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Five UNT researchers recognized for work

Profile image for By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer
By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer

The University of North Texas recognized five faculty members this week for their research.

The Office of Research and Economic Development gave the awards during a faculty reception Wednesday.

While UNT has been having a reception for faculty members for many years, it began giving out awards in 2009.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Geoff Gamble, UNT’s vice president for research and economic development. “It’s a way to recognize the top people.”

Learning from researchers makes for a deeper and more enriched learning environment for students, said Gamble, who has been with UNT for about a year.

Nandika D’Souza, a professor of mechanical and energy engineering and materials science and engineering, received the UNT Research Leadership Award. She’s been at UNT for 16 years.

D’Souza’s focus is on renewable materials.

“I’m trying to study how we can get them to function in whatever environment we place them,” she said of the material.

The National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Defense fund her work.

Rebecca Dickstein, professor of biological sciences, received the UNT Teacher Scholar Award.

She was recognized for how well she prepares her students in a complex subject.

Dickstein said she makes herself available to students.

Her research focuses on symbiotic nitrogen fixation, which is how nitrogen is transferred from plants to the food chain.

Melinda Levin, associate professor of radio, television and film, received the UNT Creative Impact Award. She has been at UNT for 17 years.

Levin was recognized for her work in documentary filmmaking. Her documentary River Planet focused on six of the world’s major rivers. It received a Telly Award.

“Most of my films focus on environmental issues and social issues,” Levin said.

She has another film, The New Frontier, Sustainable Ranching in the American West, which was selected for the U.S. Department of State American Documentary Showcase.

John Ruiz, assistant professor of psychology, received the UNT Competitive Funding Award. Ruiz has been at UNT since 2008.

His research looks at how stress influences heart disease.

 “At this point we know it does,” Ruiz said. “The question is how.”

He received $1.63 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which is a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Jincheng Du, associate professor of materials science, received the UNT Early Career Award for Research and Creativity. He came to the university in 2007.

“I’m trying to keep pace,” Du said. His formal training prepared him to build his own research group, he said.

This award is for faculty members in their first 10 years whose research has been outstanding.

Du’s research focuses on computational materials science, using computers to understand the properties of materials.

His work is funded by the National Research Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

The award winners said it was nice to be honored by UNT and their colleagues. They received either $3,000 or $5,000, along with their award.

UNT President Lane Rawlins and Warren Burggren, provost and vice president for academic affairs, spoke during the awards presentation about UNT’s goal of becoming a research university.

Research and scholarship are about change, and it’s the university’s job to prepare students for the changing world, Rawlins said.

What he’s observed about great universities, in his experience, is that they all start with great undergraduate programs, he said.

Burggren said UNT is feeling more and more like a research university.

“We will be undeterred in our goal of becoming a national research university,” he said.

 RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is .