Career Development Awards Go to Seven Junior Faculty

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Professorships will support research ranging from education to technology and nanomaterials

by Joel Brown, BU Today

2017 Career Development Award winners (from left): Travis Bristol, Daniella Kupor, Rory Van Loo, Allyson Sgro, Xi Ling, Miloš Popović, and Emily Whiting. Photos by Cydney Scott and Jackie Ricciardi
2017 Career Development Award winners (from left): Travis Bristol, Daniella Kupor, Rory Van Loo, Allyson Sgro, Xi Ling, Miloš Popović, and Emily Whiting. Photos by Cydney Scott and Jackie Ricciardi

Since arriving at BU a year ago, Travis Bristol, a School of Education assistant professor of curriculum and teaching, has been immersed in teaching and in researching the roles of race and gender in education, particularly policies and practices aimed at attracting, supporting, and retaining teachers of color. A former high school English teacher in New York City public schools, Bristol has just been awarded a Peter Paul Career Development Professorship to support his research.

The primary investigator on the NYC Men Teach project, aimed at recruiting 1,000 additional male teachers of color for New York City public schools, Bristol is also preparing to launch a project examining the role of teachers of color in turnaround schools in the Boston Public Schools system.

He says that receiving a Peter Paul Career Development Professorship will give him the resources to move forward with both projects.

“It’s a clear recognition by the University that this work is timely and can really assist policymakers, that this research can inform the work that they do,” says Bristol, who has a master’s degree from Stanford University and a PhD in education policy from Columbia University and is a former consultant with the World Bank.

Bristol is one of seven junior faculty chosen for a Career Development Professorship this fall. Each recipient receives a three-year, nonrenewable stipend designed to support scholarly or creative work, as well as a portion of their salaries.

All of this year’s winners have been recognized for their accomplishments in their area of study and as emerging leaders in their field.

“The talented young faculty members we honor this year with Career Development Professorships are truly outstanding, and we are pleased to recognize the exciting research they are doing,” says Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer. “From important advances in science and engineering at the nanoscale and in computer-assisted-design to improving our understanding of human thought processes, consumer law, and the influence of race in education, all are making significant impacts in their fields.”

Peter Paul Career Development Professorships, made possible through the support of BU trustee Peter Paul (Questrom’71), are awarded University-wide to outstanding faculty who have been at BU for two years or less and who have held no prior professorships. In addition to Bristol, this year’s Peter Paul winners are Daniella Kupor, a Questrom School of Business assistant professor of marketing, who studies how external factors such as interruptions and messaging affect consumer decision-making, and digital markets expert Rory Van Loo, a School of Law associate professor, whose research is focused on consumer transactions, particularly the intersection between technology and regulation.

“These funds will enable me to explore new research directions that I’ve always wanted to investigate,” says Kupor, who holds a PhD from Stanford University.

“Law professors rarely get research support this generous at any stage of their career, let alone at the start,” says Van Loo, who earned a law degree from Harvard and a PhD from Yale. “I am honored, and above all, extremely grateful.”

Allyson Sgro, a College of Engineering assistant professor of biomedical engineering, has been chosen for this year’s Moorman-Simon Interdisciplinary Career Development Professorship, which supports the work of a junior faculty member whose scholarship spans more than one school or college. Sgro’s work bridges biology and engineering and draws on her background in chemistry and biophysics, exploring how cells work together and make group decisions to perform complex behaviors such as assembling into a tissue, forming a biofilm, or healing a wound.

“I have some really fantastic students who are excited about where this work is taking us, and I’m hoping to invest the stipend in training them, to give them the kind of education I had, to go to conferences and meet people from different fields,” says Sgro, who joined BU in January and whose lab recently moved into the new Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering. Sgro says her professorship, funded by BU trustee Ruth Moorman (CAS’88, SED’89,’09) and her husband, Sheldon Simon, “will also allow us to investigate ideas we have that are a little unconventional between fields, that we don’t have more conventional support for, to push into new areas.”

Sgro received a master’s and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Washington and completed postdoctoral training at Princeton.

The University Provost’s Career Development Professorship is funded by an anonymous gift and allows the provost to select its annual focus, which this year advances the participation and success of women in the natural and life sciences. Xi Ling, an assistant professor of chemistry and an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, is the current recipient. Ling earned a doctorate in physical chemistry at Peking University and completed postdoc training at MIT before joining BU in September 2016. Her multidisciplinary research in nanoscience works to synthesize new two-dimensional nanomaterials, reveal their physical nature through spectroscopy, and ultimately develop them for uses such as solar cells and logic circuits.

“It’s encouraged me a lot,” Ling says of the Provost’s Career Development Professorship. “I spent a lot of the first year to build up my lab, and now I think is a good time to start on my independent research. I will use the stipend to support my students and to do research to overcome some challenges in our field.”

Finally, the Innovation Career Development Professorships, sponsored by proceeds from the Technology Development office, recognize junior faculty whose translational research is likely to lead to future licensed technology. They have been awarded to Miloš Popović, an ENG assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, whose research and design work in silicon chip technology helps enable new modes of communication, computation, signal processing, and sensing, and Emily Whiting, a CAS assistant professor of computer science and a computer graphics specialist whose research in architectural geometry, computer-aided design, and 3-D fabrication offers numerous applications—from building masonry to the manufacture of materials.

“This award will support my group’s research in electronic-photonic integrated circuits for applications in datacenter, supercomputing, and RF signal processing technology,” says Popović, who earned a doctorate in electrical engineering and completed postdoctoral training at MIT. “It will allow us to invest in further developing new photonic devices in CMOS chips capable of being fabricated in state-of-the art commercial foundries, with potential for commercialization of the technology.”

“Translating research into licensed technology can be a time-intensive process,” says Whiting, who holds a doctorate in computer graphics and building technology and a master’s in design and computation from MIT and completed postdoctoral work at ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) Zurich. “This award will be valuable in supporting work of a different character than early stage research, where the aim is realizing commercial impact.”

The 2017–2018 Career Development Professorship awardees will be honored tonight, Tuesday, September 12, at a private dinner, hosted by Peter Paul and with remarks by President Robert A. Brown and Morrison. They will be recognized “for their extraordinary accomplishments in their areas of study, their passion for the creation and transmission of new knowledge, their efforts to enhance the student experience, and most importantly, for their potential to develop into outstanding faculty members,” Morrison wrote in a letter last week to BU deans, faculty, and staff announcing the selections.

This story originally appeared on BU Today.