch Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, and a 2022 Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Tara Nummedal (history; Italian studies) received a Mid-Career Research Achievement Award. Nummedal is a historian of science and gender in early modern Europe. Her 2019 book, “Anna Zieglerin and the Lion’s Blood: Alchemy and End Times in Reformation Germany,” examines the politics of alchemy in the Holy Roman Empire through the story of a young female alchemist. In 2020, she co-edited the first born-digital book under Brown’s Digital Publications initiative, “Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s ‘Atalanta fugiens’ (1618) with Scholarly Commentary.” Nummedal is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship, a Burkhardt Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and a fellowship from the National Endowment of Humanities.

Brenda Rubenstein (chemistry) received an Early Career Research Achievement Award for her research in theoretical and computational chemistry. She has conducted trailblazing work in quantum theory and alternative computing, and is the recipient of a Sloan Fellowship, a Camille Dreyfus Fellowship, the Air Force Young Investigator Award, and was recently named to Scientific American’s 2021 Brilliant 10 list of promising young scientists. She is committed to increasing diversity in STEM and is chair of the Brown chemistry department’s diversity and inclusion action committee. Rubenstein also established the Rhode Island Advocate program to mentor underserved students from local high schools, preparing them to participate in science research projects and compete at local and international science fairs.

Andrew Zullo (health services, policy and practice) received an Early Career Research Achievement Award. Zullo conducts research on optimal medication and vaccine use to improve health and minimize adverse effects among older adults. His work has been highly influential in supporting clinical practice and informing pharmaceutical firms’ evidence-based decision making. He has published more than 105 peer-reviewed articles and received millions in grant funding over the past four years. Zullo received the New Investigator Award from the American Geriatrics Society and the Plein Memorial Lecture Award from the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. He is also the outgoing chair of the International Society of Pharmacoepidemiology Geriatrics Special Interest Group.

New awards for inventor and startup of the year

This year marked the introduction of two new categories of awards at the Celebration of Research: the Inventor of the Year Award and the Startup of the Year Award.

“These new categories represent Brown’s commitment to innovation,” Pipher said. “New inventions and the startup companies that flow from them are a natural result of strong faculty research programs.”

Practicing physician-scientist Dr. Wafik El-Deiry, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and medical oncologist at Rhode Island Hospital and the Miriam Hospital in Providence, received the Inventor of the Year Award, which honors the Brown inventor who had the most invention disclosures over the past calendar year. With nine submitted disclosures in 2021 alone, El-Deiry has been a top inventor for Brown Technology Innovations.

Bolden Therapeutics received the Startup of the Year Award, which recognizes the new company that has both licensed a Brown technology and raised the most investment capital — all within 2021. Bolden Therapeutics is a biotechnology company developing therapeutics to treat central nervous system diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Bolden’s core technology was supported by a Brown Research Seed Award the company received in 2018.

The Celebration of Research event also honored 21 recipients of the 2022 Seed Awards, granted to advance promising early-stage research projects, and 14 recipients of the 2022 Salomon Awards, granted to recognize exceptional research in various fields with preference given to junior faculty members.