USU Announces 2024 Faculty Awards Honorees

By Thomas Sorensen | April 5, 2024


2024 Award Winners

On Wednesday, the Office of Research and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost hosted the 2024 Faculty Awards Ceremony. This event recognized Utah State University faculty's research, service and teaching efforts.

The 10 recognized awards and recipients are as follows:

The Cazier Professor Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded to faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in their academic careers at USU for 20 or more years of employment. This year’s recipient is Steve Scheiner, a professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department.

Scheiner is a renowned computational chemist and educator and has been a member of USU’s faculty since 2000. In his teaching role, Scheiner has taught across the curriculum, from introductory chemistry to upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses. Many students have realized their first publication as a result of Scheiner’s mentorship. His service to the profession has been recognized with two awards for excellence.

The D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award is the premiere research recognition at Utah State University; it is awarded each year to a senior faculty member who has produced a significant portion of their research at USU. The 2024 recipient is Rose Qingyang Hu, a professor and associate dean for research in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

Hu is internationally known for her work in 4G and 5G wireless network design, modeling and performance evaluation, and technology standardization. Her distinguished research career encompasses 15 years of academic research and teaching, coupled with a decade of industrial research and development. She has consistently addressed the foremost research challenges in 4G and 5G wireless communication and networks, as well as distributed collaborative AI and machine learning within 5G networks.

The E.G. Peterson Extension Award is the highest recognition available to USU Extension faculty members. It is awarded to those who provide outstanding service to the state of Utah. The 2024 recipient is Dave Francis, the Extension youth development director, Extension professor in the Youth Programs Department, and a 4-H program leader.

Francis has led or created numerous programs and opportunities for youth, such as Junior Master Gardeners, robotics, maker spaces, agricultural and environmental literacy, and others. He has worked with the National 4-H Council, with support from Google, to develop capacity within 4-H for a computer science pathway for 4-H programs across the nation. Francis strives to ensure that kids, even in the most rural areas of Utah, have access to programs and clubs.

The 2024 recipient of the Eldon J. Gardner Teacher of the Year Award is Pedram Jahangiry, a professional practice assistant professor in the Data Analytics and Information Systems Department.

Jahangiry enhances the student experience by incorporating artificial intelligence technologies into his courses. Integrating cutting-edge technology provides more opportunities for his students to prepare for post-college life. Jahangiry also mentors students in real-world collaborations with companies. By prioritizing one-on-one check-ins, he ensures students feel supported and heard. Jahangiry transitioned to academia after working in a research associate position at BlackRock NYC's Financial Modeling Group.

The Faculty Researcher of the Year Award recognizes some of USU's most excellent researchers. The 2024 recipient is Karen Beard, an associate dean for the S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources and a professor in the Department of Wildland Resources and the Ecology Center.

Beard’s research focuses on species interactions and subsequent impacts on ecosystem processes, especially involving non-native species and climate change. She has worked with a wide range of organisms from amphibians to birds to plants to microbes, and is particularly known for her research on the invasive coqui frog in Hawaii. She currently has active research in Alaska, Hawaii, Brazil and Utah. The ultimate goal of her research is to improve decision-making about habitat and species management in the face of global change. She has been awarded several million in external funding over the past three years on several different projects.

The Faculty University Service Award recognizes excellence in service for the governing operations of the university. This year's recipient is Kelly Kopp, a professor and Extension specialist in the Plants, Soils and Climate Department.

Kopp was invited to serve on the search committee for the 17th USU President, a testament to the high regard in which she is considered at Utah State. She has also served on the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and dozens of tenure and promotion advisory committees in addition to her many service commitments to Extension. She is also active with various national and international organizations. Kopp’s research efforts are focused on plant water use efficiency, sustainable turfgrass management, landscape water conservation, and irrigation technologies.

The Outstanding Graduate Mentor of the Year Award recognizes USU mentors who have done a notable job helping their graduate students prepare for a professional career. This year's recipient is Angela Minichiello, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Education.

As an NSF CAREER award recipient, Minichiello has mentored nearly 30 graduate students as their faculty adviser/major professor or supervising committee member. Her students have received numerous awards in both research and teaching at the national, university, college and department levels. In addition, her students have co-authored more than three dozen journal and conference proceedings papers with her and have made more than 50 presentations at professional conferences and events.

The Undergraduate Faculty Mentor of the Year Award recognizes USU mentors who have done an outstanding job helping their undergraduate students prepare for a career. The 2024 recipient is Ronald C. Sims, a professor in the Department of Biological Engineering.

As the instructor of the Biological Engineering capstone course, Sims has connected teams of students with industry partners. Sims is also the faculty mentor of several award-winning student clubs, including the Institute of Biological Engineering, Sustainable Waste-to-Bioproducts Engineering, and the USUSA Aikido Club. He directs numerous undergraduate researchers in his lab, many of whom have also completed graduate degrees with Sims and have earned national awards.

The Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year Award recognizes faculty members who have focused on research mentorship and acted as role models in the field of research. The 2024 recipient is Ryan Berke, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Since 2015, Berke has advised 75 undergraduates who have collectively contributed to more than 100 scholarly papers, technical presentations and poster sessions. More than half of his graduating students have gone on to earn advanced degrees. Under his leadership, the Engineering Undergraduate Research Scholars program has doubled in size, as has the rate of women and nonbinary students in the program. Berke also represents the College of Engineering on USU’s Undergraduate Research Advisory Board and is the Goldwater Scholarship Faculty Mentor.

The Community Engaged Faculty Award recognizes a faculty member who does an excellent job incorporating a community-based style into their teaching or has conducted community-engaged research. This year's awardee is Jayme Walters, an assistant professor and director of the Transforming Communities Institute in the Department of Social Work.

Walters recently founded the USU Community-Engaged Scholar Network and a journal, titled “Transforming Communities,” aimed at community leaders and other stakeholders. She also serves as president of the board of directors of the William A. Burnard Warming Center in Logan. Through research, teaching and service, her work seeks to illuminate and address some of Utah’s social problems, such as homelessness, domestic violence and access to justice.

Those interested in a complete list of the nominees for each award can visit the Faculty Awards Ceremony website.