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The annual President's Awards for Research Excellence and Innovation & Entrepreneurship recognize outstanding research achievements by our faculty. The selections are a strong endorsement of each researcher's creativity and innovation, and an honor for the university to bestow.

Each award recipient receives a $3,000 grant and a plaque.

President's Awards for Research Excellence

These awards recognize research and creative activity that make extraordinary contributions to knowledge and artistic expression and bring positive national visibility to USD. Evidence for accomplishment includes but is not limited to: publications, grants, high-status presentations, juried exhibitions, service on prestigious editorial boards and grant review panels, and national honors. Early/mid-career faculty nominees must be an assistant or associate professor, employed as a USD faculty member for at least one year, with less than eight years of faculty rank, and having research as a significant component of workload. Established faculty nominees must be an associate or full professor, having faculty rank for a minimum of eight years with at least three years as USD faculty, and assigned research as a significant component of workload.

President's Awards for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

The award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship recognizes applied research, commercialization and economic development activities that significantly advance USD. It recognizes innovative thinking and significant efforts to realize the commercial potential of the innovation for the collective benefit of society, the university, the state's economy, and the inventor/entrepreneur. Nominees must be full-time faculty or full-time staff employed by USD.

2020 Winners

Raluca Simons, Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of the Disaster Mental Health Institute, and Jeffrey Simons, Ph.D., professor of psychology, were jointly awarded for their collaborative and integrative efforts in studying at-risk populations, including those affected by trauma in early childhood or combat. Raluca is an expert in emotion, effects of traumatic stress, child maltreatment and veteran’s mental health. Jeffrey’s research focuses on substance abuse, and he is an expert in advanced statistical modeling approaches and theoretical models of self-regulation. One of their earliest collaborations resulted in the Distress Tolerance Scale, a tool widely used in both clinical and research contexts. They have pioneered the use of smartphones and transdermal alcohol sensors to provide real-time assessment of behavior in the natural environment. Both have numerous publications in top journals, and they have devoted much of their time to supporting student research.

Bess Vlaisavljevich, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, has been at USD for three years, and in this short time, she has built a research program that brings national and international scientists together. She has published a career total of 48 peer-reviewed articles. Vlaisavljevich’s research approach uses multiple computational methods to understand complex systems in inorganic chemistry, f-element chemistry and materials science. She serves as a reviewer for the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund. Vlaisavljevich is a senior investigator, principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on five successful grants from the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy currently totaling $1,126,849.

Zhenqiang (Rick) Wang, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, has established an innovative research program developing novel nanostructured materials and exploring their applications and commercialization in areas including clean energy, the environment and biomedicine. He and his team strive to take fundamental discoveries from the lab to find real-world applications to benefit the economy, the community and society. To date, their innovation and entrepreneurship efforts have led to a patent, numerous federal and state grants, and several local media reports. Wang’s team at USD invented a novel class of nanomolecules termed “metal-organic supercontainers (MOSCs),” that have the potential to serve as a therapeutic for meth overdose.

Past Winners: Research Excellence - New or Mid-Career Faculty

 2020  Bess Vlaisavljev  College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
 2019  KC Santosh  College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Computer Science
 2018  Meghann Jarchow  College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Sustainability
 2017  Soonhee Roh  School of Health Science, Dept. of Social Work
2016 Hongli Sun College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
2015 Z. Rick Wang College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
2014 Haoran Sun College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
2013 Chaoyang Jiang College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
2012 Mark Dixon College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Biology
2011 Jacob Kerby College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Biology
2010 Ranjit Koodali College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
2009 Gina Forster (Tie) Sanford School of Medicine, Div. of Basic Biomedical Sciences
2009 Dongming Mei (Tie) College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Physics
2008 Patrick Garry School of Law
2007 Dan Soluk College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Biology

Past Winners: Research Excellence - Established Faculty

 2020  Raluca Simmons & Jeffery Simmons College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Psychology
 2019 David Swanson College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Biology
 2018 Andre Sykes  College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
 2017 Brian Burrell  Sanford School of Medicine, Div. of Basic Biomedical Sciences
2016 Gina Forester College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
2015 Yuhlong Lio College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Mathematical Sciences
2014 Dongming Mei College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Physics
2013 Ranjit Koodali (tie) College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
2013 Carlos Telleria (tie) Sanford School of Medicine Div. of Basic Biomedical Sciences
2012 Mary Berry College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
2011 Patrick Garry School of Law
2010 John Koster National Music Museum
2009 Robert Morecraft (Tie) Sanford School of Medicine, Div. of Basic Biomedical Sciences
2009 Paula Mabee (Tie) College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Biology
2008 Xuejun (XJ) Wang Sanford School of Medicine, Div. of Basic Biomedical Sciences
2007 Teri James Bellis College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Communication Disorders

Past Winners: Innovation & Entrepreneurship

 2020 Zhenqiang Wang  College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
 2019 Daniel Engebretson    College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
 2018  Brandon Ness   School of Health Sciences, Dept. of Physical  Therapy
 2017 Samuel Sathyanesan   Sanford School of Medicine, Div. of Basic Biomedical Sciences
2016 Victor Huber College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
2015 Grigoriy Sereda College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
2014 Stanley May College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Chemistry
2013 Gopinath Mani Graduate School, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
2012 Andrew Shim School of Education, Dept. of Kinesiology & Sports Science
2011 Young Ae Kim College of Fine Arts, Dept. of Art
2010 William Anderson College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Political Science
2009 Yuyu Sun Sanford School of Medicine, Div. of Basic Biomedical Sciences
2005 DaQing Yang Sanford School of Medicine

Past Winners: Creativity

 2020 Tracelyn Gesteland  College of Fine Arts, Dept. of Music
 2019 Luis Viquez  College of Fine Arts, Dept. of Music
 2018 LeeAnn Roripaugh  College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of English