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UI awards program honors INI faculty, students

The University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) this week celebrated faculty, staff, and students who have distinguished themselves in the areas of research, scholarship, innovation and mentoring. Among the award winners were two INI faculty members and two students working in INI labs.

McMurrayScholar of the Year: Bob McMurray, Ph.D., professor, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, director, DeLTA Center. This award celebrates nationally recognized recent achievement in outstanding research, scholarly and/or creative activities by tenure- and/or research-clinical-track faculty members within the previous 24-month period. In a letter of support for the award, Richard N. Aslin, Distinguished Research Scientist and Research Professor of Psychology at the University of Connecticut, said McMurray--already a prolific author—has published 17 refereed journal articles just since 2017. Among his key findings is that children and special populations with language deficits or delays are slower to recognize words because of weaker competition and shorter memory spans. Based on his research, McMurray has been awarded four NIH research grants in the past two years, totaling more than $8 million.


Susan Assouline, PhDLeadership in Research: Susan Assouline, PhD, Myron and Jacqueline Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education, professor, Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, College of Education, Director, Belin-Blank Center. The Leadership in Research Award is a lifetime achievement award recognizing research and scholarly accomplishments over a career. In her nomination letter, Megan Foley Nicpon, Associate Director for Research and Clinic in the Belin-Blank Center, said that for 30 years Assouline “has contributed extensively to gifted and talented research,” coauthoring 20 books and reports, securing almost $35 million in grant funding and private gifts, and advocating for talent development services for underrepresented students across Iowa.


Benton PurnellGraduate Research Excellence Award in Life Sciences: Benton Purnell, PhD candidate, College of Medicine Department of Neurology, Gordon Buchanan Lab. Nominator Michael E. Dailey, Associate Professor of Biology and Director of the Carver Center for Imaging, said Purnell has “excelled in every aspect of graduate work, including research funding, publications, presentations, teaching, and service." He also said Purnell's thesis research into understanding how sleep-wake states (circadian rhythms) contribute to a condition known as sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (or SUDEP) has already resulted in significant publications.              


Rikki LaserExcellence in Undergraduate Research Award: Rikki Laser is pursuing a BS in Neuroscience.  She joined the Mark Blumberg lab within the first month of arriving on campus as a freshman.  Laser spends her spare time in the lab, studying the role of myoclonic twitching in the development of primary somatosensory cortex and also in sensorimotor deficits found with autism and primary dystonia. When not in the lab, she advocates for undergraduate research through her involvement as an ICRU Ambassador, an Iowa Biosciences Academy Scholar, a Latham Science Engagement Fellow, a Biology student ambassador, and she’s the Iowa Neuroscience Club’s Founder and President.

Taha GesallaExcellence in Undergraduate Research Award: Taha Gesalla is on a pre-medicine track, completing majors in Biomedical Sciences and Microbiology along with minors in Biology and Arabic.  He currently works with Dr. Dan Tranel in Neuropsychology, focusing on male/female differences in decision-making processes. Gesalla completed 2 of 5 years of medical school in Sudan before coming to the US, and he has already earned Associate of Arts and Associate of Sciences degrees from Des Moines Area Community College. He also has delivered more than ten research presentations based on his multiple projects.


Thursday, May 2, 2019