Research and Creative Achievement — Professional Promise awards honor faculty members who are early in their careers for excellence in research, scholarship, and creative achievement.
Jessica Hay, associate professor of psychology, works to find how babies learn language so quickly. She studies children across early development and has uncovered details about their ability to map sounds and words with meanings. Her findings have influenced her field with the suggestion that infants learn language by taking advantage of regularities in their environment, which in turn helps to organize infants’ perceptual systems in a way that supports subsequent learning. Her work extends to infants and young children with hearing loss, who often have a significant delay in language development. Hay’s research has received about $3 million in support from the National Institutes for Health, an unprecedented level of funding for a junior faculty member. Considered a rising star in her field, she is involved with a number of big data projects involving multiple labs.
What lies below a half-mile of ice? Surprisingly, an interconnected lake system that supports life. That’s according to the research of Assistant Professor of Microbiology Jill Mikucki. Supported by the National Science Foundation, her work has been featured everywhere from NPR to the New York Times to Discover magazine. Mikucki leads a program that explores Antarctic microbial ecosystems, contributing to the development of tools and strategies that allow researchers, engineers, and others easier access to this difficult and complex environment—for example, advancing clean drilling technology and sample collection from pristine Antarctic ecosystems. Her studies support the research and learning of students at every level, from undergraduates to postdoctoral scholars, providing some with the unique opportunity of conducting Antarctic fieldwork.
John Powers, associate professor in the School of Art, has an impressive collection of awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Creative Arts, a Virginia A. Groot Foundation first-place award, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant, to name just a few. Powers combines these accolades with a long list of first-class exhibitions that showcase the strong and growing breadth of his work, which includes kinetic sculpture, carved marble and wood, video animation and projection, and systematic drawing. Described as an enthusiastic and committed teacher, Powers shares both his talents and his energy with students. He teaches a full range of courses from introductory sculpture to graduate sculpture and ceramics. He has developed special topics courses in wood sculpture and digital fabrication, and he has been a strong presence in the 3D concentration.
Cong Trinh, Ferguson Fellow and associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, has made it his mission to develop a visionary and highly integrated research and education program that plays an integral role in making UT’s program one of the best in the nation. Trinh has secured more than $4 million in funding for his research, which focuses on understanding complex cellular systems and developing novel tools to harness them for biotechnological applications. He’s received prestigious awards such as the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, the American Society for Engineering Education’s New Researcher Award, and a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Young Faculty Award. “Trinh’s demonstrated commitment to teaching and intellectual pursuits makes him a great asset to our department, the university, and the CBE community at large,” a colleague wrote, adding that Trinh “has inspired a broad audience to become the next generation of leaders and innovators in the department.”