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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.

2021 Winners

Reyna Hernandez, B.F.A., is a Senior Secretary at the USD English department. Concurrently, her creative work as a visual artist has positively impacted the community, state, and region. Most recently, she was announced as the 2021 Northern Plains Indian Artist in Residence (NPIAR), part of the USD Contemporary Native Arts Program (CNAP), which also includes the Oscar Howe Summer Arts Institute (OHSAI) and the Oscar Howe Curatorial Fellowship. This residency will focus on a collaborative project with Ihanktunwan Dakota star quilter Claire Packard, who has exhibited works throughout the United States and abroad, and most recently, she was included in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2016 exhibition “Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky.” The NPIAR program supports emerging and mid-career Native artists to integrate new media, methodologies or technologies with traditional Native arts practices, history and culture. Ms. Hernandez’s recent artistic activity has included a publication (as artist/illustrator) The Summer of Bitter & Sweet by Jen Ferguson (Harper Collins, 2021), and a guest curator (2019-2020) for All My Relations Arts, Minneapolis, MN on the project “Bring Her Home: Sacred Womxn of Resistance.” Locally, Ms. Hernandez was the lead artist for the Vermillion SD community mural projects “Eúŋkičhetupi" (Come Back to Life) and “Wanahča" (To Blossom), which have been featured in Arts Alive, a joint publication from Arts South Dakota and the South Dakota Arts Council, and 605 magazine.

Cliff Summers, Ph.D., is a professor for the biology department. He has achieved significant accomplishments throughout his career, including more than 100 peer-reviewed publications—a highwater mark for any researcher in biology. While his long tenure has been punctuated by honors for both research and teaching (including two Belbas-Larson Awards, in 1995 and 2012) and participation in NSF and NIH-funded grants, in the last several years Dr. Summers’s research program has risen in significance and impact. Since 2015, Dr. Summers has received two grants from NIH, each in excess of $400K, and has generated several publications in high-impact journals in his field, In 2020 he was named the Nolop Distinguished Professor at the USD, an endowment reserved to honor scientists recognized for their contributions in fundamental or applied medically relevant research. Dr. Summers’s lab provides vital opportunity for students entering medically oriented fields. His laboratory focuses on the impact of social and environmental stressors on molecular, neural, and endocrine responses to influence adaptive behavior and activities like learning, coping, developing social rank relationships, biological rhythms, reproduction, and social interaction. His team recently developed a new model that includes aggression, learned escape, and conditioned submission. His important work relates molecular genetics, physiology and anatomy to behavior, ecology and evolution. He and his several graduate and undergraduate students regularly present their research at national conferences. Dr. Summers has regularly been invited to present seminars or organize symposia at prominent universities.

Lindsay Jorgensen, Ph.D., is an associate professor and chair of the communication sciences and disorders department. Her team has invented a novel Bone Conductor Headband, which was recently awarded a USD-owned provisional patent. This headband was developed in collaboration with engineering students from the SDSMT and is being beta-tested in the USD audiology clinic. Once fully patented, this device will have applications in the market both in private, clinical and educational settings. Importantly, this product will aid in audiological assessment for individuals not adequately served by the standard bone-conduction headband, facilitate a more expedited determination of treatment plan, and reduce the need for unnecessary surgery. Furthermore, Dr. Jorgensen’s developed clinical protocols, such as her 2020 Tinnitus protocol and 2014 bimodal fitting strategy, have also improved methods of clinical assessment in her field. Dr. Jorgensen’s funded research relates to hearing loss and auditory complaints in the veteran population. Her funding has ranged from a Veterans Administration (VA) grant looking at development of a protocol to assess auditory processing in veterans with blast exposure to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clinical trial. Each of these funded works has led or will lead to innovative practical use. For example, the protocol developed through her VA funded work will be adopted, in part, by the VA for clinical assessments with veterans. For the FDA clinical trial, Dr. Jorgensen is developing the FDA criteria for an auditory device.

Zhongkui Hong, Ph.D., is an associate professor for the biomedical engineering program. He maintains active roles in his field as an editor and reviewer for nationally and internationally recognized research publications. Internationally, he serves as the Associate Editor (since 2017) for Frontiers in Physiology, and on the editorial board for PLOS ONE (since 2018), as well as reviewer for more than 45 other international journals, and a grant reviewer for the European Science Foundation and the Austrian Science Fund. Nationally, Dr. Hong serves as a reviewer/panel member for research granting organizations including the American Heart Association (AHA, Brain and Vascular Sciences), National Sciences Foundation (NSF, Biomechanics/Mechanobiology), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Hong’s research has attracted completed and ongoing support in excess of $1,150,000, notably from the NIH, NSF, AHA, as well as the South Dakota Board of Regents. Atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death in the United States. The long-term goal of Dr. Hong’s research is to offer new insights into the biomechanics of the vascular system and help provide valuable clues in cardiovascular disease. It will provide the strong foundation to accelerate the development of effective therapeutic strategies through vascular tissue engineering

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