University of Tulsa

Three faculty named Outstanding Researchers for 2020

The University of Tulsa is honored to announce the recipients of the 2020 Outstanding Researcher Award – a lifetime distinction, received only once in an individual’s career. It is intended to honor achievements that have been validated in the scholar’s professional field.

The 2020 recipients are:
outstanding researchersJoanne Davis, Professor of Psychology: Professor Davis’ research is broadly concerned with trauma and its consequences. Particular focus of this work is on the development of sleep disorders following traumatic events, and the exploration of the effects of interpersonal violence. Notably, Joanne translates her research to make the findings useable for the broad, nonacademic community, providing seminars for organizations such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and NGOs in Tulsa including Family and Children’s Services and Domestic Violence Intervention Services.

outstanding researchersRobert Spoo, Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law: Professor Spoo conducts his interdisciplinary work at the intersection of copyright law, theories of the public domain, informal norms, publishing, modern authorship and law and literature. Robert combines these distinct disciplines in scholarship that is grounded in literary and legal history and nourished by his diverse roles as literature professor, law professor, attorney and journal editor.

outstanding researchersSean Latham, Professor of English: Professor Latham’s scholarly activities focus on modern literature and culture and have drawn inspiration from the likes of James Joyce and Bob Dylan. His work intertwines with a broad interest in the cultural context of modernist aesthetics and the meanings and uses of formal innovation in 20th century literature. Since 2001, Sean has been the editor of The James Joyce Quarterly, the pre-eminent journal of Joycean studies in the world, and he also serves as the director of the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities.

Candidates for the Outstanding Researcher Awards were nominated by deans from Kendall College of Arts & Sciences, Collins College of Business, Oxley College of Health Sciences, the College of Engineering & Natural Sciences and the College of Law. Nominees were selected for their recognition of outstanding research and scholarly achievements. Other considerations included pedagogical awards, honors from scholarly societies, grants, publication citation counts or other forms of public recognition. External recognition of a faculty member’s work also factored into the selection process.

Outstanding Teachers selected for devotion to students and mentoring

Collins Professor of Computer Information Systems Lori Leonard, Stanley Rutland Professor of American History Andrew Wood and Associate Professor of Law Matt Lamkin are TU’s Outstanding Teachers for 2020. Their devotion to teaching and mentoring molds the character and work ethic of students, preparing them for successful careers and lives.

The university inaugurated the Distinguished Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1980. Honorees may receive the award once in a lifetime, and only three awards are given annually. The award is especially meaningful because it must be initiated by a student’s nomination, and the winners are selected by colleagues who serve on the Faculty Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate. Each honoree receives a medal and a stipend.

Matt Lamkin

outstanding teachersSince joining the College of Law faculty in 2013, Lamkin has earned the praise and admiration of his students. He has been recognized by students for his outstanding teaching every semester he has taught in the TU College of Law, translating to many awards. In his first two years at TU and again in 2018-2019, students voted to recognize Lamkin with the College of Law Outstanding First Year Professor Award. In 2015-16, he was honored as the Outstanding Upper-Class Professor.

Lamkin’s teaching philosophy is “driven by a desire to teach his students critical skills that will endure beyond their recollection of any particular law school subject matter.” He achieves this by teaching analysis and argument and helping students engage with the course materials in effective ways.

Student Comments:

  • “Helped me with my writing ability and had a continuing conversation about my paper and what I needed to do to write a paper effectively.”
  • “Professor Lamkin always made himself available for us to meet with him and was always very helpful and provided bonus sessions, which were a huge help to preparing for the exam. I also enjoyed the ‘life lesson’ talks he would give on occasion; they were an encouragement to me.”
  • “This has been my favorite class so far. I really like it that Lamkin takes his time to explain the different concepts. It’s useful when we move on to the next topic and they correlate.”

Lori Leonard

outstanding teachersWith over 25 years of teaching experience, Leonard has called TU home for the past 21 years. Beyond the lives she’s impacted along the way, she has even more to show for her time as a professor. In total, she’s collected 15 teacher awards, one Mayo Teaching Excellence Award from the Collins College of Business, two Most Valuable Professor awards and one mention as an Exceptional Mentor.

Course evaluations and student comments reinforce the care and concern that Leonard gives her students to ensure they thrive as professionals. She advises approximately 15 students every semester for enrollment while also mentoring many in the computer information systems major. Many TU students are on campus, at least partially, because of Leonard. Until she became associate dean of the Graduate School, she was heavily involved in meeting with prospective undergraduates. Now she continues to meet with prospective graduate students.

Student Comments:

  • “I absolutely would not be where I am today without your impactful mentorship and considerate advice.”
  • “Thank you for being such an influential person, not only in my life, but in the lives of so many others! The thoughtfulness and care you exude for your students does not go unnoticed!
  • “I still am grateful you fit me (a junior…who was having a mid-life crisis at 21) into your schedule to talk about what CIS was.”

Andrew Wood

outstanding teachersWith a TU tenure of over 20 years, Wood is dedicated to the instruction of diverse material. He largely teaches general education block courses with international and cross-cultural influences that provide a well-rounded, college-level liberal arts education. As a passionate, committed and experienced professor, Wood deploys a variety of pedagogical techniques including dynamic lecture mixed with Socratic Method, humor, music, film, discussion groups, class presentations, posters, field research and various online web interventions/engagements.

In the classroom, Wood focuses on fostering fundamental critical thinking skills, a curiosity about the world and an active concern for basic democratic values. In course evaluation comments, students frequently commend Wood’s subject knowledge, engaging presentation style and sense of humor, as well as his clear and supportive explanations and assignment feedback.

Student Comments:

  • “In my three years at The University of Tulsa, I have yet to encounter a more dedicated, hard-working or caring professor as Dr. Wood.”
  • “I have constantly been impressed by his dedication to making history come alive in the classroom and impressing on his students the importance of studying the history of those who have been oppressed and forgotten in history.”
  • “Very knowledgeable and his investment in the class motivated the students to want to learn.”

 

Student researchers honored with nationally competitive awards

The University of Tulsa’s 2020 nationally competitive award winners include a Goldwater Scholar, a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, two Fulbright Canada-MITACS Globalink Research Internship recipients and three Gilman Scholars. 

Goldwater Scholar 

nationally competitive awardsMechanical engineering junior Emily Tran of Broken Arrow is one of 396 students from across the United States to win a Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Students majoring in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering were nominated to apply for the award, which recognizes scientific talent. 

In the summer of 2019, Tran worked as a Vanderbilt Institute of Surgical Engineering (VISE) Fellow in the Medical Engineering and Discovery (MED) and Computer Assisted Otologic Surgery (CAOS) labs alongside mechanical engineering alumna Katy Riojas (BS ’16)Tran participated in the design and development of a manual insertion tool for image-guided, minimally invasive cochlear implant surgery. Her summer involved analyzing CT scans, assisting in cadaver trials and designing a phantom model for user and force testing. 

Tran said she enjoys this type of research because it is at the cross section of engineering and medicine: “With this type of research, it is easy to see how heavily intertwined they can actually be. After pouring so much work into the research projects, there’s a certain indescribable feeling that comes with seeing the lives of the kids or patients benefit from it.” 

Tran also has assisted with Make a Difference Engineering (MADE at TU) projects and served as a student researcher in TU’s Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC). She has been a member of the TU Robotic Mining Crew, the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and many other organizations and activities. 

Working at Vanderbilt opened Tran’s eyes to the direct interaction that often occurs between engineers and physicians seeking to develop life-changing technology. After graduating from TU, she plans to attend medical school and work as a clinical physician. “This experience made me aware of my love for research,” Tran explained. “I will continue working in medical and surgical device research in the future.”  

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship 

nationally competitive awardsStephanie Call (BS ’18) of Tulsa is a pre-med chemical engineering alumna currently pursuing a doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. At TU, she participated on the women’s rowing team and expanded her scientific knowledge and critical thinking skills in her senior lab and design classes. 

At UMass AmherstCall will use her NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to focus on synthetic biology and genome engineering in bacteria. She uses CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) to engineer E. coli and S. aureus to elucidate the genes associated with cell attachment and biofilm formation on biomaterial surfaces, such as catheters and pacemakers. “By finding these genes and investigating their interactions, we hope to find potential targets that could be used to prevent and treat biofilm infections using targeted antimicrobials and/or antibiofouling agents,” Call said. 

After her PhDCall plans to become a professor and establish her own engineering lab to continue researching and developing new technologies. She also wants to teach and mentor the next generation of engineers and researchers. 

Fulbright Canada-MITACS Globalink Research Internship 

Biochemistry, pre-med student Ritvik Ganguly and John Reaves, a triple major in political science, Spanish and economics, were honored as inaugural Fulbright Canada-MITACS Globalink Research program interns. This internship program is offered to U.S. students interested in visiting Canada to undertake advanced research projects in their area of interest. Weeks after the announcement, however, the program was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

nationally competitive awardsGanguly, of Tulsa, was scheduled to complete 12 weeks of research with a neurosurgeon in a neural repair and regeneration laboratory located in Toronto, OntarioHis project would have focused on human induced pluripotent stem cells that target the microenvironment of spinal cord injuries for the development of a new treatment for traumatic spinal cord injuries. 

Ganguly is a Presidential Scholar, Honors Scholar and a member of the TU College Philanthropy Initiative. He plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in internal medicine. 

“I believe that the future of medicine relies not only on our ability to innovate in the field of biomedical research, but also on our ability to foster cross-cultural academic exchanges and work together on a global scale,” he remarked. 

nationally competitive awardsReaves, from Fairview, Texas, would have spent his 12 weeks in Winnipeg, Manitoba, helping compile a history of the oil industries in the United States, Canada and Brazil, and using the data to perform economic forecasting. 

“I wanted something that would prepare me for whatever line of work I ended up in,” Reaves said. “My eventual career goal is to work for the U.S. State Department.”  

Both Ganguly and Reaves are members of the TU Honors Program, Global Scholars and many other extracurricular activities. 

Gilman International Scholarship 

Meagan Henningsen (sociology) of Tulsa; Manal Abu-Sheikh (psychology) of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; and Paris Clark (international business, Spanish) of Silver Spring, Maryland, were selected to receive the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State and supports study abroad opportunities for Pell Grant recipients. Unfortunately, the international adventures for Henningsen, Abu-Sheikh and Clark ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about their global scholarships.

TU psychology faculty and students helping kids and teens with nightmares

When traumatizing nightmares plague a child’s sleep routine, parents often search for answers. University of Tulsa faculty and student researchers in the Department of Psychology have investigated this psychological condition since the early 2000s. Today, Associate Professor of Psychology and clinical psychologist Lisa Cromer leads a team of graduate and undergraduate students in nightmare treatment for children and adolescents.

nightmares
Professor Lisa Cromer and psychology students

The University of Tulsa’s specialization in sleep among children began with graduate student research that was mentored by Professor of Psychology Joanne Davis. She focuses on nightmare and sleep problems in trauma-exposed individuals and when Cromer joined the psychology faculty, Davis invited her to expand upon the original project. With her expertise in children and adolescents, Cromer developed manuals and workbooks to adapt the research more broadly. Since then, graduate and undergraduate students have helped her establish a children’s sleep lab. Cromer and her students currently are conducting their second clinical trial that provides a five-session therapy series for youth, ages 5 to 17, who experience nightmares.

Combining sports and child psychology

Second-year grad student Jack Stimson earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and worked with traumatized, abused and neglected children in Seattle, Washington, before beginning the psychology Ph.D. program at TU. A former rugby athlete, he is interested in both sports and child psychology. “That’s the reason I chose TU and Dr. Cromer in particular,” he said. “She is an expert in a lot of areas, and I have an immense passion for working with kids.”

Stimson contributes to the clinical trial by asking questions and assessing participants once they have received therapy for nightmares. So far, 14 kids and teenagers have entered the treatment with encouraging results. Stimson said the youth and teens are “almost glowing” when he meets with them following the successful therapy sessions. They sleep sounder, feel better and experience fewer nightmares. “In supervision, we’ll sometimes watch tapes from earlier assessments before they went through treatment, and it’s amazing to see the shift in body language,” he said. “Instead of having nightmares every single night, they now maybe have one once or twice a month.”

As an undergraduate, psychology senior Andrew Helt also serves an important purpose in Cromer’s lab. He discovered his career interests in trauma psychology while working with children with communicative disorders at Happy Hands Education Center his freshman year. Helt’s research is the focus of a Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC) project and his final class project. After learning about the enriching environment of Cromer’s lab, basic literature reviews and data entry led him to explore a sub-study within her clinical trial. “We started to notice that while there’s a lot of kids with nightmares, some of them were reluctant to get into research,” Cromer said. “We wanted to understand the hesitation for either seeking treatment or seeking treatment for a research study when the therapy is free.”

During the summer, Helt learned how to use software systems and review literature to understand the psychological constructs associated with children who suffer from frequent nightmares. Overcoming barriers to treatment can help make it more accessible for children who desperately need relief. “I’m looking at what factors play into whether a parent decides to express interest in joining the trial (before) and what impact the nightmare treatment has in reducing symptoms (after) related to cognitive, behavioral functions,” Helt said.

Additional benefits of nightmare treatment

Published findings show parents who pursue therapy typically are of a higher socioeconomic status, and Cromer’s lab wants to learn how to make therapy and research more accessible to diverse groups. Helt’s sub-study also looks at how treatment can improve executive functions such as impulse control, working memory, task switching and goal-directed behavior. “For most of the medical studies I’ve read about, it’s not about convenience but rather factors like a person’s evaluation of the risks vs. benefits of participating,” Helt explained. “Underprivileged populations, for various reasons, have lower executive function, which plays into poor academic and social outcomes. It’s important to find any way possible to improve those executive functions in kids. We want nightmares to go away, but we also want to see if nightmare treatment can help in other areas too.”

The main objective of the second clinical trial is to determine if nightmares decrease in severity and frequency after the five-session therapy series. To accomplish this, Cromer is teaming up with Dr. Tara Buck, assistant professor of psychiatry and Oxley Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine. The university collaboration allows OU to recruit participants for the study while TU graduate students conduct the therapy and post-therapy assessments.

Resilience amid adversity

nightmares
Psychology students assist Cromer with the clinical trial

Cromer and TU have built a credible reputation nationwide for sleep research, but her lab also encompasses other important areas of study, including psychological resilience amid adversity. “Dissertations that have come out of my lab have focused on special populations such as athletes and military families,” she said. “Through the ongoing SHAPE (Student Health, Academic Performance and Education) program, we work directly with TU teams and coaches on goal setting, mental toughness and preventing anxiety.”

Cromer’s research in child and sports psychology is extensive, and her special interest in how sleep affects other aspects of physical and emotional health inspires students like Stimson and Helt to continue working in the field. “The cool part of being in Dr. Cromer’s lab is that we view sleep as this underlying thing that we’re finding pops up in so many disorders and problems,” Stimson said. “We’re on the leading edge of this kind of research.”