Baylor Faculty Earn Four NSF CAREER Development Awards
By Blake Thomas, Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Baylor University
WACO, Texas (June 25, 2020) – Baylor University’s drive toward Research 1 (R1) status received a major boost this spring as four faculty members earned prestigious CAREER development awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grants represent the largest number of CAREER awards earned by Baylor faculty in a single semester and nearly doubled the University’s total number of active CAREER awards to nine.
NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program describes award recipients as “early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” These highly sought-after awards provide longer-term funding than many standard research grants, giving recipients the freedom to take their research in new directions. In addition to funding research projects with high scientific merit, NSF CAREER awards also support outreach activities that communicate the importance of the work to broad audiences throughout the community.
Baylor’s four spring 2020 NSF CAREER award recipients are:
Kenneth Befus, Ph.D., an assistant professor of geosciences in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, studies volcanic processes. He will be applying techniques previously used on volcanic rocks to gemstones. The analysis is aimed at determining the extent to which properties of crystals within the stones reveal new information about the geologic processes that occurred at the time of the stones’ formation.
Elyssia Gallagher, Ph.D., an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, is an analytical chemist who studies biomolecules called glycans. She will be seeking new methods to characterize and analyze molecules that impact the body’s ability to resist infection from viruses and bacteria.
Stanley Ling, Ph.D., an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, is working to develop improved modeling techniques for fluid spray formations. The improved models should reduce the computing power necessary to analyze the way fluids behave when they are sprayed in applications like fuel-injected engines.
Michael Scullin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience in the College of Arts & Sciences, is studying the way in which sleep habits affect college students’ performance in STEM courses. His research is aimed at determining the extent to which moderate sleep reductions affect cognition and stress, and designing interventions that encourage students to prioritize healthy sleep.
“It’s difficult to overstate the impact of early career grants like these for a university like Baylor that aspires to achieve R1 status,” said Kevin Chambliss, Ph.D., Baylor’s vice provost for research. “It is critical that we secure significant external investment in our faculty’s research, but the benefits extend far beyond these specific recipients and their departments. Career development grants raise the profile of the entire institution, helping us to attract even more top faculty, graduate and undergraduate students.”
Baylor University’s Illuminate strategic plan charts Baylor’s course to become an R1/Tier 1 research university. As the University intentionally focuses on cultivating research marked by quality, visibility and impact, research projects and external funding awards like the CAREER grants advance the Baylor mission and elevate the University further towards its R1 goals.
“Funding from external grants is the most important metric for Baylor to attend to right now to accelerate reaching our R1 aspirations,” said Baylor Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D. “These awards provide honorees with multi-year funding for their research, enabling them to support undergraduate and graduate students working in their laboratories. There is also a kind of prestige that goes along with a career grant because it signals that an external funding agency has selected them as someone they see as a role model teacher-scholar.”
Perhaps most significant about the awards, Brickhouse said, is the diversity of types of research represented in the projects.
“Some of this research is very focused on solving practical problems, while others are doing broader research. Both are important. What they all have in common, however, is their strong inclusion of students in their research programs and their stellar performances in both the classroom and the lab,” she said.
For more information about Baylor research and the University’s R1 aspirations, please visit the Baylor research website at www.baylor.edu/research..
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT THE COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and eight academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit baylor.edu/artsandsciences.
ABOUT THE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTER SCIENCE AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
In 2020, Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) is celebrating 25 years of preparing its students to be innovators for worldwide impact by training graduates for professional practice and responsible leadership with a Christian view. Students can choose from majors including bioinformatics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, general engineering and mechanical engineering. ECS also offers graduate programs in all areas of study within the School. We stand out from the crowd through Christian commitment, a strong community, expert accessibility, leading practical experience and teamwork. Visit baylor.edu/ecs to learn more and follow on Facebook at facebook.com/BaylorECS and on Instagram at @Baylor_ECS.
ABOUT THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PROVOST FOR RESEARCH AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) supports faculty members from all academic units in their research and scholarship. The office provides pre- and post-award services for grants and contracts, facilitates Industry partnerships and collaborative agreements with external entities, manages compliance oversight, provides assistance with intellectual property and technology transfer, and offers marketing and communication support for Baylor research.
The OVPR also manages and operates the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), a three-story, 330,000-square-foot facility focused on interdisciplinary/international research, industry/university collaborations, business incubation/acceleration/commercialization, advanced workforce training, and STEM educational research and outreach.