Inaugural Rising Stars and Research Excellence Awards

The College of Sciences is introducing three new awards to recognize the efforts of some of our most accomplished faculty researchers.   The Dean’s Distinguished Researcher Award, presented to a professor, comes with a tablet and the use of a reserved parking space for the next academic year. The Dean’s Rising Star recipients – one assistant professor and one associate professor – each receive a $7,000 research fund.

The following are the inaugural Dean’s Award’s recipients.  The College of Sciences congratulates all three researchers for their exemplary work.

Dr. Timothy Coombs
Dr. Timothy Coombs

Dean’s Distinguished Researcher Award: W. Timothy Coombs, Nicholson School of Communication

Dr. Coombs is one of the world’s leading crisis communication scholars. His is an applied field, and the influence of his work spans both the academic and practitioner realms. His research comprises the dominant theoretical framework for crisis communication. Recent work important to practitioners includes his explanation of how social media is forcing into public view the once-private efforts of corporations to manage crisis risk – and how organizations must respond. His impressive body of work during the award period includes three first authored books, many other publications, invitations to speak worldwide, and, most notably, the 2013 Pathfinder Award, given for lifetime scholarly achievement by the Institute for Public Relations.

Dr. Coombs was happy to receive the Dean’s Distinguished Researcher Award for his research. “I was pleasantly surprised to be notified of winning the award.  There are so many excellent researchers in COS that it is an honor to win any internal competition involving research.  I liked that the Dean wanted to deliver the news personally. We all work very hard at research and it is wonderful to have some recognition of that work.”

Dr. Sarah "Stacy" Barber
Dr. Sarah “Stacy” Barber

Dean’s Rising Star Award: Sarah B. Barber, Department of Anthropology

Dr. Sarah B. Barber is an archaeologist specializing in Mexico and northern Central America. She uses tools ranging from excavation and survey to ground-penetrating radar to geospatial modeling to help understand how ancient civilizations rose to prominence and then collapsed. Her work in Oaxaca, as PI of archaeological studies, has helped reshape the understanding of ancient state development, particularly how early rulers gained and retained adherents. She has been very productive during the award period, including publications and grants from several agencies. Her work on ancient trade routes has been highlighted in a recent Year in Review in American Anthropologist, and has also been used to help predict the routes that refugees are likely to take in times of crisis.

Dr. Barber is excited for the award and the new directions it will allow her to pursue in her research.  “I am particularly excited to use the funds that are part of the award to develop new research.  I am just at the point where I am writing up and wrapping up the research projects I developed during my first six years at UCF, so this award is perfectly timed to give me an opportunity to use my results as a launchpad into new areas of investigation. Within minutes of the phone call during which Dean Johnson informed me I had won, I already had a mental list of a half-dozen uses for the award funds.  This award has opened a lot of exciting doors for my future research.”

Dr. Hojun Song
Dr. Hojun Song

Dean’s Rising Star Award: Hojun Song, Department of Biology

Dr. Song studies evolution and biodiversity in Orthoptera, an order that includes familiar insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids. One recent research interest is the study of locust swarms. Swarming behavior is an example of the way organisms can express different phenotypes in response to changes in environmental conditions. Locusts, for example, transform their color, shape, and behavior in response to changes in local population density. Understanding such phenotypic plasticity is one of the core questions in evolutionary biology. During the award period, Dr. Song has published highly-cited work in top journals, has received an NSF CAREER award, and has seen his work receive considerable recognition including a feature on NSF Discoveries. Dr. Song has also been instrumental in developing the Bug Closet into an internationally recognized natural history collection of over 500,000 specimens.

When asked about his views on the new awards, Dr. Song had this to say, “I am very honored to be awarded the Dean’s Rising Star Award. As an assistant professor, I have tried very hard to establish a strong research program here at UCF and this award shows that the school recognizes and values my research. “

Dean Michael Johnson thanked the RIA Selection and Research committees for helping narrow down the applicant field. He also commends all of the outstanding applicants, a group that demonstrates remarkable research talent and an exceptional commitment to scholarship. He congratulates the award recipients.

For more details on the award, selection process and judging, click here.

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