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Aug. 23 , 2001
Vol. 31, No. 2

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Regents award Ohio State four new Eminent Scholars

By Emily Caldwell

The Ohio Board of Regents' funding of four new Eminent Scholar posts at Ohio State will lead to advancements in research relating to behavioral aspects of health, K-16 writing improvements, networking and communications, and nanotechnology.

Regents announced on July 19 that Ohio State has been awarded four of the seven new Ohio Eminent Scholar positions funded through the state's $7.95 million higher education investment effort. The program is designed to improve Ohio's economic development initiatives and is part of a statewide effort to make Ohio more competitive in the 21st century economy.

Ohio State was awarded 17 Eminent Scholar positions in the original Regents program, which dates to 1983 and distributed funding through biennial statewide competitions among public graduate and research programs. Fiscal difficulties in the early 1990s led to the program's elimination until its restoration in the current biennium.

In addition to the seven positions awarded in July, the Regents recommend that four additional proposals be awarded funding without further review should funding be identified. Of those, another Ohio State proposal would be first in line for funding: an Eminent Scholar in computational nanotechnology.

Three of the four Ohio State awards announced in July were proposed by Selective Investment departments -- Psychology, English and Electrical Engineering. These departments and nine other Selective Investment units have received specially designated central University funding because they have been identified as having the most potential to elevate the University's overall academic excellence.

"Earning state funding for four new Eminent Scholars is a truly exceptional accomplishment, and one for which we can all take great pride," said Executive Vice President and Provost Edward J. Ray. "All of those involved in Ohio State's preparation of proposals and site visits obviously made a convincing case that this University holds enormous promise for the state of Ohio's future."

Ohio State, in fact, may have helped contribute to the state's decision to restore the program. A University report released in 1998 demonstrated that Eminent Scholars' activities had generated research funds that more than doubled the state and University investment in the program, and that Ohio State's Eminent Scholars as a group had advised 78 percent more graduate students than other faculty in their departments.

"The productivity of our current Eminent Scholars shows that they are extremely valuable to this University," said President Brit Kirwan. "But even more important in this new round of awards is the expectation that Eminent Scholars will contribute to some of Ohio's most pressing concerns: economic development, health and safety, and primary and secondary education. The University's Academic Plan speaks specifically to all of these issues, and Ohio State should be a major player in improving Ohio's quality in these areas."

Brief summaries of OSU's proposals and lead project units follow:

Health Psychology

Department of Psychology

Health psychology research has been at the forefront of efforts to address the behavioral aspects of health and disease, and to develop effective interventions to modify health behavior. Continued research in this area will be critical to further development of disease models that take into account biological, behavioral and environmental influences, and to the use of behavioral principles to develop effective treatments. The Ohio Eminent Scholar in health psychology at Ohio State will join a stellar, nationally recognized group of faculty already working in the clinical psychology area with specializations in cardiovascular disease, cancer, pulmonary disease, neuropsychology related to HIV disease, and behavioral aspects of immune function. The scholar's strength is expected to bridge the areas of expertise within the department as well as other important units in the University: Medicine, Public Health and the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

This area of research is particularly important to the people of Ohio. The top four killers of Ohioans, which account for 65 percent of deaths in Ohio each year -- heart disease, cancer, vascular diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases -- are currently studied by the health psychology faculty at Ohio State. Clinical psychology in general, and health psychology in particular, are two of the most central academic areas focusing specifically on helping solve the widest variety of important psychological and behavioral problems affecting the health of Ohio citizens.


Literacy Partnerships for K-16 Writing Instruction

Rhetoric and Composition Program, Department of English

Through regular collaborations with local public schools and teachers throughout the state, Ohio State's Rhetoric and Composition Program has helped improve the teaching of writing at all levels and has stressed the importance of close ties between K-12 education and college writing instruction. The Rhetoric and Composition Program has developed a national reputation of excellence for its research and teaching in writing. Faculty and doctoral students developed the vision, methods and measures of excellence for the teaching of writing on both the high school and the collegiate level through various research-based writing programs that have helped thousands of students succeed at Ohio State. They also have communicated the program's mission to local public schools and served as a model for writing instruction nationwide.

The Ohio State Eminent Scholar in English will extend and enrich the partnership already established between the University and Ohio schools; enhance the ability to train the next generation of teachers and researchers of writing and critical thinking; and further establish the University's Rhetoric and Composition Program as a model of best practices nationwide.


Networking and Communication Research

Departments of Computer and Information Science and Electrical Engineering

Since 1995, the Internet has moved from being a research-only network to a new marketplace for today's consumer, creating a major change in the way people bank, reserve airline tickets, file income taxes and access information. As networking technologies continue to develop, Ohio State's new Ohio Eminent Scholar in networking and communication research will lead the University's joint effort between the departments of Computer and Information Science and Electrical Engineering in developing new and improved networking technologies.

The Ohio Eminent Scholar in networking and communication research will complement the existing core networking and communications research taking place in the two departments, including network congestion control, wireless communication, multicast routing and network-based computing.

Advanced networking and communications technologies play a key role in the research and development of the next generation of the Internet. The universities with leadership in the networking area will have the opportunity to influence fundamental technological growth of general importance to Ohio and the world's economic future, and having an Eminent Scholar in this area will help propel Ohio State to the top tier of networking and communications research universities.


Nanotechnology: Molecular Self-Assembly

Department of Chemical Engineering, Center for Materials Research

To seek the future in medicine and electronics, scientists are increasingly looking to the "nano" world -- the world, invisible to the naked eye, where nature shapes atoms into molecules, and molecules assemble themselves into complex structures. These structures are so small, they are measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. And while these structures are smaller than even a tiny fraction of a human hair, they hold the key to developing new materials that will support the medical and electronic devices of the future. Advances that could grow out of nanotechnology include: implantable devices that dispense medicine, super-fast medical testing and more efficient chemical reactions for industry, as well as high-speed, lightweight electronic devices.

Since nanotechnology is itself an interdisciplinary venture, the Ohio Eminent Scholar in nanotechnology will be closely affiliated with the broadly based Ohio State Center for Materials Research (CMR), an interdisciplinary unit of the Office of Research. For more than 10 years, the CMR has created programs that bridge the four colleges and 12 departments represented by more than 100 materials research faculty around the campus. Nanotechnology will not only help create advancements in medicine and electronic technologies, but could help create jobs by making Ohio one of the world centers for this research.

The Regents recommend that four additional proposals be awarded funding without further review should funding be identified. Of those, another Ohio State proposal would be first in line: an Eminent Scholar in computational nanotechnology.



University Relations writers Pam Frost Gorder, Karissa Shivley and Shannon Wingard contributed to this story.




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