The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents recently announced the winners of this year's Regents' Awards, granted to researchers and advisers across the state's eight institutions who demonstrate excellence in both research and education. Three University of Nevada, Reno faculty members were awarded this year, showcasing the important research and educational value found at the University. University of Nevada, Reno faculty members have been awarded the Regents' Researcher Award and Rising Researcher Award for the past three years, and the Academic Advisor Award for the past two.
Faramarz Gordaninejad: Regents' Researcher Award
Mechanical Engineering Foundation Professor Faramarz Gordaninejad has been at the University of Nevada, Reno for 28 years, is a leading expert in his field and the recipient of the 2012 Regents' Researcher Award. Since joining the University in 1984, Gordaninejad has become one of the world's leading experts in the field of "smart fluids and flexible solids," which can change their properties in milliseconds under application of a magnetic field. Such materials are used in cars to increase safety and comfort, he said.
"The main effort has been on fundamental understanding of smart materials' behavior and the development of smart systems, which can control damping and stiffness properties of variety of land vehicles, mechanical systems and structures in order to reduce shock and vibration, and increase safety," Gordaninejad said.
Gordaninejad received his doctorate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1983. He has authored nearly 200 scholarly publications and has 14 granted patents. Gordaninejad has also mentored more than 50 graduate students and 15 postdoctoral fellows/visiting scholars during his academic career at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Qizhen Li: Rising Researcher Award
Although Qizhen Li is a relative newcomer to the University of Nevada, Reno, she has wasted no time in establishing herself as one of the best researchers in the country, as evidenced by her recipience of the 2011 NSHE Rising Researcher Award. Li received her doctorate degree in material science and engineering from the Ohio State University in 2004, and joined the University of Nevada, Reno in 2006. Since then, Li has been awarded more than $1.6 million from federal agencies including Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and NASA.
Last spring, Li was awarded more than $500,000 from the National Science Foundation to develop, study and experiment with magnesium-based nanoporous materials. Currently, Li is working on two federally funded research projects involving magnesium-based advanced lightweight structures and materials, which could be used for various structural, energy, and bio-applications.
"The desire to work with magnesium particularly comes from its light weight, biocompatibility and biodegradability," Li said.
Cynthia Birk: Regents' Academic Advisors Award
Cynthia Birk, a lecturer and academic advisor in the University's College of Business, is one of this year's recipients of the Regents' Academic Advisor Award. Birk began advising students in 1998, and believes that her role as an advisor isn't limited to helping students pick classes. For Birk, the advising and mentoring function she performs includes recruitment, orienting students to the major, career counseling and professional networking. Birk said she receives many calls from former students looking for advice on career prospects or updating her on their lives post-graduation.
Birk obtained her bachelor's of science degree in industrial administration at Iowa State University, and a master's of arts in teaching degree in business administration and a master's in accounting at the University of Iowa. She began working as a lecturer at UNLV and moved to the University of Nevada, Reno two years later, becoming an associate professor in 1994. Birk spearheaded the creation of an Accounting Advisory Board, served on Faculty Senate and chaired the University Courses and Curricula from 2007-2011.