USF Outstanding Research Awards Recognizes 22 The pandemic could not divert USF’s top faculty researchers from making big discoveries that shape our understanding of the past, present and future.

To read a standard web version of this story, click here.

One USF researcher brings dinosaurs to life through augmented reality while a colleague explores the origins of life through planetary chemistry. Another faculty member’s research sounded early alarms about people turning to alcohol amid the stress and fear of the COVID-19 pandemic, while her colleague is the co-founder of the new Center for Justice Research & Policy at USF. And in USF’s Department of Physics, a professor’s discovery holds the potential to revolutionize the Internet of Things.

These are just a few of the faculty research achievements newly recognized with USF’s Outstanding Research Achievement Awards. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s interruptions to campus life in 2020, this year’s awards recognize 22 faculty members – the largest group to date – for their achievements that defied the disruption caused by last year’s shutdown.

“The University of South Florida’s reputation as a top urban-based research university is fueled by our innovative faculty and researchers,” said USF President Rhea Law. “I congratulate each of the outstanding awardees for such a productive year in their work to change lives and shape the future.”

The largest internal recognition of its kind at USF, the annual nomination - based on achievements for the previous calendar year - are submitted by deans, associate deans for research, department chairs and center and institute directors and are reviewed by members of the USF Research Council. Each faculty member receives $2,000 with the award and recognition at an event later in the fall.

Meet the 2021 Awardees

Dr. John Adams

John H. Adams, PhD, FAAAS, FASTMH

Distinguished USF Health Professor and Distinguished University Professor, Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research and the USF Genomics Program

College of Public Health

Dr. Adams is an international expert in malaria research. His research focuses on host‐parasite interactions and improving the understanding of infection and pathogenesis in malaria. His group is actively engaged in vaccine and drug discovery projects. In 2020, he received a National Institutes of Health grant to accelerate vaccine development for vivax malaria, the most prevalent type of malaria outside of the African continent. The project builds upon his group’s successful development of a greatly improved liver culture system for the early infective stages of human malaria parasites.

Learn more about the USF College of Public Health's Center for Global Health and Infectious Disease Research, led by Dr. Adams.

Dr. Ryan Carney

Ryan Carney, PhD, MPH, MBA

Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Biology

College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Carney leads two innovative research programs, one in paleontology and one in epidemiology. In 2020, he was PI of a newly-awarded NSF proposal for more than $900,000 to fight mosquito-borne diseases worldwide using artificial intelligence. A first- and senior-authored paleobiology publication in Scientific Reports on the iconic Archaeopteryx fossil feather received substantial international recognition, including from The New York Times, and ranked in the 99th percentile in global coverage by Altimetric. A second paper describing the automation of mosquito identification using AI, which is crucial to disease-control efforts, has already been cited multiple times. His collaborative research in 2020 resulted in two new invention disclosures with plans for multiple patents. Dr. Carney's dinosaur research was featured in National Geographic, National Geographic Learning's global curriculum, and three international outreach activities with a total viewership of 150,000.

Learn more about how Dr. Carney uses virtual reality to bring dinosaurs back to life in this USF News video. Visit Dr. Carney's website for more videos about his work.

Dr. Hadi Charkhgard

Hadi Charkhgard, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering

College of Engineering

Dr. Charkhgard is an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering and the founder and director of the Multi-Objective Optimization Laboratory. Dr. Charkhgard published nine journal articles in 2020 in highly-ranked journals in operations research. Additionally, he has six journal articles currently under review which were submitted last year. Dr. Charkhgard is the co-PI on a $1 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency working to prevent and control harmful algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee by optimizing the implementation of technologies and practices.

In 2020, Dr. Charkhgard graduated two PhD students, applied for a U.S. Patent for his methodological invention on radiotherapy treatment planning, and submitted a scientific journal article about his invention to Physics in Medicine and Biology, which was published this year.

Dr. George Davis

George Davis, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology

Morsani College of Medicine

Dr. Davis is an internationally recognized leader in the field of blood vessel development and wound repair. He pioneered the use of three-dimensional collagen matrices as a platform for the study of blood vessels in the lab. His work has explained the molecular mechanisms governing capillary development and changes and more recently shed light on how aberrant cell signaling can result in abnormal blood vessels. Healthy communication, or molecular signaling, inside and outside capillaries appears to play a critical role in promoting healthy tissues such as the heart, lungs and liver. Many diseases arise from abnormalities in blood vessels that fail to communicate properly with tissues. Dr. Davis has 151 publications that have been cited 762 times in 2020 alone. He published six peer-reviewed manuscripts in 2020 - four as author and two as co-author - all in outstanding journals. In 2020, Dr. Davis was the PI on three high-level NIH grants.

Watch this USF Health video explaining more about Dr. Davis' research.

Dr. Richard Heller

Richard Heller, PhD

Professor, Department of Medical Engineering

Morsani College of Medicine and College of Engineering

Dr. Heller’s research and innovations are focused on the delivery of plasmid DNA through pulse electric fields to solid tumors, skin, muscle, liver, heart and other tissues. In 2020, he was elected as a Fellow to the National Academy of Inventors. In addition, he continued working on four NIH grants, including three in which he serves as the PI. In 2020, he published four manuscripts in top journals, including one that was in the top 5% of all research outputs as scored by Altmetric. Dr. Heller also had four new U.S. patents issued and three additional patent applications filed. He also was involved in developing a new startup company focused on the technology he invented.

Dr. Mark Jaroszeski

Mark Jaroszeski, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Medical Engineering

Morsani College of Medicine and College of Engineering

Dr. Jaroszeski’s research has focused on biomedical devices using pulsed electric fields for the delivery of genes and drugs, an area of research he pioneered more than three decades ago. In 2020, his efforts were focused on commercializing technology he invented while continuing to work on a recently awarded a high-level NIH grant with a student funded by an NIH Diversity Supplement. He was part of the founding of the startup company EF Therapeutics, Inc., located in the USF incubator. Also in 2020, eight of his USF patents were licensed. He also contributed to the creation of a new general education course on the scientific process and in efforts to better prepare students for research careers.

Dr. Autar Kaw

Autar Kaw, PhD

Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

College of Engineering

Dr. Kaw’s current research focuses on the impact of personalized and active learning on improving student achievement and on developing sustainable and quality open education resources. During 2020, he was a PI and co-PI on three highly competitive National Science Foundation grants. In one of the grant-funded programs, he is leading four universities – USF, Arizona State University, Alabama A&M University, and University of Pittsburgh – in investigating the effectiveness of personalized learning in flipped classrooms and using learner data to design early and successful interventions for struggling students. Additionally, he gave a keynote speech at the January 2020 International Symposium on Fusion of Science & Technology conference in Faridabad, India. Also, last year he published two peer-reviewed articles on personalized engineering education and presented two papers at the American Society for Engineering Education conference on the impact of variable grading, cumulative tests, and practice examinations on improving blended learning. Dr. Kaw has been recognized nationally and internationally for his creative and effective teaching methods reaching engineering and mathematics students around the world via his blog and advocacy for open courseware.

You can learn from Dr. Kaw on his YouTube Channel, Numerical Methods Guy.

Dr. Mehran Mozaffari Kermani

Mehran Mozaffari Kermani, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering

College of Engineering

Dr. Kermani's research focuses on the creation of novel hardware-oriented cyber-security techniques through post-quantum and lightweight cryptography to secure critical cyber infrastructures and computer hardware systems. He is the director of the Cryptographic Engineering and Hardware Security Research Lab, and his research in 2020 resulted in more than $1 million in funding and grants where he served as either PI or co-PI. In 2020, Dr. Kermani and his PhD students published five top journal papers (IEEE/ACM Transactions), three flagship conference papers, and one book chapter on hardware security in Springer Nature. Dr. Kermani has served as the associate editor of three prestigious journals in the field, editing more than 40 journal papers. Moreover, he was the publications chair for two prestigious conferences in the field, the Conference on Computer and Communications Security and IEEE's International Symposium on Hardware Oriented Security and Trust, in 2020.

Dr. Lynn "Marty" Martin

Lynn B. Martin, PhD

Professor, Global Health and Infectious Disease Research Center

College of Public Health

Dr. Martin is an internationally-renowned expert in disease ecology and invasive species. In 2020, he was awarded a $1.5 million, four-year National Science Foundation grant to fund an international project on the molecular genetics of one of the world’s most invasive species, the house sparrow. The research will take him, postdocs and students to Senegal, Vietnam, Norway, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand to study how the sparrows became one of the most broadly distributed animals in the world. He also submitted several other large grant proposals in 2020 which are still pending decisions. In 2020, he and his trainees and collaborators published 10 papers in high-profile journals including American Naturalist, eLife, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and Bioscience. Two of those publications were invited (eLife and Bioscience), and all but two papers included a student or postdoc from his lab. Dr. Martin is also the co-creator and co-host of the popular podcast, Big Biology.

Learn more about Dr. Martin's research in this video from USF Health.

Dr. Sunil Mithas

Sunil Mithas, PhD

Professor and World Class Scholar, School of Information Systems and Management

Muma College of Business

Dr. Mithas is a Senior Editor of MIS Quarterly, and Department Editor of Production and Operations Management, and Management Business Review. In 2020, he contributed nine published or forthcoming articles, of which seven are in highly selective list of business journals considered in the University of Texas at Dallas and Financial Times ranking of top business schools. In the summer of 2020, Dr. Mithas began a three-year assignment as Visiting Professorial Fellow at the School of Information Systems, Technology and Management at the University of New South Wales Sydney’s Business School. Dr. Mithas was the Muma College of Business' first World Class Scholar when he joined the college in 2018.

Listen to Dr. Mithas discuss his 2014 book, Dancing Elephants and Leaping Jaguars: How to Excel, Innovate, and Transform Your Organization the Tata Way, which explores the transformation of the iconic global company to survive through business excellence, globalization and innovation.

Dr. Ivan Oleynik

Ivan Oleynik, PhD

Professor, Department of Physics

College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Oleynik is a fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS), and a fellow of American Physical Society and American Vacuum Society. He is best known for his groundbreaking contributions to the field of computational materials science that led to predictions of new materials phenomena and behavior of matter at extreme conditions. In 2020, Dr. Oleynik was awarded a highly competitive and prestigious Department of Energy Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) grant, which provides access to Summit, the most powerful computer in the world, with computing time equivalent to $3 million. In 2020, he also led an international team of researchers that received another competitive and peer-reviewed award that grants access to Z Pulsed Power Facility at the Sandia National Laboratory, the most powerful radiation source in the world, to perform groundbreaking experiments to uncover properties matter at extreme conditions. The award was the equivalent of $1.2 million.

Dr. Matthew Pasek

Matthew Pasek, PhD

Professor, School of Geosciences

College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Pasek is a planetary scientist whose research focuses on geologic environments for the origin of life on the earth. He recently received a highly selective Ideas Challenge prize from the Templeton Foundation for work that advances “the study of goal-seeking phenomena in nature”, related to his work in origins science. Dr. Pasek also authored the article Thermodynamics of Prebiotic Phosphorylation” in Chemical Reviews, which has the highest impact factor of all chemistry journals. Additionally, Dr. Pasek published six more papers in 2020 and had two other papers accepted for publication. This work is in addition to ongoing NASA and NSF grants totaling more than $1.6 million over three years. Dr. Pasek’s expertise is routinely quoted in leading publications such as Nature and The New York Times.

Follow along with Dr. Pasek on a field trip for a USF's Geosciences course on the chemical behavior of groundwater.

Dr. Christopher Passaglia

Christopher Passaglia, PhD

Professor, Department of Medical Engineering

Morsani College of Medicine and College of Engineering

Dr. Passaglia investigates how the eyes communicate visual information to the brain in both normal and diseased conditions in his Occular Nueroscience & Neuroengineering Lab. He uses his findings to engineer new technologies for monitoring and treating ocular disorders. In 2020, he published five papers in top journals, such as Scientific Reports and the Journal of Physiology, that were highlighted by vision experts, covered by national media outlets, and featured on the National Eye Institute website. Additionally, Dr. Passaglia was awarded two high-level NIH grants in 2020 totaling approximately $2 million, one as co-investigator examining the effectiveness of assorted drug cocktails at promoting optic nerve regeneration and the other as a PI examining pressure fluctuations in normal and glaucomatous eyes and their effect on optic nerve health and function. He was issued two U.S. patents in 2020 based on devices that his lab created for measuring and controlling pressure within the eye or other organs.

Dr. Manh-Huong Phan

Manh-Huong Phan, PhD

Professor and Director of Advanced Materials and Sensors Laboratory

Department of Physics

College of Arts and Sciences

In 2020, Dr. Phan published 23 peer-reviewed ISI papers in top-ranked journals, including Advanced Materials, Advanced Science, and Materials Horizons, highlighting the new discoveries of atomically thin quantum magnetic materials and the Giant spin-Seebeck Effect, an interaction that allows heat to move magnetic information, that will potentially revolutionize quantum information technology and the Internet of Things. During 2020, he was one of the most highly cited researchers in his field, with more than 1,600 citations, and was featured in the list of the World's Top 2 Percent Scientists. As the managing editor, Dr. Phan successfully led the Journal of Science-Advanced Materials and Devices to achieve its first high impact factor of 3.8 in 2020. He has secured a continuing Department of Energy grant of $563,247 to exploit novel nanomaterials for spintronics. In 2020, he was selected for an Honorary Doctorate Degree Award by Vietnam National University - Hanoi.

Watch a 2020 talk from Dr. Phan on his research on new classes of atomically thin van der Waals materials for quantum spintronics and computation.

Dr. Lindsey Rodriguez

Lindsey Rodriguez, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology

College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Rodriguez’ research focuses on the important role that close personal and romantic relationships play in the causes, development and maintenance of substance abuse disorders and in developing and evaluating interventions for addictive behaviors. In 2020, she published 20 peer-reviewed manuscripts in high-impact journals. Her research on alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic received news coverage from several outlets, including NBC News, the Tampa Bay Times, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism director’s webinar on COVID-19 and alcohol use, the American Heart Association, and the 2Scientists podcast, among others. Dr. Rodriguez was co-investigator on four new grants totaling $200,000 in 2020. She is an action editor for Addiction Research and Theory and the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. She presented at eight symposia and 18 posters. She also continued her funded work on three grants from the NIAAA focusing on reducing hazardous alcohol use.

Dr. Rodriguez discusses her work in this 2018 video from her selection for a USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Faculty Research Award.

Dr. Brad Seibel

Brad Seibel, PhD

Professor, Comparative Environmental Physiology

College of Marine Science

In 2020, Dr. Seibel investigated the response of marine animals to ocean warming and deoxygenation. He published a significant discovery on the novel quantitative relationship between the oxygen and temperature sensitivities of marine animals that had gone unrecognized, despite nearly a century of study. He used this relationship to determine whether a habitat is metabolically available and how it will shift with a changing climate. His work precisely measures the decrement in metabolism and the scope available for growth and reproduction with declining oxygen and increasing temperature. His findings were used to publish a new method for determining oxygen supply capacity in animals and led to new investigations of other marine species and ecotypes, such as ram ventilation in sharks, extreme temperature sensitivity in vertical migrators, gill development in larval fishes, and the success of invasive lionfishes. Dr. Seibel published in Nature and additionally is investigating bioluminescence, exercise physiology, and the effects of ocean acidification in marine animals with funding from NSF, the Office of Naval Research and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Watch Dr. Seibel discuss his research on the impact of climate change on marine species.

Dr. Patriann Smith

Patriann Smith, PhD

Associate Professor, Language, Literacy, Ed.D., Exceptional Education & Physical Education

College of Education

Dr. Smith pursues a transdisciplinary research agenda situated at the intersection of linguistics, immigration and migration, and race in literacy education. She advances a cross-cultural, cross-racial and cross-linguistic framework for literacy and language instruction and assessment for Black immigrant students and educators. In 2020, Dr. Smith published 15 refereed articles including one in the American Educational Research Journal and another in Reading Research Quarterly, the leading global journal in literacy. In 2020, she received contracts from Cambridge University Press and Teachers College Press for sole-authored and co-authored books, and was featured in media outlets and authored blog posts for the London Society for Economics United States Association for Public Policy. In 2020, Dr. Smith was elected to the Board of Directors of the national Literacy Research Association and was a co-presenter of the report, “Advancing Anti-Racism in Literacy Research”, commissioned by LRA. Earlier this year, Dr. Smith was awarded a three-year, $3.6 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development to partner with the University of the West Indies Cave Hill in Barbados in creating an educational research center to help support decision making and policy in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

In this 2016 clip from the Literacy Research Association's 66th Annual Conference Interviews, Dr. Smith, then a Texas Tech faculty member, shares the motivation behind her work with immigrant students and their teachers. Dr. Smith was elected to the LRA Board of Directors in 2020.

Dr. Robert Tykot

Robert H. Tykot, PhD

Professor, Department of Anthropology

College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Tykot is an archaeologist who studies the early history of Mediterranean civilizations. In 2020, Dr. Tykot had 10 formal publications (three as first or sole author), four technical reports, and eight published abstracts. One of his works, a major article on the chemical analysis of more than 1,000 obsidian artifacts from 10 archaeological sites on Ustica, a small Italian island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, is highly significant because it demonstrates the open-sea, long distance maritime travel as far back as 6000 BCE. His studies of ceramic artifacts, copper-based metals, marble, human diet, and radiocarbon dating were published in nine other articles. Dr. Tykot received funding in 2020 as the PI from the Archaeological Institute of America / National Endowment of the Humanities for a project focusing on the Central Po Valley, Italy; and as senior researcher from the National Science Foundation focusing on the Horn of Africa. He is editor-in-chief of Science and Technology of Archaeological Research and on the editorial board of nine other international journals.

Dr. Tykot presents his work on isotopes and ancient diet in Italy to the European Association of Archaeologists in 2020.

Dr. Edelyn Vernoa

Edelyn Verona, PhD

Professor, Department of Psychology

College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Verona's research focuses on the intersections of psychology and crime. She studies biosocial risk factors, violence risk and prevention, and evidence-based interventions to reduce crime and incarceration. In 2020, Dr. Verona published or had accepted two book chapters and seven articles in top-ranked journals such as Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Personality Disorders: Theory, Research & Treatment, and the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Her articles have been cited more than 5,000 times, including 450 citations in 2020. In 2020, she secured $1.2 million of funding from the National Institute of Justice to implement and evaluate interventions in a county jail; co-authored an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, and was invited to join the Tampa Police Department’s Community Advisory Board and the American Psychological Association’s Commission on Accreditation. She recently co-founded the Center for Justice Research & Policy at USF, the first of its kind in Florida.

Learn more about the launch of the interdisciplinary Center for Justice Research and Policy, dedicated to serving Tampa Bay as the major training and knowledge hub for issues related to social and criminal justice.

Dr. Christian Wells

Christian Wells, PhD

Professor, Department of Anthropology

College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Wells is the director of USF’s Center for Brownfields Research and Redevelopment and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, recognized for his research aimed at improving human-environmental health outcomes through the redevelopment of underserved urban communities. In 2020, he partnered with the CDC of Tampa in a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create an environmental workforce development and job training program for residents of East Tampa. This grant was the only one awarded in Florida in 2020 and the first ever awarded to a partnership with a Florida university. The program is currently training 60 residents in environmental remediation skills who will be placed in full-time jobs by the end of 2021. This project is an outgrowth of his existing interdisciplinary collaboration with USF environmental engineers in which he serves as co-PI of a $1.9 million NSF CRISP (Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes) study of infrastructure in Tampa.

Watch how Dr. Wells worked with the University Area Community Development Corp., to turn a seven-acre abandoned property into Harvest Hope Park.

Dr. H. Lee Woodcock

Henry Lee Woodcock, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry

College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. H. Lee Woodcock’s research is focused on developing and employing computational methodology to solve critical problems where biophysics, medicine, and/or material science meets. In 2020, Dr. Woodcock co-led one of the most high-profile scientific efforts of the year in developing a new method to breakdown plastics that pollute the world. Listed as #39 in Altmetric’s most impactful scientific efforts of 2020, Listed as #39 in Altmetric’s most impactful scientific efforts of 2020, the engineered cocktail of enzymes can digest plastic up to six times faster than previous efforts. The two combined enzymes – PETase and MHETase – are described as “two Pac-men joined by a piece of string,” and provide new hope for tackling society’s global plastic waste problem. Published in PNAS, the discovery was covered by the world-wide media ranging from The New York Times, the BBC, CNN and many more. In addition to ongoing NIH and U.S. Department of Energy grants, Dr. Woodcock is in line to receive two new NIH grants for a combined total of more than $2 million.

Watch Dr. Woodcock explain the science of plastic-eating enzymes in this interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Dr. Sarah Yuan

Sarah Y. Yuan, MD, PhD

Professor and Chair, Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology

Morsani College of Medicine

Dr. Yuan is an internationally recognized leader in microvascular inflammation. Her discoveries have significantly advanced our understanding of the molecular regulation of vascular wall permeability and how inflammation or injury triggers blood leakage, ultimately leading to tissue dysfunction and organ failure. This work has been fundamentally transformative for a wide spectrum of disorders, from sepsis to atherosclerosis and diabetes. Dr. Yuan’s work has been frequently cited by the researchers worldwide - 241 times in 2020 alone. She had eight senior author publications in 2020, all in outstanding journals. In 2020, she was awarded the prestigious NHLBI Outstanding Investigator Award. This award will provide an additional $6.25 million in funding over the next seven years. Additionally, she received the 2020 Microcirculatory Society Landis Award recognizing her seminal contributions to the field of vascular biology.