The University of New Orleans has awarded its 2016 Research Recognition Prizes to three faculty members. Leonard Spinu, professor of physics, won the Research Excellence Prize; Irfan Ahmed, assistant professor of computer science, won the Early Career Research Prize; and Wendy Schluchter, professor of biological sciences, won the Competitive Funding Prize.
Spinu joined the physics faculty and the Advanced Materials Research Institute (AMRI) in 2002 as assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 2007 and professor in 2012. He served as director of AMRI from 2012-2015 and is currently a rotating program director of the National Facilities and Instrumentation Program at the National Science Foundation. At the same time, he maintains an active research program with three doctoral students and three undergraduate students. A reviewer for top-tier journals in his field, Spinu’s work has been published more than 140 times. In addition, he has served as primary or co-primary investigator on research projects garnering more than $15 million in awards. He has served as a grant reviewer for many revered organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Office, the Department of Energy and the Science Foundation Ireland.
The Research Excellence Prize is given to faculty members who have achieved the rank of associate professor or professor and who have distinguished themselves in their creative and scholarly activities. Spinu will receive a $10,000 grant for winning the prize.
Irfan Ahmed joined the computer science department as assistant professor in the fall of 2013. His research interests include digital forensics, industrial control system security, malware detection and analysis, cloud computing and the human factor in cybersecurity. Over the past three years, Ahmed has been the primary or co-primary investigator on four awards from the National Science Foundation, two from the Department of Defense, one from the Office of Naval Research and three from the Louisiana Board of Regents. In addition to being a successful researcher, Ahmed is dedicated to teaching. One of Ahmed’s National Science Foundation grants promotes peer instruction in cybersecurity courses to increase student retention and learning, and he initiated peer instruction teaching methodology in cybersecurity courses at UNO.
The Early Career Research Prize is awarded to faculty members who hold the rank of assistant professor and have passed their third year review. Ahmed will receive a $7,500 grant.
Wendy Schluchter joined the sciences faculty in 1998 as assistant professor. She was promoted to associate professor in 2004 and reached the rank of full professor in 2010. Since then she has served as chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. Throughout her time at UNO she has distinguished herself as highly effective in garnering research funding, including the prestigious National Science Foundation Career Award in 2002. Her most recent grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was $1.5 million dollars for increasing recruitment and retention of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students in an urban university. This award has established math and biology advising boot camps for freshmen and STEM learning communities at the freshman and sophomore levels. The grant has also been used to transform math courses to produce an emphasis on interactive teaching and technology and improve core curriculum programming at freshman and sophomore levels in biology.
The Competitive Funding Prize goes to the UNO researcher who has been awarded the highest amount of external funding in the past fiscal year. Schluchter will receive a $10,000 grant.