University of South Florida


12 USF Faculty Members Recognized with Outstanding Research Achievement Award

Twelve University of South Florida faculty members whose research has garnered national and international acclaim in fields spanning environmental sciences, business, anthropology, engineering and others will be recognized on Oct. 21 with the 2019 Outstanding Research Achievement Award.

“USF’s reputation for ground-breaking research continues to grow because of the passion of our faculty for discovering new knowledge,” USF President Steven Currall said. “These award recipients are recognized nationally and internationally for their efforts, which benefit our students and the communities we serve.”

The annual awards are selected by the members of the USF System Senate Research Council who review nominations for the award from USF deans, department chairs, and center and institute directors. Each faculty member receives $2,000 with the award in recognition of their achievements for the 2018 calendar year.

The 2019 Outstanding Research Achievement Award winners are:

Jennifer Collins, PhD, Professor
Geosciences, College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Collins is a Professor in the School of Geosciences whose research focuses on weather and climate, in particular hurricanes. Dr. Collins is the President of the West Central Florida Chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and a National Council for the American Association of Geographers (AAG). Dr. Collins recently received the Southeast Division of the AAG Research Award and the AMS Edward N. Lorenz Teaching Excellence Award, in which her research contributions were highlighted in the award dedication: For her dedication integrating the physical and social sciences in her teaching, engagement of students, and encouragement of undergraduate research. She has a “contagious passion.”  In 2018, Dr. Collins served as editor for the book Hurricane Risk published by Springer, and eight articles and book chapters in top-tier journals. Her published research included work on the extremely active 2017 hurricane season; evacuee perception of geophysical hazards; the effects of social connections on evacuation decision making; and hurricane preparedness among university residential assistants and staff. In addition, she was awarded two National Science Foundation grants in 2018 and one Florida Sea Grant.

Jerri Edwards, PhD, Professor
Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Morsani College of Medicine

Dr. Edwards is an internationally regarded expert in cognitive interventions to promote older adults’ independent functioning.  In 2018, Dr. Edwards’ National Institutes of Health federal research funding totaled $4.6 million, resulting in her ranking as the 8th top funded investigator in the field of psychiatry by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research. In 2018, Dr. Edwards served as principal investigator of four grants and co-investigator of one grant. She also published three peer-reviewed journal articles, including serving as the lead author in a systematic review and meta-analysis of useful field of view cognitive training published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, with an impact factor of 8.037.  Dr. Edwards and her team are embarking on the first U.S. large primary dementia prevention trial: Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training - PACT (

Bryanna Fox, PhD, Associate Professor
Criminology and Florida Mental Health Institute, College of Behavioral and
Community Sciences

Dr. Bryanna Fox is an Associate Professor in Criminology. She studies the predictors of criminal behavior and uses this knowledge to develop evidence-based strategies to help law enforcement prevent and solve crimes. In 2018, Dr. Fox authored 12 peer-reviewed articles featured in top-ranked journals including Psychological Bulletin, Law & Society Review, Journal of Criminal Justice, Sexual Abuse, and Crime & Delinquency. She also published a research-based book, two book chapters, and co-authored an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times. Also, she was awarded a $700,000 U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance grant to develop a new strategy to reduce violence and opioid offenses in Pasco County. Dr. Fox was elected Executive Counselor of the Developmental & Life-Course Division of the American Society of Criminology and serves on the editorial board of five prominent journals in her field. In 2018, she was a featured expert on television networks FOX, A&E, NPR, and in various national and international media outlets.

Kathryn Hyer, PhD, MPP, Professor
School of Aging Studies, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences

Dr. Hyer is an international expert on evaluating quality across long-term care settings. Following her October 2017 testimony before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging regarding hospitalizations and mortality outcomes in nursing homes after hurricane evacuations, she received a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine nursing home and assisted living residents’ health outcomes resulting from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Her research included interviews with administrative staff, as well as sophisticated storm tracking and statistical approaches. Dr. Hyer also is the principal investigator on a 2018 U.S. Department of Health Resources and Services Administration grant of nearly $782,000 to enhance the training of the geriatric healthcare workforce. In 2018, she also facilitated grant proposals by junior USF researchers funded by the Donaghue Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Hyer was selected as president of the prestigious Gerontological Society of America for a three-year term beginning in 2018.

John N. Kuhn, PhD, Associate Professor
Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering

Dr. Kuhn’s research focuses on heterogeneous catalysis and chemical reaction engineering applied toward upgrading waste gases, including biogas and carbon dioxide. In addition to several ongoing federally and Florida High Tech Corridor Council-funded projects where he serves as either principal investigator or co-PI, his team was awarded a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) BioEnergy Technology Office grant of more than $1.8 million to lead a team of university, national laboratory, and industry experts to convert biogas to value-added fuels and products. His lab also received ongoing funding from the Hinkley Center for Solid Waste Management in 2018. He led a research team that published nine peer-reviewed articles, including several in journals with an impact factor greater than 10.  He was also the lead researcher on three new patents and gave six invited talks in 2018.

Xiaopeng Li, PhD, Associate Professor
Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Li has established a strong research program in design, synthesis, characterization, and application of supramolecules. In 2018, he published many papers on high impact journals including Nature, Nature Communications, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, Journal of the American Chemical Society, and Angewandte Chemie. Dr. Li and his team were awarded a prestigious five-year RO1 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) worth $1.4 million to develop new antibacterial materials to fight antibiotics resistance. His research will shed light into both antimicrobial materials and supramolecular chemistry field. This year, Dr. Li was awarded the Cram Lehn Pedersen Prize in Supramolecular Chemistry. Each year, there is only one recipient from a worldwide pool of candidates for the prize named in honor of the 1987 Nobel Prize winners and highly respected by chemists worldwide.

Sunil Mithas, PhD, Professor and World Class Scholar
Information Systems and Decision Sciences, Muma College of Business

Dr Mithas is a World Class Scholar and Professor of Information Systems at the Muma College of Business at USF. He is a senior editor of MIS Quarterly and Production and Operations Management, and department editor of Management Business Review. In 2018, he contributed six published or forthcoming articles in the elite University of Texas Dallas and Financial Times 50 lists of business journals. One of his papers in 2018 was named the “Best Conference Paper Runner-Up” award among more than 1,300 submissions at the premier conference in Information Systems. He is one of the "Most Prolific Authors" of MIS Quarterly, a premier journal in information systems area – a designation awarded to less than 1% faculty members who appear on this global elite list of more than 4,000 academic members of the Association for Information Systems. He also ranks among the top two scholars in the world based on his record of publications in MIS Quarterly and Information Systems Research over a three-year period ending in 2018, according to AIS Research Rankings.

Manh-Huong Phan, PhD, Professor and Research Faculty
Physics, College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Phan’s world-leading expertise includes the development of new magnetic materials and sensor devices. In 2018, he published 15 peer-reviewed journal articles including a Nature Nanotechnology paper highlighting the new discovery of room-temperature ferromagnetism in atomically thin van der Waals materials that has the potential to transform the fields of spintronics and quantum computing. In 2018, his research was cited 1,140 times, and he delivered six invited lectures. Dr. Phan was appointed an editor for the Journal of Electronic Materials. He has received a new research grant of $433,792 from VICOSTONE industry and secured a continuing U.S. Department of Energy grant of $445,000. He also received USF’s Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor Award Honorable Mention and The Medal for The Development Cause of Vietnam National University - Hanoi.

Thomas Pluckhahn, PhD, Professor
Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Pluckhahn is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology with a specialty in archaeology of the Southeast U.S. In 2018, he published the book New Histories of Village Life at Crystal River with the University Press of Florida. He also published five peer-reviewed journal articles in 2018, including one in the top-tier journal American Antiquity. His five book chapters for 2018 included contributions to volumes published by Routledge, the University of Alabama Press, and the University Press of Florida. He was awarded a major external award from the National Science Foundation for archaeological research in the Tampa Bay Region, while also continuing as principal investigator of two centers of the Florida Public Archaeology Network.

Amelia Shevenell, PhD, Associate Professor
Geological Oceanography, College of Marine Science

In early 2018, immediately after her latest Antarctic research was published and featured on the cover of Nature, Dr. Shevenell and her PhD student joined the multi-national scientific party of International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 374 to the Ross Sea, Antarctica. The two-month expedition recovered approximatley1.8 kilometers of marine sediment that preserves 20 million years of Antarctic ice sheet evolution. Dr. Shevenell and five international scientists conceived of the $12 million drilling expedition during a 2012 National Science Foundation-funded proposal writing workshop at USF’s College of Marine Science. After the expedition, Dr. Shevenell and her collaborators were awarded $1.2 million in research funds from NSF and the Royal Society of New Zealand to study the Ross Sea records. Also in 2018, Dr. Shevenell and her students published eight high-profile papers in journals, including Nature Geoscience and Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Dr. Shevenell also was elected the Geological Oceanographer Councilor to The Oceanography Society’s governance council by the international oceanographic community.

Nathaniel von der Embse, PhD, NCSP, Associate Professor
School Psychology and Fellow of the Educational Policy Information Center,
College of Education

Dr. von der Embse is an Associate Professor of School Psychology in the College of Education. His research examines effective school mental health practices and policies, including teacher well-being, universal screening for mental health risk, and population-based prevention models. In 2018, Dr. von der Embse received the Lightner-Witmer Early Career Award from Division 16 (School Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, which recognizes an early career scholar who has made distinguished contributions to the field of school psychology. In 2018, he had 11 manuscripts published and six in press in top-tier peer-reviewed journals, including the top three in his field: Journal of School Psychology, School Psychology Quarterly, and School Psychology Review. He has supported his research through securing highly competitive awards from federal agencies. In 2018, he received several federal grants totaling more than $3.5 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Agency (SAMHSA) and the National Institute for Justice (NIJ).

H. Lee Woodcock, PhD, Associate Professor
Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Woodcock’s research is focused on developing and employing computational methodology to solve critical problems at the interface of biophysics, medicine, and/or material science. In 2018, Dr. Woodcock co-led one of the most high-profile scientific efforts of the year (#88 in Altmetric’s most impactful scientific efforts of 2018 in their list of the top 100).  This work, published in PNAS, focused on elucidating, characterizing, and engineering a novel enzyme that biodegrades one of the most common plastics in use today - a major factor in the global plastic pollution problem. In addition to ongoing National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy Small Business Innovation Research grants, Dr. Woodcock received a new four-year NIH R01 award of nearly $1.2 million to develop robust methods for simulating biomolecular systems. In addition to Dr. Woodcock’s publication and funding record in 2018, he was part of a team awarded a patent for developing novel techniques and materials for chelating heavy metals.

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