Brantley, dePamphilis, Huang, Kroll, O’Leary receive Faculty Scholar Medals

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Five University faculty members have received the 2013 Faculty Scholar Medals for Outstanding Achievement.

They are Susan Brantley, professor of geosciences in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, the physical sciences medal; Claude dePamphilis, professor of biology in the Eberly College of Science, the life and health sciences medal; Tony Huang, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics in the College of Engineering, the engineering medal; Judith Kroll, distinguished professor of psychology, linguistics and women’s studies in the College of the Liberal Arts, the social and behavioral sciences medal; and Helen O’Leary, professor of art in the College of Arts and Architecture, the arts and humanities medal.

Established in 1980, the award recognizes scholarly or creative excellence represented by a single contribution or a series of contributions around a coherent theme. A committee of peers reviews nominations and selects candidates.

For the physical sciences, Brantley is recognized for her pioneering work in applying chemical and physical principles to geological processes at the earth’s surface, including weathering and erosion. Her research has had a “profound and transforming impact on the field of geochemistry,” one nominator wrote.

Her recent work has provided a framework for understanding biological and atmospheric weathering reactions in the Critical Zone, the surface region of the planet between the solid earth and the atmosphere that sustains human life. The quantitative reactive transport models that she has developed represent a breakthrough for modeling weathering in the Critical Zone on the geological time scale, a nominator said, and her results have “broad implications” for understanding the role that weathering plays in soil formation, the fate of contaminants and the sequestration of anthropogenic carbon dioxide.

In 2012, she was elected a fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Geochemical Society, the European Association of Geochemistry and the International Association of GeoChemistry and was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

A Penn State faculty member since 1986, Brantley earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Princeton University.

In the life and health sciences, dePamphilis’ research concerns the evolution of polyploidy and evolutionary diversification in plants that he and his colleagues have studied through the Floral Genome Project he coordinates. This work suggested that these ancestral genome duplication events resulted in the evolution of regulatory genes important for seed and flower development and therefore contributed to the eventual dominance of seed plants and, in particular, angiosperms.

Nominators described his research as “remarkable,” “seminal,” “extraordinary” and having “lasting impact” on how scientists think about the evolution of complex traits in plant evolutionary lineages.

His work led to his 2011 publication in the journal Nature that describes the discovery of genome duplication events that preceded the diversification of seed plants and angiosperms. His efforts on the Floral Genome Project have resulted in nearly 100 publications, including several in the top journals in his field.

A Penn State faculty member since 1998, dePamphilis earned a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Georgia.

Huang, the engineering recipient, has achieved the most notable success in the area of acoustofluidics. His recent work on “acoustic tweezers” allows the on-chip, dexterous manipulation of microparticles, cells and organisms with low power, avoiding damage in sensitive biological materials.

One nominator called him the “leading researcher in the nascent field of acoustofluidics,” and another said, “I am sure that we will continue to find that he is one of the most creative engineers of his generation.”

Over the past five years, Huang’s publications have included 94 authored or coauthored papers in journals including Advanced Materials, Nature Reviews in Drug Discovery and the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. He is Focus editor of the journal Lab on a Chip and is an editorial board member of eight other journals.

A Penn State faculty member since 2005, Huang earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Xi’an Jiao Tong University, China, and a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles. He received the 2012 Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the 2011 Penn State Engineering Alumni Society Outstanding Research Award and the 2010 National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award.

Kroll was honored with the social and behavioral sciences medal for her scholarship, especially over the past five years, in the area of second-language acquisition and bilingualism. “Her contributions are particularly impressive in the multifaceted nature of the research,” one nominator said.

She has developed a foundational theoretical model of how language is represented cognitively, together with her students has carried out key empirical research on bilingualism and has complemented these contributions to basic research with work in advancement of women in cognitive sciences.

A nominator said, “Professor Kroll has set the gold standard in her research on bilingualism.” Another noted, “The past five years have seen a remarkable convergence of all of Dr. Kroll’s achievements. Her research expanded into neuroscience methods, making it one of the leading labs in the world investigating the cognitive neuroscience of bilingualism.”

A Penn State faculty member since 1994, Kroll earned a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a doctorate from Brandeis University. She is director of the Penn State Center for Language Science.

For the arts and humanities, O’Leary is recognized for her ability to integrate innovation and theoretical acuity with traditions of memory and handicraft encountered in basic living situations of rural Ireland. One nominator wrote that her work is characterized by a mix of “intelligence, poetic vision, resilience, tactility and insight,” which are then “combined with a deep knowledge of theory and its function in the visual arts.”

Another nominator praised her as a “painter of international significance” and a “startlingly inventive artist,” noting that her paintings “benefit from considerable intellectual ballast and emotional resonance.” She collaborates across both disciplines (as with a current opera project) and cultures (a kite-war project that began in India).

In 2012, she was named a fellow of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, preceded by a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010-11 and a Culturel Irlandaise fellowship/residency in 2010.

Having first taught at Penn State in 1991, O’Leary studied at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, Ireland, and earned bachelor of fine arts and master of fine arts degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Last Updated March 27, 2013