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College faculty honored with 2022 CWRU research, teaching and mentoring awards

Karen Abbott, PhD
Biology professor
John S. Diekhoff Award for Graduate Mentoring

Her approach: Karen Abbott gives graduate students the same respect and intellectual freedom as other collaborators—and expects they’ll work at a high level and expand their knowledge to better work in her highly interdisciplinary field. She believes caring for graduate students is one of the most important things faculty can do to keep research communities vibrant and healthy.

The impact: “I owe all of my current success and happiness with my career to her mentorship,” wrote a former PhD student in support of Abbott’s nomination. “She taught me how to advocate for myself and encouraged me to pursue the ideas I was most passionate about.”


Nicole Crown, PhD
Biology assistant professor
Bruce Jackson, MD, Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring

Her approach: Nicole Crown teaches nearly 200 undergraduates annually but treats each student interaction as a mentoring opportunity—listening closely to build connections, being empathetic and recognizing individual needs. Her mission is to provide the tools, experiences and mentorship support for students to become successful scientists.

The impact: “She leads and fosters a positive lab environment where all lab members can grow and expand their knowledge,” wrote a student nominator. “As my mentor,“ the student continued, “she sees my potential, makes me feel welcome, is always there for me when I have questions and allows me to explore things I am curious about.”

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Dave Lucas, PhD
English lecturer and SAGES Fellow
Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

His approach: Dave Lucas cultivates an engaging and supportive learning environment and sees students as people with lives, both good and complicated. He regularly begins classes by asking students how they are and if they have questions or concerns, whether related to the course or not.

The impact: “Dr. Lucas approaches class in a dynamic way, shifting the role between teacher, mentor, peer and even friend,” wrote one student nominator. “He shows that learning in the classroom goes both ways—while there is much we can learn from him, his attentiveness shows he believes he can learn a lot from us, too.”

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Photo by Heidi Rolf

Erkki Somersalo, PhD
Applied mathematics and statistics professor
Faculty Distinguished Research Award

His contributions: Erkki Somersalo is an intellectual leader who has had an enormous impact in his field. He’s focused on using Bayesian methods to resolve computational inverse problems, which have unknown causes but observed effects. His primary focus is on medical questions involving subjects including imaging and brain studies. During the past 38 years—14 of them on campus—Somersalo has published 175 articles, several monographs and textbooks, and his work has been cited almost 13,000 times.

The impact: “Erkki is really the only researcher in the field who is a master not only of all the related partial differential equation theory and functional analysis, but also of the physics, physiology, engineering, numerical methods, numerical analysis and the statistical techniques,” said Margaret Cheney, PhD, the Albert C. Yates endowment chair and professor of mathematics at Colorado State University.

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Arnold Caplan, PhD
Biology professor
Faculty Distinguished Research Award

His contributions: Arnold Caplan is a widely recognized international leader in stem- cell biology and regenerative-medicine research. He has spent more than 50 years in the Department of Biology, holds joint appointments at the School of Medicine and Case School of Engineering, and is founder and director of the university’s Skeletal Research Center. Caplan has received several lifetime achievement awards from international organizations. His research has been published in more than 490 journals, and he holds 24 patents involving regenerative medicine. One of his most recent projects involves a $6.1 million federal grant for a multi-institutional initiative to advance the manufacturing of engineered tissues.

The impact: “Dr. Caplan has been a great advocate for galvanizing groups to effectively lobby for scientific investment in our field,” said Kenneth Zaslav, MD, director of the Center for Regenerative Orthopedic Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and professor of orthopedic surgery at Hofstra University.

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Jessica Kelley, PhD
Sociology professor
John S. Diekhoff Award for Graduate Teaching

Her approach: Jessica Kelley created an interactive classroom that engages and empowers students—especially those without a strong math background—to confidently work with and analyze data and statistical models. That provides a key foundation for students to later publish papers, secure new research opportunities and present at scientific conferences. Kelley is also chair of the Department of Sociology.

The impact: “You need a professor that cares about your well- being,” wrote a student supporting the nomination, “that would stand with you in the days of adversity… that would equip you with skills money can’t buy. … And if there is any professor like that at CWRU, it is Prof. Jessica Kelley.”

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Evelyn Adkins, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Classics, wrote the book Discourse, Knowledge, and Power in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (University of Michigan Press).

Cara Byrne, PhD (GRS ’11, ’16, English), full-time lecturer in the Department of English, received the 2022 Richard A. Bloom, MD, Award for Distinguished Teaching in the SAGES Program.

Narcisz Fejes, PhD, a SAGES teaching fellow and lecturer in the English department, received a SAGES Excellence in Writing Instruction Award.

Chris Haufe, PhD, wrote the book How Knowledge Grows: The Evolutionary Development of Scientific Practice (The MIT Press). He is the Elizabeth M. and William C. Treuhaft Professor of the Humanities and chair of the Department of Philosophy.

John Grabowski, PhD (ADL ’71; GRS ’73, ’77, history), the Krieger- Mueller Joint Professor in History, co-authored Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens: A Landscape of Diversity with photographer Lauren Pacini (The Kent State University Press).

Walt Hunter, PhD, an associate professor and chair of the English department, received a Robert B. Silvers Foundation grant to complete his book, The American House Poem, 1945–2015, which is under contract with Oxford University Press. He also is now the poetry contributing editor of The Atlantic magazine.

Lisa Huisman Koops, PhD, a professor in the Department of Music, launched a podcast titled “Parenting Musically,” which is supported by the GRAMMY Museum and Case Western Reserve University.

Kathryn Lavelle, PhD, the Ellen and Dixon Long Professor in World Affairs in the Department of Political Science, was elected to the board of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs.

Deepak Sarma, PhD, a professor in the Department of Religious Studies, was elected vice president of the Grateful Dead Studies Association, an interdisciplinary academic organization for the study of the American rock band the Grateful Dead, for a two-year term. Sarma also joined the Scholar Advisory Board at the Nelson- Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, to lead a new World Faiths Initiative at the museum.

Joy K. Ward, PhD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor in the Department of Biology, was honored with Penn State University’s Outstanding Science Alumni Award. She also was named to the board of Holden Forests & Gardens in Northeast Ohio.

Page last modified: March 17, 2023