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Interim President Robinson Honors Faculty for Research Excellence With Caring
Interim President Larry Robinson (center) congratulates the recipients of the 2013 Researcher of the Year Awards.

April 22, 2013

. – Every year, faculty at Florida A&M University (FAMU) leave campus laboratories and libraries to attend the Annual Principal Investigator Appreciation and Researcher of the Year Awards Luncheon.   In its fourth year, it is the only event held on campus where faculty members gather in anticipation to find out who among them will be honored for their outstanding research accomplishments. This year was no different as Interim President Larry Robinson recognized five principal investigators in three award categories—Distinguished Researcher, Research Excellence, and Emerging Researcher. The nominees were evaluated by a 16-member multidisciplinary team of faculty colleagues and finalists were interviewed this spring semester.  Recommendations of research award recipients were submitted to the Office of the Faculty Senate.

The five awardees who each received a plaque and a monetary award for demonstrating “Research Excellence With Caring,” the theme for this year’s event, during the 2012-2013 academic year, are as follows:
  • Oghenekome U. Onokpise, professor of agronomy, forestry, and natural resources/associate dean, College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, received top honors as the Distinguished Researcher of the Year Award Recipient and $5,000.  Onokpise recently released his new book titled, Rubber Seed: An African Scientist in the Amazon Basin. He is co-inventor along with James Muchovej for the U.S. Patent #8,278,248, Mycoherbicide for Controlling Cogongrass, issued fall 2012 semester.  In 2008, Onokpise received the Stephen Spurr Award from the Florida Division of the Society of American Foresters for technical contributions to forestry in Florida.
  • Kalayu Belay, professor of physics, College of Science and Technology,
    Department of Physics, received $3,000 as a Research Excellence Award Recipient.  Belay’s group research involves the synthesis, characterization and integration of carbon nanotubes for potential applications as nanocomposites materials.  Their effort is focused onto infusing carbon nanotubes into polymers to create a sensory network that can detect damage in the polymer matrix.  The main objective of this research activity is to develop highly sensitive distributed sensor systems to monitor strains and to detect initiating damage in polymeric and composite materials at a microscopic level without altering the integrity of the structure.
  • R. Renee Reams, professor of biochemistry and chair, medicinal chemistry, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, received $3,000 as a Research Excellence Award Recipient.   Reams’ Global Health emphasizes the transnational approach to study prostate cancer health disparity with African researchers; Genomics of Prostate Cancer Health Disparity using genomics and proteomics to look for genes/protein signatures in human prostate tumors that explain aggressive prostate cancers in African- American males and in men of African descent; Metal Neurotoxicity research focus is to determine if a common molecular mechanism exists by which divalent metals (such as Pb and Mn) cause death of neurons.  Her laboratory has also studied metal mixtures (Pb, Mn) and the effect of individual metals (Pb) on neurite outgrowth and effect of Mn on DNA damage in neurons.
  • Mehboob B. Sheikh, professor of plant biotechnology, Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research, College of Science and Technology, received $3,000 as a Research Excellence Award Recipient.   Sheikh’s research is developmental biology, biotic and abiotic stresses, plant based nutraceutical components, genomics, proteomics and metabolomics.  His evaluation of food products prepared from muscadine grapes uses Real Time PCR for analyzing gene expression of disease tolerance genes in the fruit.  He also uses a DNA Sequencer for deriving nucleotide sequences. 
  • Selina F. Darling-Reed, assistant professor of pharmacology/toxicology, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences Division, received $2,000 as the Emerging Researcher of the Year.  Darling-Reed’s research focuses on the prevention of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon induced breast cancer using natural products, in particular the organosulfur components of garlic (i.e., breast cancer as a health disparity, breast cancer initiation and metastasis; natural products as chemopreventive agents; role of the AhR Receptor in prostate cancer cell cycle regulation in cancer; and elucidating the mechanisms involved in the neurotoxic effects of cocaine, especially related to cocaine’s effects on fetal brain development.)

“This occasion gives us an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to all of FAMU’s principal investigators and to award a few selected ones, so they may receive public recognition for their outstanding research accomplishments, hard work and sustained efforts,” said K. Ken Redda, professor and acting vice president for research.

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