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LSU Names Rainmakers

At a top-tier research university like LSU, the work and contributions of faculty members extend far beyond the classroom. Academic researchers must consistently balance teaching and departmental responsibilities, along with external expectations such as securing funding for their research and establishing the impact of their findings to the scholarly community and society as a whole.

2012 rainmakers1st Row: Dawn Harris (COO and Executive Vice President of CFCU); James Honeycutt; Ying (Jane) Wang; Vice Chancellor Thomas Klei. 2nd Row: Milen Yakimov; Timothy Slack.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

LSU abounds with faculty who accomplish these tasks exceedingly well, demonstrating superior drive and passion for both the areas they study and the students they teach. Each year, the university's Office of Research & Economic Development, or ORED, with the support of Campus Federal Credit Union, finds and honors these achievers with LSU's Rainmaker Awards for Research and Creative Activity.

Rainmakers are those faculty members who garner national and international recognition for innovative research and creative scholarship, compete for external funding at the highest levels and attract and mentor exceptional graduate students. These outstanding faculty represent a vast range of research areas, from mechanical engineering to communication studies, and exhibit excellence at every stage of the academic career, from rising researchers to seasoned scholars.

"We are proud to recognize those faculty members who are so integral to our success as an institution," said Thomas Klei, LSU interim vice chancellor of research and economic development, who presented the awards in a ceremony at the Faculty Club in April. "These researchers and creative scholars truly exemplify what it means to be an LSU Rainmaker. We couldn't do this without the support of Campus Federal Credit Union, and we thank them for their support of our commitment to scholarly excellence."

Ron Moreau, vice president of business development and community relations at Campus Federal, was also on hand to congratulate the recipients.

"We [Campus Federal] understand the important role research plays in LSU's long-term success," said Moreau. "But more importantly, we admire the dedication and diligent efforts of so many LSU faculty who use research and innovation to improve the quality of education for all students. Campus Federal was founded by seven distinguished LSU faculty members in 1934, and it seems only fitting that we support the distinguished faculty known as Rainmakers for their accomplishments in research today."

Each of the following award-winning faculty members has met one or more of the criteria for high-quality research or creative activities and scholarship, which include, but are not limited to: publication in a high-impact journal(s); a highly cited work; external awards; invited presentations at national and international meetings; high journal publication productivity; critically acclaimed book publication(s), performance(s), exhibit(s) or theatrical production(s); high grant productivity; and, for more senior candidates, outstanding citation records and high-impact invited presentations at national and international meetings.

Emerging Scholar Award

This award recognizes a junior faculty member who has accomplished outstanding research or creative productivity and scholarship in his or her field, typically in no more than eight years at the assistant or associate professor level.

This year's Emerging Scholars are:

Tim SlackTim Slack
Jim Zietz/University Relations

Tim Slack, associate professor of sociology, who received the Emerging Scholar Award in Arts, Humanities and Social or Behavioral Sciences. Slack's research, which explores social stratification and demography with emphasis on economic and spatial inequality, has earned grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior. This funding allows Slack and his research team to study social and regional issues such as place-based poverty dynamics, household livelihood strategies and disaster vulnerability and resilience.

"The current policy-making context is a hyper-ideological one," Slack said. "But we live in an age when the availability of social and economic data and methods for social scientific analysis have never been better. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is quoted as saying, 'Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.' I'd like to see my work contribute some of those facts to help inform collective decision making. "

Slack said he feels extremely honored to receive the Rainmaker Emerging Scholar Award. "Having colleagues both inside and outside of LSU provide me special recognition for my early career work is humbling," said Slack. "I certainly could have never realized the success that I've had without being lucky enough to be associated with some really great colleagues and students."

Ying WangYing "Jane" Wang
Jim Zietz/University Relations

Ying "Jane" Wang, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who received the Emerging Scholar Award in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Wang's area of research focuses on novel synthesis of nanomaterials and ultrathin films for high-performance solar cells, advanced lithium-ion batteries and efficient oil-spill cleanup applications. Wang has published 29 journal papers and 12 conference proceedings, which have received more than 1,000 independent citations, and she has been principal investigator for seven grants at the university.

"My research is at the boundary between several disciplines, such as chemistry, physics, materials science and engineering," Wang said. "I hope to establish large-scale collaborations with faculty in these departments, and I would like to see my work make significant contributions to the growth and evolution of materials and energy-related research at LSU."

Being named an LSU Rainmaker is "particularly encouraging to junior faculty and female faculty like me," Wang said.

"I believe new materials design and synthesis are very important to developments of next-generation energy technologies, which in turn will widely impact the economy in the state and the country."

Slack and Wang were each awarded a one-time stipend of $1,000 and a plaque in recognition of their achievements.

Mid-Career Scholar Award

This award recognizes a faculty member at the level of associate professor level or recently promoted to full professor who exhibits a sustained program of excellence, has typically eight to 15 years of research or creative activities and scholarship and has strong name recognition in his or her field.

Milen YakimovMilen Yakimov
Jim Zietz/University Relations

This year's recipient is Milen Yakimov, professor of mathematics. Yakimov's research in noncommutative algebra studies the structure and geometric and algebraic properties of noncommutative rings. Yakimov has settled various well-known open mathematical problems throughout his career, and one of his most recent accomplishments is finding proof for the long-standing Andruskiewitsch-Dumas conjecture. He is currently working on another conjecture which, if proven, will lead to a third large family of catenary algebras.

"Algebra is one of the main areas of pure mathematics," Yakimov said. "I hope my research will increase the presence of our university in this area, both in terms of educating graduate and undergraduate students and in research accomplishments."

He said being named an LSU Rainmaker was a tremendous honor and "a great motivation to work more and to attempt harder problems."

Yakimov received a one-time stipend of $1,000 and a plaque recognizing his achievements.

Senior Scholar Award

This award recognizes a faculty member whose work is comparable to the quality of that considered for the Distinguished Research Master award or Boyd Professor designation. The Senior Scholar Award is typically reserved for a faculty member who has been promoted to full professor and has exhibited a sustained program of excellence as measured by significant contributions to the faculty member's field of research or creative activity for 15 or more years.

James HoneycuttJames Honeycutt
Jim Zietz/University Relations

This year's Senior Scholars are:

James Honeycutt, professor of communication studies, who received the Senior Scholar Award in Arts, Humanities and Social or Behavioral Sciences. Honeycutt's research, which focuses on social cognition, imagined interactions and relational communication, involves interdisciplinary applications in communication, psychology and family studies. His major career accomplishments include creating the Imagined Interaction Theory, forming an imagined interaction research program and the Matchbox Interaction Lab at LSU and delivering a keynote address at Yale University for the American Association for the Study of Mental Imagery.

"Being named an LSU Rainmaker Senior Scholar is memorable," Honeycutt said. "LSU is the flagship university of the state, and I am very proud to be part of 'The Louisiana State University.'"

Jacqueline Stephens, professor of biological sciences, who received the Senior Scholar Award in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Stephens' research program studies adipocyte cells and obesity's role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Stephens, who is also the Claude B. Pennington Jr. Endowed Chair in Biomedical Research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, has been an invited speaker at Harvard Medical School and the University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center, and her recent work has been published in various academic journals, including Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism.

"It is a joy to get an award like the Rainmaker from LSU," Stephens said. "It is always a great feeling when you are recognized at your own university and know you have the support of your colleagues."

Honeycutt and Stephens were each awarded a one-time stipend of $1,000 and a plaque in recognition of their achievements.