Six KSU professors honored with research awards


Grant McGimpsey, vice president of Research and Sponsored Programs, left, stands with the 2012 Kent State University Outstanding Research and Scholar Award recipients John Gunstad, Kenneth Bindas, Thomas Janson, Carmen Almasan, Antal Jakli and Laura Leff Wednesday March 28. This awards ceremony was to congratulate these faculty members for their notable scholary contributions to their fields of study at Kent State. Photo by Grace Jelinek.

Carrie Blazina

Kent State presented the 2012 Outstanding Research and Scholar Awards to six of its top professors at a ceremony Wednesday evening.

The six winners, physics professor Carmen Almasan; history department chair Kenneth Bindas; associate psychology professor John Gunstad; Antal Jakli, associate chemical physics professor; music professor Thomas Janson and biological sciences professor Laura Leff, each received a glass award and $1,500.

W. Grant McGimpsey, vice president of research and sponsored programs, began the ceremony by explaining the process of selecting the winners. He said 25 people were nominated and through a difficult selection process they were whittled down to the six winners.

“I have to say that I saw all the nominees’ nomination packages, and it was an extremely, extremely difficult decision to make,” he said. “Coming here as the VP for research, I’m really excited to see the amount and level of scholarship and research that’s going on at the university, and we should all be proud of that.”

Tim Moerland, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, congratulated the five winners from his college.

“This is one of the best parts of one of the best jobs there is, is being able to live vicariously through the success of people like this…This is the type of event that truly warms the dark, icy recesses of a dean’s heart,” he joked.

Each professor brings a very different kind of research to the table, but McGimpsey said a common theme among all the winners was the high quality and impact of the research.

Carmen Almasan: Almasan’s research, according to a Kent State press release, centers around “experimental low-temperature condensed matter physics” and superconductivity, which has practical application in the fields like medicine, energy and transportation. She has authored approximately 90 peer-reviewed publications.

Upon receiving her award, Almasan thanked her colleagues and department, and especially thanked her students.

“I learn every day from each one of them,” she said.

Kenneth Bindas: Bindas’ research looks mostly at the Depression and 1930s life, but he has also made a documentary about Northern segregation that aired on PBS and produced a play based on oral histories of the May 4 shootings.

Bindas thanked his colleagues at the Trumbull campus, where he worked before coming to the main campus, the dean, his department, family and “all of you who show up and continue to do research.”

John Gunstad: Gunstad has studied obesity, environmental stressors, cardiovascular disease and the effects of aging on neurocognitive functioning. The press release says he is the author of approximately 80 journal articles and is “a principal investigator on several active National Institutes of Health grants totaling nearly $8 million.”

Gunstad thanked his colleagues and department when he received his award, and one additional person.

“Most importantly, I have to thank my wife for putting up with all the bad ideas that allow some of the good ideas to shine through,” he said.

Antal Jakli: Jakli is a member of the Liquid Crystal Institute staff and is “one of the world’s pre-eminent experts” on ferroelectric liquid crystals and compounds having a bent-core shape, the press release said. He has authored 159 articles and has a National Science Foundation Grant.

Jakli promised not to use up his two minutes and began by just saying “thank you” and playfully putting away his “speech,” but continued on to thank his colleagues, family and the departments he works with.

Thomas Janson: Janson is a music composition and theory professor whose works have been performed in centers of music like the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris and have been aired nationwide on NPR. In addition to numerous awards, he has had faculty research grants here at Kent State and at the University of Pittsburgh, his previous employer.

Janson said as a former Faculty Senate chair who is used to speeches, he would use up all the time allotted for him to talk. He began by naming a number of the places his music has been performed, but said his “most thrilling” performance was a bit closer to home — a performance of his composition “Visions of the Omega” at Kent State in 2010.

“To be recognized and appreciated at home is the best compliment a composer can receive,” he said. “ …Today’s recognition truly acknowledges the importance of the arts on our campuses and our communities.”

Laura Leff: Leff’s research focuses on aquatic ecosystems, especially the bacterial ecology of streams and how organisms respond to their environments. The press release says she has written nearly 100 papers and has brought $5 million in funding to Kent State for student training and scholarship.

Leff accepted her award by thanking some of the people in her field who tend to work more behind the scenes.

“I really want to thank all of those hard-working people in the labs that endure the seasickness, and the leeches, the freezing cold temperatures, the 100-degree weather…None of [my accomplishments] would be possible without the guys in the lab,” she said.

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].