Research and Creative Achievement honors are bestowed to senior faculty in recognition of excellence in research, scholarship, and creative achievement.
Mark DeKay, a professor in the College of Architecture and Design, teaches courses in sustainable architecture, with a focus on climactic and daylight analysis and environmentally responsive design. DeKay’s research is helping to combat expanding energy consumption and global warming. He is a prolific scholar and the author of two critically acclaimed books in his subject areas that have established him as a research leader internationally. His two-volume book Sun, Wind & Light: Architectural Design Strategies is the leading text on sustainable design in architectural education, while Integral Sustainable Design: Transformative Perspectives applies integral theory—the attempt to place a diversity of theories and thinkers into a single framework—to design. Sustainable theories and design strategies explored in Integral Sustainable Design are being explored and tested by academies in South Africa and Australia. Additionally, he is a co-author of a continuing education program in green building for professionals and the developer of a game that explores net-zero energy design strategies.
Professor of Psychology Todd Freeberg’s research is focused on understanding how social processes influence the ways individuals communicate. In particular, he looks at the complex evolution of nonverbal behavior in social communities as a way of understanding the origin of human language. A study of birds in flocks of varying sizes yielded one of his important contributions to the field: that social complexity can drive vocal complexity. This initial study led Freeberg to co-chair a joint meeting of the Animal Behavior Society in 2011, and he was featured in a special issue of the prestigious journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Freeberg has shown that the more diverse and complex the flock, the more readily the birds can solve problems, suggesting that heterogeneity is a factor in intelligence. Freeberg has authored more than 70 publications and given 14 invited talks throughout the country and internationally. In 2015, he received the College of Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Achievement.
Robert Grzywacz, professor of physics and director of the UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Joint Institute for Nuclear Physics and Applications, recently headed the effort that led to the discovery of a new chemical element—No. 117, a halogen named Tennessine, giving our state a permanent place on the periodic table. He developed a process to measure the decay of nuclear materials down to one millionth of a second, which was vital to the discovery. On the strength of this research, last fall Grzywacz was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society—an honor given to only 0.5 percent of the APS membership. Much of his research is funded by the US Department of Energy and the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration, and he is responsible for $1.6 million in physics research funding. He is the author of more than 220 refereed papers.
Hairong Qi, professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Gonzalez Family Professor in Image Processing, studies advanced imaging and collaborative processing. She pioneered the application of mobile-agent-based paradigms for supporting collaborative processing in distributed environments. Qi’s instincts, leadership, and knowledge have allowed her to identify and lead highly sought-after opportunities in interdisciplinary studies. Her recent work in fast rock sample selection for NASA’s Mars rover and in nuclear source identification and tracking shows her aptitude for transferring her knowledge in image processing to tackle key issues in demanding environments. She is a productive teacher and researcher who in the past five years alone has attracted over $3 million in external funding, graduated eight PhD students, and published 23 refereed journal papers with the high h-index score of 38. She has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, best paper awards at two international conferences, and the Highest Impact Paper award from the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society.