Written by Jaryn Jones
Front Row (L to R): Hart, Trejos-Castillo, Cogliser and Cañas-Carrell. Back Row (L to R): Texas Tech University President M. Duane Nellis, Shannon, Reid, Vanapalli, Blunk, Huston, TTUHSC President Tedd Mitchell, Pasupathy, Regent Nancy Neal, Zeng, Mirajkar, Urbatsch and Chancellor Kent Hance.
Texas Tech University System Chancellor Kent Hance Friday (Dec. 6) announced recipients of the 13th annual Chancellor’s Council distinguished faculty awards. Recognizing excellence in teaching, research and commercialization, these awards represent the most prestigious honors granted to faculty members throughout the TTU System.
“We are pleased to present these outstanding awards to such esteemed individuals,” Hance said. “These faculty members represent the best of the best and continue to take our universities to new heights.”
For the first time in its history, this year’s list of recipients also includes awards honoring faculty members for commercialization efforts. The Chancellor’s Council awards now include Distinguished Research, Distinguished Teaching and Distinguished Commercialization awards.
Eight faculty members from Texas Tech University, six faculty members from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), two faculty members from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso and two faculty members from Angelo State University received the honors for a total of 18 recipients.
“We are grateful to have such hardworking faculty members on our team,” Hance said. “Their efforts not only benefit our students and research efforts but also advance the reputation of our institutions.”
Each winner receives a commemorative medallion and a $5,000 award. The Chancellor’s Council raises funds for student scholarships and recruitment, faculty awards and support, and other programs of excellence.
The Distinguished Research Awards went to the following individuals:
- Thomas Abbruscato, Ph.D.
Thomas Abbruscato is a professor and chairman of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and serves as associate dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo. Joining the School of Pharmacy in 2000, his research investigates novel therapeutic targets to improve brain recovery after a stroke and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Heart Association. Currently a charter member of the NIH Drug Discovery for the Nervous System Study Section, Abbruscato’s research expertise is utilized in the areas of brain drug discovery and neurodegenerative diseases. Prior to coming to TTUHSC, Abbruscato received his Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Arizona and his postdoctoral research was funded by an individual National Research Service Award from the NIH.
- Guillermo Altenberg, Ph.D.
Guillermo Altenberg is a professor and vice chairman of the Department of Cell Physiology & Molecular Biophysics at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Joining the university in 2007, his research has solved the crystal structure of a nucleotide-binding domain dimer, developed a novel spectroscopic technique and secured more than $4.4 million in external grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and many others. An author of 57 published papers and 13 reviews and book chapters, Altenberg received his Ph.D. and medical degree from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
- Jaclyn E. Cañas-Carrell, Ph.D.
Jaclyn E. Cañas-Carrell is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Toxicology and serves as associate director of the Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) Center for Outreach, Research and Education at Texas Tech University. Among numerous accolades, this year Cañas-Carrell has received the Texas Tech University President’s Excellence in Diversity & Equity Award and the Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship, a tribute to her passion for helping underrepresented minorities succeed in higher education and science. Cañas-Carrell received both her bachelor’s degree in zoology and Ph.D. in environmental toxicology from Texas Tech University and was a postdoctoral research associate at the United States Environmental Protection Agency in Corvallis, Ore.
- Mayukh Dass, Ph.D.
Mayukh Dass is an associate professor of marketing in the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business and serves as program director for the Rawls Business Leadership Program at Texas Tech University. A faculty member at Texas Tech since 2008, Dass received the Beta Gamma Sigma Professor of the Year award in 2013 and has published 19 journal articles in highly ranked journals, as well as four book chapters and 37 conference proceedings. He received his bachelor of engineering in electronics and power from Nagpur University in India, and a master’s degree in artificial intelligence, master’s degree in statistics, and Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Georgia.
- Sandra Huston, Ph.D.
Sandra Huston is an associate professor and director of the Personal Financial Literacy Program in the Department of Personal & Financial Planning at Texas Tech University. Huston led the internationally recognized Financial Literacy Assessment Project from 2007-2009, which developed an instrument to measure financial literacy that is now included as part of a national consumer survey. She has produced 97 scholarly works, including 31 refereed journals, received a total of nearly $280,000 in research funding and has been recognized by 62 national and international academic conferences. In her 2012 article, Measuring Financial Literacy, was selected as the best paper of the year in the highest ranked journal in her field. Huston received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Manitoba in Canada, her master’s degree from the University of Guelph in Canada and her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.
- Ina L. Urbatsch, Ph.D.
Ina L. Urbatsch is an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology & Biochemistry at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Securing nearly $3.8 million in external funding including grants through the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, her research examines transmembrane proteins associated with many human disorders such as cystic fibrosis and multidrug resistance (MDR) of cancers. Based on her expertise in protein engineering and to produce large amounts of recombinant protein in vitro, Urbatsch’s lab has led the way on structural characterization of MDR transporters. Her work has resulted in 41 peer reviewed papers in high impact journals, including in collaboration with the Chang laboratory, a Science paper on the structure of P-Glycoprotein, the first ever structure of a mammalian ATP-binding cassette transporter that has been cited more than 500 times in just four years. Urbatsch joined the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2003 and received her Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany.
- Siva A. Vanapalli, Ph.D.
Siva A. Vanapalli is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas Tech University. With a research focus in the areas of microfluidics, cell biomechanics and worm biology, he has published 35 refereed journal articles and has been involved with 12 successful research proposals totaling $1.88 million, including a prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The impact of his work is reflected in more than 470 citations, an h-index of 14 and multiple invited talks. His laboratory was the first at Texas Tech to receive a Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas grant for cancer research, as well as the first to receive an NSF Innovation-Corps grant to explore commercialization of technology discovered in his lab. Vanapalli received his bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in India, his master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
- Scott C. Williams, Ph.D.
Scott C. Williams is an assistant professor of physics in the College of Sciences at Angelo State University. His research examines the various atomic processes involved in X-ray emissions and the behavior of carbon nanotubes in microwave fields. Since joining Angelo State in 2008, he has secured more than $330,000 in grants and published 13 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, conference proceedings and books. Williams received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas, his master’s degree from the University of Texas at Dallas and his Ph.D. from Texas Christian University.
The Distinguished Teaching Awards went to the following individuals:
- Dan Blunk, M.D.
Dan Blunk is a college master in the Department of Medical Education and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, previously serving as clerkship director in psychiatry for the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso. He played an important role in developing the psychiatry clerkship, and has received seven teaching awards, including Faculty of the Year, Lifetime Teaching Award, Outstanding Faculty Award and Preceptor of the Year Award. In addition, Blunk was inducted into the medical honor society Alpha Omega Alpha, serves as councilor for Alpha Omega Alpha and advisor for the Psychiatric Interest Group, and has co-authored two children’s books with Dr. Marie Leiner on addressing behavioral issues of children through a wellness approach. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, completed his medical training at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, held an internship at Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple and completed his psychiatric residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
- Claudia C. Cogliser, Ph.D.
Claudia C. Cogliser is an associate professor in the Area of Management at the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University. She was inducted into the Texas Tech Teaching Academy in 2013 and named a Texas Tech Integrated Scholar in 2011. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Miami and previously held faculty positions at the University of Oklahoma and Oregon State University. With more than 35 publications featured in scholarly outlets, her teaching style is inspired by theory and service learning. Her research interests include leader-follower relationships, authentic leadership, entrepreneurial orientation, scale development, and multi-level analysis.
- Melanie Hart, Ph.D.
Melanie Hart serves as interim chair of the Department of Health, Exercise & Sport Sciences and associate dean in the College of Arts & Sciences at Texas Tech University, teaching courses in exercise and sport sciences and assisting the university in distance and online education. A member of Phi Kappa Phi, the National Association of Kinesiology in Higher Education and the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, she was inducted into the Texas Tech Teaching Academy in 2008 and has been commended by students for creating an atmosphere where they are free to express opinions and ask questions. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Tech University and earned her Ph.D. in motor behavior from Auburn University.
- Nikita Mirajkar, Ph.D.
Nikita Mirajkar is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences of the School of Pharmacy at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo. Joining the university in 2008, her teaching portfolio covers courses at all levels of pharmacy student education, and she has received six student-nominated awards, including multiple “Teacher of the Year” and “Outstanding Faculty” honors. Mirajkar earned a bachelor’s degree in veterinary sciences and animal husbandry from the Maharashtra Animal & Fisheries Sciences University in India and a Ph.D. in veterinary biomedical sciences from Oklahoma State University.
- Rubini Pasupathy, Ph.D.
Rubini Pasupathy is an assistant professor in the School of Allied Health Sciences at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Joining the university in 2003, she has taught in both undergraduate and graduate programs in the Department of Clinical Administration & Rehabilitation Counseling, receiving the “Teacher of the Year” award from the TTUHSC Student Senate multiple times. A fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives, she has published in the areas of health care policy and delivery, as well as research and clinical self-efficacy among health care professions. Pasupathy received her bachelor’s degree in sociology, her master’s degree in business administration and her Ph.D. in higher education administration from Texas Tech University.
- Brian Shannon, J.D.
Brian Shannon is the Charles “Tex” Thornton Professor of Law at Texas Tech University, serving as a professor in the School of Law since 1988. Shannon serves as the university’s Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) to the NCAA and the Big 12 Conference, where he also serves as president of the national 1A FAR Association. Additionally, he is an appointed board member for StarCare Specialty Health Systems, an elected member of the American Law Institute, a past president of the Lubbock Area Bar Association, and was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to four terms on the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. Shannon received his bachelor’s degree from Angelo State University and his law degree from the University of Texas.
- Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo, Ph.D.
Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo is an associate professor in the Department of Human Development & Family Studies and director of the Graduate Minor in Cross-Cultural Studies and the online master’s in Youth Development Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance programs at Texas Tech University. Among numerous accolades, she was named to the Top 14 Hispanic Professors in Texas in 2013 and received the Texas Tech President’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2012, which is a tribute to her goal of transforming the classroom into a cross-cultural experience. She received a double associate’s degree from the Castella Arts Conservatory in Costa Rica, a double bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University as a Fulbright Student, and went on to pursue both her master’s degree and Ph.D. in human development and family studies from Auburn University.
- James J. Womack, D.M.A.
James J. Womack is an associate professor of music in the College of Liberal & Fine Arts at Angelo State University. Specializing in double-reed instruments, the bassoon and oboe, he not only teaches students to better play their instruments, but also shows them how to make their reeds with a stick of cane. Womack also coaches the university’s Woodwind Quintet, is a founding member of the Mesquite Trio and performs with the San Angelo Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic and San Antonio Symphony. Womack earned his bachelor’s degree from Berea College in Kentucky, his master’s degree from Illinois State University and his doctorate of musical arts from Louisiana State University.
The Distinguished Commercialization Awards went to the following individuals:
- Ted W. Reid, Ph.D.
Ted Reid is a professor and vice chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences and serves as the director of Ocular Cell Biology at the Lubbock campus of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. A founding scientist of the company Selenium, Ltd, Reid co-developed a technology called SeLect that prevents the formation of biofilms and the spread of infectious bacteria when added to polymer surfaces and medical devices. Protected by seven issued patents and multiple U.S. and international patent applications, SeLect helps save lives, offers cellular control across industries and cuts medical and other expenses. With TTUHSC for more than two decades, Reid received his bachelor’s degree from Occidental College in Los Angeles, his master’s degree from the University of Arizona and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles.
- Mingtao Zeng, Ph.D.
Mingtao Zeng is an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine and a principal investigator in the Center of Excellence for Infectious Diseases at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso. An accomplished vaccine immunologist, his research, which has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2002, is developing new-generation vaccines against respiratory pathogens such as influenza viruses and agents important for biodefense. Zeng holds several patent applications related to new vaccines and therapeutics against anthrax, botulism and influenza, and has served as a member of numerous grant review committees for the NIH and Department of Defense. Zeng received his bachelor’s degree from Sichuan University in China, his master’s degree from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Tel Aviv University in Israel.