The 2017 President’s Award recipients, who receive a $3,000 grant and a plaque:

- President’s Award for Research Excellence: New-Mid Career Faculty, Soonhee Roh, Ph.D., associate professor of social work in the School of Health Sciences;
- President’s Award for Research Excellence: Established Faculty, Brian Burrell, Ph.D., associate professor of basic biomedical sciences in the Sanford School of Medicine;
- President’s Award for Research Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Samuel Sathyanesan, Ph.D., associate professor of basic biomedical sciences in the Sanford School of Medicine.

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.

About the recipients:

Soonhee Roh

Roh’s research focuses on vulnerable populations, including underserved older adult populations, health/mental health problems including cancer prevention and intervention, substance use issues, and acculturative stress.  

Roh is particularly interested in evidence-based intervention research to address issues as they relate to diverse racial/ethnic minority populations such as American Indians. As a junior faculty member, Roh has authored more than 30 peer-reviewed journal articles in the leading journals of the field and she has given more than 50 presentations to professional audiences at international, national, and regional conferences.

Her research is currently funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institute of Health. Two other projects have been supported by internal grants from the USD New Faculty Research and Creative Activity in 2013 and the School of Health Sciences Seed Grant.  

Brian Burrell

Burrell’s research has focused on understanding the biological basis of changes in behavior, specifically the physiological and cellular processes occurring in the nervous system that are ultimately responsible for both adaptive and maladaptive behavioral changes. This type of research is focused specifically on neurobehavioral changes related to pain.

Burrell is studying the role of a class of neurotransmitters known as endocannabinoids that have the potential to reduce pain signaling, but can also increase pain signaling under certain conditions. This research seeks to understand how to use the endocannabinoid system in a way that can produce a therapeutic effect to treat pain without generating the effects that increase pain signaling.

Aside from this research, Burrell has also been active in institutional-development grants that seek to enhance the training of students at the graduate and undergraduate level. He is the co-director the USD Neuroscience and Nanotechnology Network which is funded by the National Science Foundation to prepare STEM graduate students for a variety of post-graduate careers in academia, government and the private sector, and also the NIH-fund Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Addiction (SPURA), which provides research experiences for undergraduates. He also serves as the director for the recently funded Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence initiative at USD which seeks to increase the diversity of students from South Dakota engaged in science majors.

Samuel Sathyanesan

Sathyanesan’s research focuses on understanding the role of growth factor molecules in the brain, specifically proteins from the molecular class which have recently shown promising results in clinical trials in psychiatric disorders.

His laboratory employs a multifaceted molecular, cellular, and behavioral approach to further develop these factors into safer and more efficacious agents for the treatment of depression and cognitive dysfunction. This work is currently funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

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