Four LSU Faculty Awarded National Science Foundation CAREER Awards
July 20, 2022
BATON ROUGE – Four LSU researchers have been awarded the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious grant for early-career faculty, who exhibit potential to serve as academic role models in research and education. This highly competitive grant supports an individual’s research helping build a firm foundation for a lifetime of research and academic leadership.
“The first few years of a new professor’s career can be challenging as they work to establish their lab, recruit and mentor students, develop and teach courses and serve on departmental committees. The NSF CAREER award offers support for these new faculty members to advance their research. NSF’s investment in our talented faculty has a positive ripple effect for the state, the nation and the world as these researchers tackle some of our most pressing problems."
Samuel J. Bentley, LSU vice president of research and economic development
The following faculty at LSU have received NSF CAREER Awards this year.
LSU School of Education Assistant Professor Yu April Chen was funded to pursue her research into boosting the four-year degree completion rate of underrepresented racial minority transfer students and to promote racial equity in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields. The research and educational components of the project will contribute to the statewide STEM initiative in Louisiana by emphasizing STEM students’ transition, retention and degree completion in four-year institutions.
Community colleges offer a crucial transfer pathway toward bachelor’s degrees in STEM for many underrepresented racial minority students. Although previous studies have focused on creating a seamless STEM transfer pathway connecting sending community colleges and receiving four-year institutions, significant issues remain unsolved after transfer students arrive at receiving four-year institutions. For example, transfer students may experience credit loss, transition challenges and a lower degree attainment rate at the four-year institution.
Chen’s project aims to examine influential psychosocial factors of post-transfer success for underrepresented racial minority STEM transfer students and to develop tailored institutional strategies to foster a transfer receptive culture in four-year institutions. She will collaborate with multiple LSU departments to implement a transfer student success program as well as to develop evidence-based strategies for transfer student recruitment and faculty professional development.
“Getting an NSF CAREER grant as an education or a social science researcher is extremely difficult and challenging. I feel privileged and grateful as this will open up amazing opportunities for me to advance my research agenda, translate scholarship to practice and benefit the communities of science and practice at LSU and beyond,” Chen said.
NSF has awarded Chen $497,713 over five years for her project, “Leveling the Playing Field in STEM: Post-transfer Success for Underrepresented Racial Minority Community College Transfers.”
LSU Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences Assistant Professor Matthew Hiatt has been funded to research complex coastal hydrological processes that are critical to predicting future impacts of coastal restoration strategies and evaluating their efficacy, especially in light of global issues such as sea-level rise. Hiatt’s project will combine five years of field measurements in the Wax Lake Delta, Louisiana, with computer simulations of long-term and short-term changes to the delta to understand dynamic patterns of water movement changes through time. This research is especially important in the context of Louisiana’s coastal restoration efforts.
Surface water movement through coastal environments is controlled by both marine and terrestrial processes, which yields complicated patterns of water circulation that vary through time and space. In river deltas, this is complicated by the presence of deep, fast-moving water in channels that is connected to slow, shallow moving water in vegetated wetlands.
“The project has implications for biology, ecology, fisheries, and society and I have a wealth of world-class collaborators who can provide their expertise just down the hall from me,” Hiatt said.
NSF has awarded him $480,941 over five years for this work.
LSU Department of Mathematics Assistant Professor Rui Han was funded to pursue his research on the study of electrons in a lattice material structure, such as graphene, under external magnetic fields. His research aims to answer the question: as time evolves, will electrons escape, exhibiting metal-like behavior or stay confined near their original positions, showing insulator-like behavior? And, are there mathematical ways to quantify these behaviors?
Understanding these features in different materials has important real-world applications including in electricity transmission and room-temperature superconductors.
NSF has awarded him $464,836 over five years for his project, “Schrödinger operators on lattices.”
LSU Department of Psychology Associate Professor Don Zhang was funded to pursue his research on the impacts of risk takers in the workplace.
The personality profile of a risk taker is extroverted, open to experiences, disagreeable, emotionally stable and irresponsible. However, risk taking is also essential for innovation, courage and the fight against social injustice.
Zhang’s goal is to provide organizations with a valid measure of workplace risk taking to help their assessment and selection efforts. He aims to reach organizations with high-risk occupations, such as the chemical and manufacturing industries, to understand how to prevent safety incidences due to reckless risk-taking.
“Risk takers at work can be a liability and asset and it’s critical that we understand how to leverage employees’ appetite for risks toward virtue rather than malice,” Zhang said.
NSF has awarded him $430,000 for his project, “Understanding workplace risk-taking behavior.”