Research awards: from truth to catalysis

Four CLAS faculty members whose research spans work on truth, social justice, ecology and novel materials have won the 2011 CLAS Research Excellence Awards.

Michael P. Lynch, professor of philosophy; Nancy A. Naples, professor of sociology and women’s studies; Michael R. Willig, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; and Steven L. Suib, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, were cited for their outstanding research accomplishments.

They represent the four areas of CLAS – the humanities, social sciences, life sciences, and physical sciences.

“These individuals have won many national and university awards; what distinguishes this recognition is that it comes directly from their peers in the College,” says Jeremy Teitelbaum, dean of CLAS. “The breadth of their interests show the scope of our college, and the quality of their work brings distinction to the entire faculty.”

Lynch’s philosophical studies have centered on the questions, what is truth, and why does it matter? He has written or edited six books and 40 articles and chapters, and he has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Bogliasco Foundation. He is completing a book arguing that certain forms of skepticism about science undermine democracy.

Naples, who is also interim director of Women’s Studies in CLAS, is currently studying issues of sexual citizenship and the contexts in which gays, lesbians, and same-sex couples make human rights claims. She is the author of two books and more than 50 articles and has been elected president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems and of the Eastern Sociological Society. She is working on a book, Restructuring the Heartland: Racialization and Social Regulation of Citizenship.

Willig, who is also director of the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering at UConn, combines fieldwork, lab analysis, and theoretical modeling in studying nine areas of ecology. He has studied the impact of natural and manmade disturbances on populations of snails, slugs, walking sticks, bats, and other mammals of the Amazonian rainforest. He has edited two books, written 49 publications, and has been awarded $12 million in grants over the past five years. He is co-editor of the forthcoming book, Theory of Ecology.

Suib, whose work in solid state chemistry and the synthesis of novel materials has a strong environmental focus, has been designated a “Chemical Pioneer” by the American Institute of Chemists for his outstanding contributions to advances in chemical science and industry. His work on catalysts, polymers, ceramics and semi-conductors involves research into how to control their properties. The goal is to make the chemical process or the final material “greener.” He has collaborated with industry on problems such as the development of fuel cells and making more efficient jet engines. He is currently a lead researcher on a UConn biomass conversion plant pilot project designed to find biofuel sources suitable for the Northeast. Has holds more than 50 patents and has published more than 450 scientific papers.

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