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April 18, 2011   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Creative Research Medals Distinguished Research Professors

Creative Research Medals Distinguished Research Professors

April 18, 2011

Creative Research Medals
These medals were awarded for outstanding research or creative activity within the past five years that focuses on a single theme identified with UGA. The 2011 recipients are:
Brian Bride, associate professor of social work, who is a leading authority on secondary traumatic stress, a phenomenon in which those close to victims of post-traumatic stress experience the same negative images, thoughts and physical and mental symptoms. The syndrome occurs among a significant number of human services professionals-social workers, substance abuse counselors, child and family case workers-and in families of combat veterans. Though secondary traumatic stress was vaguely recognized for many years, Bride's research brought it front and center. He developed a standardized instrument, the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale, to document the prevalence and severity of secondary traumatic stress, which is associated with lower job satisfaction and high staff turnover.
Prashant Doshi, associate professor of computer science, who is recognized as an expert on a novel computational framework for decision-making in situations with multiple other unknown agents. Called the interactive partially observable Markov decision process or I-POMDP, the framework combines aspects of game and decision theories. It fills an important gap in computer science about how to control agents in multi-agent settings. Doshi developed novel algorithms enabling its mainstream recognition as an expressive and normative computational theory for modeling the processes that drive individual decision making.
Joseph Fu, professor of mathematics, who is a leading authority on integral geometry, the mathematical structure behind the transforms used in CAT scans, MRIs and crystal diffraction that reconstruct three dimensional images from multi-perspective two dimensional data. Integral geometry's goal is to develop relationships between integral quantities, such as the volume of a solid body and the areas of planar slices of the body. Although certain elementary cases had been understood since the 1930s, the much more complicated case of so-called "hermitian integral geometry" resisted solution until 2006, when Fu discovered a mysterious underlying algebraic structure. The full implications were then explained in a series of papers by Fu and his collaborators.
Nancy Manley, professor of genetics, who is a pioneer in research on the thymus, an organ that plays a major role in the immune system and human health. She made critical discoveries about the genetic regulation of its embryonic development and function. Until her work, there was little experimental data on the genetics of thymus organogenesis or the role of cell interactions in its development. She solved provocative questions and generated genetic tools needed to address problems in a rigorous way. Manley has published definitive papers in top journals and is considered a world leader in this field. Her work has provided several breakthroughs, including explaining the roles of Hoxa3, Pax1 and FoxN1 in early thymus development.
Scott Merkle, professor of forest biotechnology, who has been studying chestnut trees for more than 20 years. Over the past five years, his lab has made significant progress in efforts to restore the American chestnut to Eastern forests. Its loss to chestnut blight in the 1920s and 1930s is regarded as the most devastating forest disease in history. Merkle's success with somatic embryogenesis provided the enabling technology to mass propagate American chestnut trees with genetic resistance to the blight for reforestation-and to develop trees with transgene-based resistance to the blight.
Joshua Miller, associate professor of psychology, who studies pathological personalities (i.e., personality disorders). His work over the past five years has focused primarily on two related issues: the use of normative models of personality to understand and assess personality disorders-and to understand and define the variation between narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder. This is important because the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which exerts great influence in psychiatry, psychology and medicine, conceives of these disorders as being either present or absent. Miller's work challenges this paradigm, demonstrating that personality disorders are more accurately conceptualized as problematic configurations of normal personality traits. Miller developed several scoring methods by which dimensional traits are used to assess the severity of various disorders. Such scoring techniques may play a critical role in the next edition of the DSM.

Distinguished Research Professors
The title of Distinguished Research Professor is awarded to faculty who are internationally recognized for their original contributions to knowledge and whose work promises to foster continued creativity in their discipline. This year's recipients include:
Kelly Dawe, professor of plant biology, who has investigated the centromere- kinetochrome complex for nearly two decades. He is best known for his contributions to the understanding of kinetochore structure, and he identified the first plant kinetochore proteins. A kinetochore is the protein structure on chromosomes where the spindle fibers attach during cell division; a centromere is the region of DNA typically found near the middle of a chromosome. Dawe's lab has made significant contributions to understanding how the sites of centromere assembly are determined by specialized histone proteins that contact the DNA.
Walter Hellerstein, professor of law, who is regarded by many as the nation's foremost authority on state and local tax law. His work is so well-respected that it influences both the setting of policy, nationally and internationally, and the thinking of other scholars. Over his 34-year career, he has published 132 articles in law reviews and journals as well as six books. This includes the leading two-volume treatise, State Taxation, regarded by many as the field's bible, and State and Local Taxation, the leading casebook on this subject. His research and writings have been cited in more than
20 separate U.S. Supreme Court decisions on state taxation.
Andrew Herod, professor of geography, who seeks to understand how economies function as geographical entities. He is internationally recognized as one of the most important scholars writing on the global economy and processes of globalization. Herod is perhaps best-known for his work on "labor geography," a field he essentially created in the 1990s that looks at the geographical organization of work and employment. Herod investigates workers' economic and political behavior and how that behavior, in turn, shapes organizations' economic evolution. He has written three research monographs, edited or co-edited five other books and published some
70 refereed journal articles and book chapters.
Peter Smagorinsky, professor of language and literacy education, who is among the world's most authoritative and prolific voices for educational reform. He is a scholar of international renown-in his own field-and in the related fields of cultural psychology, communication, human development, composition and rhetoric. His scholarship seeks not only to refine the theory of human development but also to inform evidence-based practice.
William Whitman, professor of microbiology, who has dedicated his career to the study of free-living prokaryotes, such as bacteria and archaea. His studies have had a major impact in microbial physiology, ecology and taxonomy, but also in evolution and marine science. His early work at UGA pioneered the use of genetics to study methanogenic archaea. His studies on autotrophic CO2 fixation provided insights into the physiology and ecology of methanogens. He helped develop criteria for the taxonomy of all prokaryotes and applied them to the methanogens, proposing the methanogen taxonomy used today, and more recently, other bacteria. He was first author on a groundbreaking 1998 census of the number of prokaryotes on the planet, which demonstrated that their biomass was essentially equal to that of plants and animals.

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