Four UNL faculty receive university-wide honors

Four UNL faculty receive university-wide honors

Four UNL faculty earned the University of Nebraska's most prestigious awards for research, creative activity, teaching and engagement.

Those earning the honors for UNL are Martha Mamo, professor of agronomy; Charles Wood, professor and director of the Nebraska Center for Virology; Stephen Reichenbach, professor of computer science and engineering; and Michael Epstein, professor of special education and director of the Center for Child and Family Well-Being.

The university-wide awards, announced March 25, recognize faculty whose work has had a strong impact on students, the university and the state.

“Faculty are the University of Nebraska’s greatest assets. Daily I am struck by the great work that our faculty members are doing to educate our students, conduct important research, and engage with Nebraskans and people around the world,” said James Linder, NU's interim president. “I am honored to recognize some of the outstanding achievements of our faculty, and I thank them for all that they do. They are a key reason why the University of Nebraska enjoys such impressive momentum today.”

Overall, six of the honors were awarded in three categories to University of Nebraska faculty. The awards will be presented during a luncheon in May.

Mamo received the Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award. The OTICA recognizes individual faculty who have demonstrated meritorious and sustained records of excellence and creativity in teaching.

Mamo's courses in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources have been credited with inspiring student interest in soil sciences. Among colleagues, Mamo is known as an educator willing to share teaching tips that lead to changes in other faculty classrooms.

She is also a successful researcher, having secured funding for studies on sorghum production systems in Africa and she co-developed a global food security course.

Mamo teaches instructional efforts with farmers in Ethiopia and is currently developing online lessons in earth and environmental sciences.

Wood received the Outstanding Research and Creative Activity award. The ORCA recognizes faculty for outstanding research or creative activity of national or international significance.

Wood has spent his career driving innovations in HIV/AIDS research. His many studies have led to new prevention and management efforts, and new treatment methods that suppress the virus. Wood also founded a new research center, the Nebraska Center for Virology, a unique collaboration between UNL, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University.

Wood is the lead investigator on a number of projects supported by millions in competitive grant funding, making him one of the highest-funded investigators at UNL.

Most importantly, Wood ensures his research is accessible to the global community. He trains Chinese and Zambian personnel and develops healthcare infrastructure in those countries, helping to slow transmission and minimizing the damage of AIDS in Africa and Asia.

Reichenbach and Epstein each received an Innovation, Development and Engagement Award. The IDEA recognizes faculty who have extended academic expertise beyond the boundaries of the university in ways that have enriched the broader community.

In a previous career as a teacher, Reichenbach gained exposure to early personal desktop computers and was quickly hooked on computer science. He co-founded Internet Nebraska Corp., which offering high-speed Internet connections to Nebraskans. The company grew from 20 subscribers to more than 2,100 in less than two years, and is still the oldest and largest internet service provider based in the state.

He also founded the software company GC Image LLC. Researchers around the world have published more than 100 scholarly journal papers detailing findings enabled by GC Image software.

Reichenbach serves as a role model for colleagues interested in pursuing collaborative research or developing university-based spin-off companies. Graduate students supervised by Reichenbach have accepted position in government, academia and at leading companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google.

Epstein has dedicated his 15 years at UNL to improving the lives of children with behavioral and mental health disorders.

His research led to a major shift in the field of child mental health. Treatment is now administered by focusing on a child’s strengths, while narrowing the focus on their deficits.

Epstein’s strength-based approach combatted issues of negative clinician bias. The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences then asked Epstein to guide the development of a “what works” guide that focused on reducing problem behavior in the classroom. It is now the most downloaded practice guide produced by the department.

Epstein also initiated the Center for Child and Family Well-Being, a partnership between UNL and the Boys Town National Research Institute in Omaha.

Overall, UNL earned five of the seven 2015 university-wide honors. The fifth, the University-wide Departmental Teaching Award, went to UNL's Department of Entomology. The honor was announced March 10.

Other 2015 university-wide award winners include:

OTICA — Dr. Chandrakanth Are, vice chair of education for the Department of Surgery, associate professor of surgical oncology, and program director for general surgery residence at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

ORCA — Dr. Wayne Fisher, professor of behavioral research and director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, UNMC.

For more information about the awards, go to http://go.unl.edu/khxj.