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USD Announces 2021 President's Research Award Recipients

A view of Old Main and the Legacy statue. The plants, grass and trees are green and lush. There are students walking to class on the sidewalks. Cliff Summers, Zhongkui Hong, Lindsey Jorgensen and Reyna Hernandez are the 2021 President's Research Award recipients.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota presents four faculty members recognized for their outstanding research, chosen by external reviewers for their research accomplishments, publications and grant success.

The 2021 President’s Award recipients, who received a $2,500 cash award and a plaque, include the following.

President’s Award for Research Excellence: Established Faculty

  • Cliff Summers, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biology

President’s Award for Research Excellence: New-Mid Career Faculty or Staff

  • Zhongkui Hong, Ph.D., associate professor in Department of Biomedical Engineering

President’s Award for Research Innovation & Entrepreneurship

  • Lindsey Jorgensen, Ph.D., chair and associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders

President’s Award for Research Creativity

  • Reyna Hernandez, senior secretary in English department

“Cliff Summers, Zhongkui Hong, Lindsey Jorgensen and Reyna Hernandez are excellent examples of the high-quality researchers we have at USD,” said USD President Sheila K. Gestring. “We are grateful they share their expertise with the university and their students. It is an honor to recognize them with these awards.”

Candidates were reviewed based on past and current research accomplishments, including criteria such as publications, presentations, successful grantsmanship, peer reviewer experience, maintenance of an active graduate or undergraduate program and being conferred other competitive research awards. The Innovation & Entrepreneurship award further required that the winner demonstrate innovative thinking or research findings that had promising commercial potential, as well as a concept that had progressed beyond the theoretical stage to the applied stage.

Cliff Summers was awarded the President’s Award for Research Excellence, Established Faculty, for his significant accomplishments throughout his career, including more than 100 peer-reviewed publications – a highwater mark for any researcher in biology. Since 2015, Summers has received two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), each in excess of $400,000, and has generated several publications in high-impact journals in his field. In 2020, he was named the Nolop Distinguished Professor at USD, an endowment reserved to honor scientists recognized for their contributions in fundamental or applied medically relevant research. Summers’s lab, which focuses on the impact of social and environmental stressors on molecular, neural and endocrine responses to influence adaptive behavior and activities, provides vital opportunity for students entering medically oriented fields. He and his several graduate and undergraduate students regularly present their research at national conferences, and he has frequently been invited to present seminars or organize symposia at prominent universities.

Zhongkui Hong was awarded the President’s Award for Research Excellence, New-Mid Career Faculty or Staff. Hong 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 for Frontiers in Physiology (since 2017), is on the editorial board for PLOS ONE (since 2018), is a reviewer for more than 45 other international journals and is a grant reviewer for the European Science Foundation and the Austrian Science Fund. Nationally, Hong serves as a reviewer and panel member for research-granting organizations including the American Heart Association (AHA, brain and vascular sciences), National Sciences Foundation (NSF, biomechanics/mechanobiology) and the NIH. Hong’s research has gained support totaling over $1 million from the NIH, National Science Foundation (NSF), American Heart Association (AHA) and South Dakota Board of Regents. The long-term goal of Hong’s research is to offer new insights into the biomechanics of the vascular system and help provide valuable clues into cardiovascular disease, which will provide a strong foundation to accelerate the development of effective therapeutic strategies through vascular tissue engineering.

Lindsay Jorgensen was awarded the President’s Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for her team’s invention of 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 South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT) and is being beta-tested in the USD audiology clinic. The product will help 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. Jorgensen’s developed clinical protocols have also improved methods of clinical assessment in her field. Her funded research has included a Veterans Administration (VA) grant to develop protocol to assess auditory processing in veterans with blast exposure and a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clinical trial. Each of these funded works has led or will lead to innovative practical use.

Reyna Hernandez was awarded the President’s Award for Research Creativity. Hernandez has been senior secretary in the USD Department of English since May 2019, and 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. 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. Hernandez’s recent artistic activity includes being an artist and illustrator for the publication “The Summer of Bitter & Sweet” by Jen Ferguson and a guest curator for the All My Relations Arts gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the project “Bring Her Home: Sacred Womxn of Resistance.” Locally, Hernandez was the lead artist for the Vermillion, South Dakota, 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.

ABOUT USD

Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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