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FAMU Announces Researchers of the Year

The names of Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) “Researchers of the Year” have been revealed as John Steven Cooperwood, Ph.D. and Huijun Li, Ph.D.

FAMU President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D., and Interim Vice President for Research K. Ken Redda, Ph.D., recently announced the winners during the university’s annual researchers’ luncheon.

The honor is awarded in conjunction with the FAMU Division of Research (DoR) and the FAMU Faculty Senate, and presented to FAMU researchers who have made a profound impact both on and off campus through their discoveries and contributions.

"Your hard work and commitment to excellence is a fitting representation of what we're capable of here at this university," said Mangum, congratulating the honorees. "You are the caretakers of what is necessary to keep the university's shining light burning each day."

Cooperwood, a professor in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science, is a key researcher at the FAMU Center of Excellence for Cancer Research, Training and Community Service.

His actively funded cancer research focuses on synthesis and design of steroidal anti-breast cancer agents. His research interests include: using molecular modeling in the development of compounds targeting estrogen receptors as a means of treatment for breast cancer patients; computer-aided drug design, synthesis and pharmacological evaluation of compounds targeting estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells; and structure activity relationship (SAR) studies involving receptor docking.

Cooperwood has been successful in the discovery of several drug candidates that are slated to be just as active as the popularly prescribed selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) Novaldex (Tamoxifen). Since 2010, his findings have led to the issuance of three U.S. patents on novel SERM compounds.

While Cooperwood expressed his gratitude for being named one of the university’s top researchers, he said that his work is just an example of the innovation that occurs on FAMU’s campus every day.

“We're doing cutting-edge research here and not just in my lab, but in the many labs of FAMU’s researcher facilities, including high-level research in such areas as Parkinson’s and schizophrenia," Cooperwood said.

Li, a professor in the department of psychology, said that receiving the recognition has inspired her to go even further in her research. She hopes that her exploration will continue to not only impact the community-at-large, but also continue to show the world the caliber of the research abilities of FAMU's faculty.

"I want the world to know that FAMU has great research support and has a strong research team,” Li said. “I feel very humbled and honored to receive this recognition, and I take it as my stepping stone to the next level. I am inspired to do more in terms of research, grants and collaborating with more faculty members."

Li previously served as a full-time researcher at the Harvard University Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where she conducted multicultural competence training seminars and clinical studies that promote diversity in health-related research. She also served as a psychiatry instructor at the Harvard Medical School. Today, her time is split between teaching two classes as an assistant professor of psychology and conducting new research at FAMU under a grant funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

In addition to acknowledging the profound works of FAMU’s research community, Mangum and Redda also announced their goals to take FAMU’s research programs to higher heights.

“FAMU’s research community generated more than $42 million dollars within the last fiscal year,” said Redda."We are determined to move steadily and surely toward generating $100 million dollars annually in the coming years.”

Mangum explained her plans to ensure that FAMU’s research community continues to flourish and that research dollars come in from both public and private sector opportunities.

“We have a first-class research program here at FAMU,” Mangum said. “My vision for the university is to significantly increase research funding by 2019.We will pursue companies, corporate relationships, and other avenues that will help us to continue to grow."

Cooperwood and Li were honored amongst their peers at the Fifth Annual Principal Investigators’ Appreciation and 2014 Researchers of the Year Awards Luncheon held on April 18 at FAMU’s Foster-Tanner Band Rehearsal Hall. The event, themed: “In Recognition of Research ‘Excellence with Caring,’” paid tribute to more than 150 of FAMU’s principal investigators and co-principal investigators.

Photo: (From L-R) Interim Vice President for Research K. Ken Redda, Ph.D., President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D., honorees Huijun Li, Ph.D and John Steven Cooperwood, Ph.D., and Interim Provost Rodner Wright.
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