2019 Research Achievement Awards

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2019 Brown University Research Achievement Award winners: Elizabeth Brainerd (2nd from left), Monica Munoz Martinez, Andrew Peterson, Kali Thomas, and Lai-Shang Wang; flanked by Provost Richard M. Locke (left) and Vice President for Research Jill Pipher (right)


Honoring faculty in a wide variety of fields, Brown awarded Research Achievement Awards to six professors in its annual Celebration of Research program on April 23.

“Researchers at Brown are advancing knowledge and making a difference in the world through exceptional achievements and discoveries,” said Jill Pipher, Vice President for Research. “These awards, now in their third year, elevate the University’s recognition of the extraordinary research contributions of our faculty.” 

Pipher presented the awards along with Provost Richard M. Locke at Brown’s Faculty Club.

“Brown’s faculty are central to the University’s mission to make a difference in the world by collaborating across multiple disciplines to address some of society’s most pressing challenges through critical research and inquiry,” Locke said, “With these awards, we celebrate our faculty for their endless curiosity, drive, and commitment to excellence, and for their contributions and discoveries." HeHH added that the faculty’s research accomplishments are also closely entwined with their successes in teaching and mentoring students.

Nominations for the awards were sought in six categories and then reviewed by panels of distinguished Brown faculty. “Many remarkable, highly accomplished researchers from throughout the University were nominated this year and we then faced the challenge of selecting a small number of awardees from this outstanding group,” Pipher said, “Each of these individual award winners has shown deep scholarship and creative solutions to complex problems.” Besides the awards, each winner received a $5,000 research stipend.

The six winners of the 2019 Research Achievements Awards are:

Elizabeth Brainerd (Biology and Medical Science), Distinguished Research Achievement Award. She has been instrumental in developing X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology (XROMM), a new technology for visualizing bones and joints in motion, making research areas in comparative and orthopedic biomechanics accessible. Her work on the biomechanics of respiration and feeding is cited as having contributed to understanding major transformations in the evolutionary history of vertebrates. Her honors include: President, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology; President, International Society of Vertebrate Morphology; Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

James Green (History and Portuguese and Brazilian Studies), Distinguished Research Achievement Award. He is cited as the leading scholar of gender and homosexuality in Brazil, and is prominent among experts on the 1964-85 Brazilian dictatorship. He is author of three books, seven co-edited volumes, ten co-edited journal issues, and two textbooks. His first book, “Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Brazil,” is seen as a pioneering classic. Director of the Brazil Initiative at the Watson Institute, Professor Green also leads a multi-national project documenting the early LGBT movement in Latin America and is the Brazilian Studies Association’s executive director.

Monica Munoz Martinez (American Studies), Early Career Research Achievement Award. Her research focuses on immigration, histories of violence and policing, and public memory of history. Her widely-praised first book, “The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas,” is about recovery of officially suppressed history: thousands of ethnic Mexicans killed by U.S. soldiers and law enforcement. Professor Martinez is primary investigator for Mapping Violence, documenting histories of racial violence in Texas. She won an Andrew Carnegie fellowship in 2017.

Andrew Peterson (Engineering), Early Career Research Achievement Award. His work focuses on understanding and controlling chemical reaction processes on solid surfaces, and has primary applications for energy and environmental technologies such as solar fuel production and carbon dioxide capture and conversion. He has published more than 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Professor Peterson has received an NSF CAREER award and a Young Investigator Award from the U.S. Navy.

Kali Thomas (Health Services, Policy and Practice), Early Career Research Achievement Award. Her research focuses on identifying ways to improve the quality of life of older adults needing long-term services and support. Professor Thomas has led projects related to care delivered in long-term care facilities and the role of home- and community-based services in preventing or postponing nursing home placement. She has published 65 peer-reviewed papers. In 2016, she received the Gerontological Society of America Carroll L. Estes Rising Star Award.

Lai-Sheng Wang (Chemistry), Distinguished Research Achievement Award. He is cited for contributions in areas of atomic clusters and multiply-charged anions, having helped open new fields of physical chemistry research that could lead to design of novel nanomaterials. His work has led to important discoveries, including one-atom-thick boron nanostructures similar to graphene, and boron nanocage structures. Professor Wang has more than 460 peer-reviewed publications, and has won numerous awards, including Humboldt Senior Research Award in 2007 and Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy and Dynamics from the American Physical Society in 2014.

The Research Achievement Awards are one of a number of Brown programs that recognize the importance of research by Brown faculty. Also honored at the Celebration of Research program were 21 teams as recipients of annual Research Seed awards, which advance competitive research proposals by supporting the generation of preliminary data and pursuing new directions or collaborations, including two Big Data Collaborative Seed awardees co-sponsored by the Data Science Initiative. Also, 13 winners were announced for Salomon awards, which recognize excellence in scholarship, with preference given to junior faculty.