USD faculty recognized for extraordinary research

Five faculty members from The University of South Dakota will be honored for their research and creative work during President's Research Day at the Muenster University Center on Oct. 29.

President's Research Day is an annual showcase for specialized research and creative activities at USD. The program includes a 4 p.m. keynote lecture, "Bodies Caught on Film: Sudanese Slaves and the Power of Photographs," by Eve Troutt Powell, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. Troutt's presentation addresses the role that imagery plays in framing public opinion and impacting world events.

In addition to receiving President's Awards for Research Excellence and Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Gina Forster, Ph.D., assistant professor of basic biomedical sciences, Dongming Mei, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics, Paula Mabee, Ph.D., professor of biology, Robert Morecraft, Ph.D., professor of basic biomedical sciences, and YuYu Sun, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering, will present overviews of their research and creative activity.

"We're pleased to have such outstanding researchers to honor this year," said Laura J. Jenski, Ph.D., USD's vice president for research. "All of our recipients have established vibrant research programs that integrate student learning and involve extensive collaborations."

Forster and Mei are recipients in the Early/Mid-career category. Forster joined the university's Sanford School of Medicine faculty in 2004. Her research explores the relationships between mild traumatic brain injury and stress sensitivity, and neural sensitivity to stress during drug withdrawal. She leads a collaborative initiative with the U.S. Department of Defense to explore traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress on soldiers returning from active duty.  Additionally, Forster conducts research under USD's second neuroscience Center of Biomedical Research Excellence project funded by NIH, and she co-directs the Center's Behavioral Testing Core Facility.

Mei's research achievements in underground science to date are largely embodied in detecting neutrinos and dark matter particles. Neutrinos and dark matter are believed to hold the key to physics beyond the standard model, but detecting and measuring their properties are very difficult. Of particular importance for these experiments is a deep understanding of backgrounds. As director of the Center for Underground Background Experiments at DUSEL (CUBED), Mei's research is dedicated to understanding the various sources of background and the development of techniques to produce pure materials.

Mabee and Morecraft are honorees in the Established Faculty category. Mabee's research involves understanding the relationship between the embryonic development of individual organisms and the evolution of species lineages. This synthetic work in evolutionary developmental biology has been achieved by training, research and publication in three related but different fields of biology: evolutionary biology and phylogenetic systematics; molecular developmental biology; and informatics. Morecraft, meanwhile, is a widely-acknowledged expert in structural and functional organization of the cerebral cortex of the brain and nervous system mechanisms underlying motor recovery following brain injury. A member of The U's Sanford School of Medicine faculty since 1991, he has an outstanding publication record with 50 peer reviewed publications published in the top neurology/neuroscience journals and books, and 64 abstracts presented at national and international conventions. His research has been featured in several peer-reviewed journals, including Brain, Journal of Comparative Neurology, Journal of Experimental Neurology, Behavioral Brain Research, Cerebral Cortex, Journal of Neuro-ophthalmology and many more.

Sun is the recipient of the President's Award for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which recognizes accomplishments related to the commercialization of innovative research. Sun's pioneering work in the development of anti-microbial technologies is being brought to market through a licensing agreement with Anti-microbial Technologies Group, a South Dakota-based start-up company that provides commercial finishes and additives for infection protection, odor control, biofilm remediation and therapeutic textiles.

"We are pleased that Dr. Sun is receiving this recognition for his significant work in creating a safe, rechargeable antimicrobial function in materials to kill harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi," said Simon Johnston, CEO of Antimicrobial Technologies Group.  "His recent research provided significant breakthroughs that now allow for the ready commercialization of specific formulations that are not only extremely cost effective but can be applied in typical manufacturing processes.  We intend to provide finishes and additives based on Dr. Sun's research for products ranging from diabetic socks and protective face masks to wall paint that safely kill germs and ultimately improve people's lives."

A reception will follow at 5 p.m. to honor the presenters and award recipients, and to celebrate the breadth and diversity of active research and creative activity at USD. For more information about President's Research Day 2009, or to view more about the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs visit www.usd.edu/research/research-and-sponsored-programs. You can contact the office by calling (605) 677-5370 or e-mail: orsp@usd.edu.

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