Faculty Highlights: Recent Awards and Grants








Last term, Drexel University professors were recognized for their scholarly research and prolific academic and professional contributions. This update offers a snapshot of activity courtesy of the Office of the Provost. 

Sponsored Research 

Jina Huh-Yoo, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Information Science at the College of Computing & Informatics, was selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to receive a Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER). A CAREER award is NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. The award provides $599,993 in funding over five years for Huh-Yoo’s project titled “A Platform for Co-Designing and Understanding the Roles of Conversational Artificial Intelligence Systems on Caregiving.” The project aims to advance the state –of –the art of human-centered artificial intelligence, particularly in investigating the roles conversational AI systems can play in supporting caregivers (e.g., parents, guardians, family members) and how domain experts and caregivers can work together to define these roles.

College of Nursing and Health Professions professors Glenn Williams (co-investigator, or Co-I), PhD, assistant dean of health sciences, associate professor, chair of physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences and executive director of the doctor of physical therapy program, and Ben Binder-Markey (Co-I), DPT, assistant professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation science,  with College of Medicine professor Simon Giszter, PhD, (principal investigator, or PI) received $147,000 for their project “Prototype Electrode for Intramuscular Single Unit Myography and Electrodiagnostic.”  

A collaboration between Minjung Shim (PI), PhD, assistant research professor in creative arts therapies, and Co-I Kathleen Fisher, PhD, professor of graduate nursing in the College of Nursing and Health Professions; Arun Ramakrishnan, PhD, director of research labs in the College of Nursing and Health Professions; and Fengqing Zhang, PhD, associate professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences received $96,000 for “At-Home Telehealth Mindfulness-based Dance/Movement Therapy for Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Feasibility Study from Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) 2021 Formula Grant Program and Pennsylvania Department of Health Grant.”

Naomi Goldstein, PhD, professor of psychological and brain sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, was awarded an $846,480 grant from the National Institute of Justice for her project, “Reducing School Violence and Enhancing School Safety: Implementing and Evaluating the Positive School Safety Program for School Climate Staff.” The project explores the role of poorly supervised and unstructured time in regards to school-on-school violence and if skilled supervision can address this. 

Jörn Venderbos, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering, received a five-year, $551,286 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Grant (NSF-CAREER) award from the Condensed Matter and Materials Theory program in the Division of Materials Research. His project, “CAREER: Advancing the Many-body Band Inversion Paradigm for Correlated Quantum Materials,” will allow his group to lay the theoretical groundwork for better understanding the impacts of strong electronic correlations in materials with band inversion.

Brian Wigdahl, PhD, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology in the College of Medicine, received a $704,060 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for “Broad Spectrum HIV Gene Editing Strategies in Peripheral and Brain Reservoirs.” 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded the Dornsife School of Public Health a $300,000 grant to support its scholars and their research as part of their “Transforming Academia for Equity” program. With this support, Dornsife is sustaining and creating the structures, policies and culture changes needed to ensure both the academic success of diverse scholars and the production of scientific knowledge relevant to eliminating health inequities. The project will be led by Scarlett Bellamy, ScD, professor and associate dean for diversity and inclusion, and Reneé H. Moore, PhD, research professor, director of the Biostatistics Scientific Collaboration Center and director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Alina Schnake-Mahl, ScD, assistant research professor in health management and policy in the Urban Health Collaborative and the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Dornsife School of Public Health, was awarded a five-year, $637,000 K01 grant from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study the social and policy determinants of COVID-19 and influenza disparities.

Delia Solomons, PhD, assistant professor in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, received a Henry Moore Foundation grant to support the writing of a catalog of the Venezuelan artist Marisol’s retrospective at the Albert-Knox Gallery in 2023. 

Sriram Balasubramanian (PI), PhD, associate professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, received a five-year, $1.9 million NIH R01 grant for the project titled, “Investigating Injury Mechanisms and Prevention Strategies for Brachial Plexus and Concomitant Spinal Cord Injuries in Neonates.”

Joshua Snyder, PhD, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering in the College of Engineering, received an award from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for his project entitled “Advanced PILBCP Ionomer Composites for Durable Heavy-Duty Proton-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC).” This project presents a strategy to achieve an improvement in performance and efficiency at higher average operational voltages and mitigate many of the sources of active area and activity loss over an extended PEMFC lifetime. 

Kenneth Lau, PhD, professor and associate department head of chemical and biological engineering in the College of Engineering, is the sub-recipient with the University of Delaware for an award from the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) program. The PFI Program offers researchers the opportunity to perform translational research and technology development, catalyze partnerships and accelerate the transition of discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace for societal benefit. Lau’s project, “Next Generation, Conformable, Hybrid Heterojunction Solar Cells,” focuses on the development of high-efficiency, inexpensive, flexible and conformable solar cells based on the hybrid organic-silicon heterojunction technology.

Christian Resick, PhD, associate professor of management in the Bennett S. LeBow College of Business, is a co-investigator on “Taking Science to the Streets: Fire Service Safety Culture Assessment and Training,” a study by the Dornsife School of Public Health made possible through a $1.5 million grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

The School of Education and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University recently received a $1.35 million NIH grant to support early childhood education efforts that focus on science, math, nutrition and literacy skills.

The second round of Museum Innovation Fund grants through the Academy of Natural Sciences selected three new project proposals, including a project by Drexel product design faculty and students in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. Employing a user-centered design process, Westphal students will work with high school students and Academy staff to co-create an innovative pop-up lab module for Water Year designed to engage the public in Philadelphia’s diverse neighborhoods. 

The College of Medicine’s Partnership Comprehensive Care Practice received three years of funding ($857,672 per year) from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program of the Health Resources & Service Administration. These funds help support the practice’s medical providers, case management team, nutritionist and other support services.

Major Gifts, Honors and Recognition

Alexander Fridman, PhD, John A. Nyheim Chair Professor in the College of Engineering and director of the C. J. Nyheim Plasma Institute, received the ISPlasma Prize from the International ISPlasma Society and Applied Physics Society of Japan.

Shintaro Kaido, Vice Provost for Innovation and executive director of Drexel Applied Innovation, appointed to Activate’s Leadership Council. Kaido is one of 50 leaders on the council and will serve a three-year term, during which he will support the development of rising scientists selected as Activate Fellows. 

Robert McCracken Peck, senior fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences, was elected to the American Philosophical Society.

Ebony White, PhD, assistant clinical professor in the Counseling and Family Therapy Department in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, is the 2021 Dr. Judy Lewis Counselors for Social Justice Award recipient. This award recognizes a person (or persons) who has (have) engaged in social justice and advocacy aimed at making the lives of others and/or communities better through empowerment, community organizing and/or systems change through active engagement.

Dave DeMatteo, JD, PhD, professor of psychological and brain sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, received the 2021 Psyche Award for the Most Valuable Paper on Psychological Assessment. The award is presented annually by the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, and his article, “Use of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised in legal contexts: Validity, reliability, admissibility, and evidentiary issues,” published in the Journal of Personality Assessment, was selected from several hundred articles.

Alex Ortega, PhD, professor of health policy in the School of Public Health and director of the Center for Population Health and Community Impact, joined the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Observational Study Monitoring Board for the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos. The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos is a multi-center epidemiologic study in Hispanic/Latino populations to assess the role of acculturation in the prevalence and development of disease and identify factors playing a protective or harmful role in the health of Hispanics/Latinos. 

Jana Hirsch, PHD, assistant research professor in the Urban Health Collaborative in the Dornsife School of Public Health, was recognized through the NIH’s Collaborative Cohort of Cohorts for COVID Research (C4R) as an Early Career Investigator Awardee. Hirsch and colleagues will be analyzing data from over 47,000 American adults to better understand COVID-19 risk and resilience.

Sharon L. Walker, PhD, dean and distinguished professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering, was elected vice chair of the Engineering Deans Council of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). The council is a consortium of deans from all the engineering colleges affiliated with ASEE, representing more than 90 percent of all U.S. engineering deans. Additionally, Dean Walker was elected to the College of Fellows for the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). Election to the AIMBE College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer.

Adam Fontecchio, PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, was elected as the next Director of the Center for the Integration of Research Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), a network of 42 research universities in the United States and Canada that provides evidence-based, forward-thinking professional development to students at the graduate level. 

Andrew Magenau, PhD, assistant professor of materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering, has been appointed as a 2022 Fellow in the Air Force Research Lab Summer Faculty Fellowship Program at AFRL – Materials and Manufacturing. The program is a continuous 8- to 12-week summer program that allows fellows to perform high-quality and meaningful research at Air Force sites. 

A $10 million gift to Drexel from Ron W. Disney, BS ‘72 commerce and engineering, and Kathy Disney includes the second-largest individual gift ever made to the LeBow College of Business. Overall, the gift will promote diversity, equity and inclusion and provide scholarship funds and program support for students from underrepresented backgrounds, including through the creation of funds supporting student advising, cooperative education, need-based scholarships, operational support, research and program innovation.

The Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, housed in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, received $5 million in grants from the family of the late Philip B. Lindy (1930–2013), a generous benefactor of Drexel University, which will significantly further the Lindy Institute’s mission to forge innovative strategies to equitably advance Philadelphia and other cities across the country and globe. The donation, made by Alan, Elaine and Frank Lindy, is intended to support the philanthropic vision and interests of their father and is the latest in several significant gifts to Drexel from two generations of the Lindy family.

The Drexel Food Lab in the College of Nursing and Health Professions received $5,000 from Zoë Pappas, her second $5,000 gift to this fund.

The Pennoni Honors College has received a $275,000 Teagle Implementation Grant for its Program in Civic Foundations for a sequence of courses for a scaled-up cohort of Honors Program freshmen. The Program in Civic Foundations grounds a civic sense of Philadelphia in history, philosophy and social justice. This follows the Teagle Planning Grant received in 2020-21.

Eight College of Medicine faculty members, two alumni, 25 residents and fellows and 50 MD students were inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. Four College of Medicine faculty members, three residents and 27 MD students were inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society.

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