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WSU FACULTY AWARDS

2017 University Faculty Awards

Nine Wichita State University faculty members will be honored during the 2017 Faculty Awards Friday, May 5 at 3 p.m. The honorees are recognized for setting the gold standard for teaching and research activities at WSU.

2017 Honorees

Academy for Effective Teaching Ramazan Asmatulu
Gayla Lohfink
Excellence Award for Community Research Trisha Self
Excellence in Research Ramazan Asmatulu
Excellence in Teaching Kim Cluff
Faculty Risk Taker Khawaja Saeed
Jingjun Xu
Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching Award Gergana Markova
Young Faculty Risk Taker Ali Eslami
Young Faculty Scholar Esra Büyüktahtakιn Toy


Academy for Effective Teaching

Established in 1996, these awards are given by WSU’s Academy for Effective Teaching, a group of outstanding emeriti faculty nominated for membership by current faculty and staff at WSU. Recipients of the AET Teaching Award are chosen through a multi-stage process. After collecting nominations from current students, the 8-person AET Steering Committee creates a short list of excellent teachers, each of whom is invited to submit a teaching portfolio. On the basis of the portfolios, the AET Steering Committee recommends winners to the vice president for Academic Affairs, who makes the final award. Awardees who are full-time faculty receive a $2,000 addition to their base salary beginning the following academic year; adjunct awardees receive a one-time $2,000 award.

Ramazan AsmatuluRamazan Asmatulu, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering

Ramazan Asmatulu earned the Bachelor of Science in mining engineering from Istanbul Technical University in Turkey in 1992 as an honor student and the doctorate in materials science and engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2001. He did post-doctoral work at the University of Connecticut and Yale University. Asmatulu joined the WSU faculty in 2006. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard University (2007) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2009) and was a visiting scholar with the Air Force Institute of Technology (2012). He was named WSU's Young Faculty Scholar in 2014.

Ramazan Asmatulu researches small things that can make an impact. He was recruited to Wichita State in 2006, when the College of Engineering decided to develop a focus in nanotechnology research and education. Since then, he's built WSU's nanotechnology research program “practically all by himself,” according to one colleague.

During his 11 years at WSU, he's also built a reputation as an excellent teacher and mentor who has trained more than 400 undergraduate and graduate students and nearly a dozen local high school students on nanotechnology and associated technologies. In his lab, he has trained more than 150 doctoral, master's and undergraduate students, along with 17 post-doctoral and research associates, noted Muhammad Rahman, chair of the mechanical engineering department and the Bloomfield Chair Professor.

Some scientists believe that nanotechology – the creation and application of materials that are super, super tiny – will revolutionize our lives. (For perspective, one nanometer is 100,000 times smaller than a hair strand.) Nanosizing materials creates property changes, so scientists have to study those characteristics to figure out how to arrange or manipulate the nanoparticles to make them better or stronger.

Asmatulu has garnered funds from both local industry and federal agencies to create nanomaterials that can be applied in the aerospace, energy and medical fields.

During his research career, Asmatulu has received more than $5 million in internal and external grants from various sources, according to Rahman. Asmatulu is the primary investigator on 23 of the 38 funded proposals that range from how nanotechnology can convert energy more efficiently, make lighter and stronger airplanes and provide better drug delivery systems for cancer and arthritis treatments.

His publication and research record is prolific: more than 100 journal papers, more than 210 conference proceedings, 33 book chapters, two lab manuals and three edited books, along with more than 100 presentations and 10 patents. His work has been cited nearly 1,650 times, colleagues pointed out.

He's also prolific in the classroom, inspiring and motivating students to succeed.

“He has developed a number of very popular undergraduate and elective courses, including the biomaterials, nanotechnology, biocompatible composites, materials recycling, fracture mechanics and corrosion” courses, wrote Hamid Lankarani, a colleague in the mechanical engineering department and a fellow in the American Society of Mechanical Engineering. Lankarani calls Asmatulu “clearly one of the most hard-working people I have met.”

In total, Asmatulu has taught 13 different undergraduate and graduate courses, eight of which he newly developed. He updated the other courses with new textbooks, handouts, videos, animations, weblinks and PowerPoint slides. He always requires extended projects and assignments, many of which encourage teamwork.

He developed the state's first undergraduate nanotechnology teaching lab, where students can design, fabricate, analyze and test various nanomaterials, biomaterials and nanodevices. He also completely modified the Materials Engineering Laboratory. He's developed a class to cultivate interest in nanotechology among freshman students and is currently creating another new lab (the Energy Systems Laboratory) and a new certificate program.

Several of his students wrote letters of support for his teaching abilities, praising him for motivating them to succeed, for being very approachable and knowledgeable and for providing discussions and examples on the application of course material to various industries.

“I have never had a teacher (who) does such exceptional work than what my professor Dr. Ramazan Asmatulu shows,” said doctoral student Naif Alzahrani. “His interactions with his students and his everlasting drive to help every single student reach their full potential is unprecedented and unlike any other teacher I have ever had in my career as a student.”

He has won the College of Education's Polished Professor Award four times since 2007, an award that is based on the evaluation scores by the college's graduate and undergraduate students. In 2012, he received the college's Dwane and Velma Wallace Outstanding Educator Award in teaching. Asmatulu was named WSU's Young Faculty Scholar in 2014.


Gayla LohfinkGayla Lohfink, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education

Gayla Lohfink received the Bachelor of Science in education from Kansas State University (1976), the Master of Science in special education (1982) and the Education Specialist degree in reading education (1982) from Fort Hays State University, and the doctorate in curriculum and instruction from K-State (2006). She joined the WSU faculty in 2010, after teaching positions at her two alma maters.

For young minds, just sitting down in a classroom to listen to a teacher really isn't the best way for them to learn.

“Children need to move,” says Gayla Lohfink.

It's also not the best way for college students who want to become elementary school teachers to learn either, according to Lohfink. She engages her student in multiple ways, sometimes even including music, dance and creative drama.

“Engagement allows me to model effective teaching strategies for my students as I 'play teacher' and show them how to not only engage their students, but also deliver elementary education content and demonstrate pedagogical skills effectively,” she wrote in her teaching philosophy statement.

She designs simulated experiences that future teachers can participate in, just as their future charges might, whether that's moving around to different stations set up for learning or walking to the wall to hang up notes or pieces of information being taught.

“Research has shown that the novelty of just relocating increases our attention,” she said. “Just getting up will give the brain oxygen, and the brain thrives on oxygen.”

In the past year, Lohfink has partnered with WSU colleague Rick Pappas from the department of human performance studies to publish and present research on enhancing learning through meaningful movement. They've also co-taught a continuing education workshop for area teachers on the topic.

Lohfink also continues to do research on reading comprehension, literacy strategies and how to celebrate diversity and discourage bullying through age-appropriate books for young readers.

Lohfink's creativity in the classroom helps “demonstrate educational principles and serves as a model for exemplary elementary classroom teaching,” according to Shirley Lefever, dean of WSU's College of Education. She said what Lohfink is doing is creating a legacy with a multiplying effect: Graduates of WSU's program who have had Lohfink as an instructor are themselves being recognized for teaching excellence, and those teachers in turn are impacting thousands of students over their careers.

To ensure she is preparing her students effectively, Lohfink interacts weekly with current teachers at two Wichita elementary schools. Those teachers serve not only as mentors to WSU teacher candidates but as models for Lohfink, helping her advance her own knowledge base.

Those observations and interactions also help her in her service as chair of WSU's elementary education committee, where she can advocate for changes to improve the quality of the program.

This summer Lohfink will help WSU redesign coursework to meet Kansas' new elementary education unified licensing standards. The license will prepare teacher candidates to work with elementary students with and without special needs.

This is Lohfink's third consecutive award recognizing her teaching excellence: She received the WSU College of Education Excellence in Teaching award in 2015 and WSU's Excellence in Teaching Award in 2016.


Excellence Award for Community Research

The Excellence Award for Community Research recognizes a faculty member who has established an exemplary and demonstrable record of scholarship extended to external constituents resulting in significant outcome for individuals, organizations, or community in problem solving or development. Full-time faculty who have served at WSU for at least three years are eligible. The recipient is awarded $2,500.

Trisha SelfTrisha Self, Associate Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders, College of Health Professions

Trisha Self earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1984, a Master of Arts in 1985, and a doctorate in 1991, all in communicative (cq) disorders and sciences from Wichita State University. She began working at her alma mater in 1994, serving 11 years as director of clinical programs and research with WSU’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic before joining the Communication Sciences and Disorders faculty full time in 2005.

Trisha Self is known to colleagues and students, as well as families in the community, as a passionate advocate for children impacted by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In recent years, she's been working to find ways to evaluate and diagnose children earlier so they can get the services they need.

“We're still not identifying these children as early as we need to be,” said Self, who has a national reputation for her ASD research and service.

Even with the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics to screen children for ASD two times before their second birthday, several children remain undiagnosed until they are older, she said. Since 1980, the prevalence of ASD has increased dramatically from one in 10,000 children to one in 68, she said. Children as young as 2 can be reliably diagnosed, but too often medical and other professionals don’t feel confident enough to make an ASD diagnosis, Self discovered in some earlier studies. That means children and families aren't getting appropriate intervention services as early as they should.

As an educator and researcher, Self decided to tackle the issue from a grassroots level – by helping better prepare students from various disciplines recognize, screen and evaluate for ASD. As they become practicing front-line professionals, they need to be able to communicate confidently with other professionals involved with diagnosing this disorder, she said.

In 2012, Self established the Autism Interdisciplinary Diagnostic Team, a community-university partnership effort that offers an interprofessional evaluation and eventual diagnosis of children with possible ASD. Community partners are the University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita, represented by a developmental pediatrician, an advanced practice registered nurse and members of the pharmacy program, as well as five physical therapists and an occupational therapist from a local education cooperative. All volunteer their services. Students and educators from the following WSU programs participate: communication sciences and disorders, early childhood unified, clinical psychology, physical therapy, physician assistant and dental hygiene.

Julie Scherz, chair of WSU's communication sciences and disorders department, calls Self's AIDT effort innovative.

Once a month during the fall and spring semesters, members of AIDT meet for about two half-days to evaluate children who are referred by a local developmental pediatrician.

Students’ documented perceptions of the process indicate they feel more confident screening and evaluating children for ASD, one of the outcomes Self had hoped for. She also hopes there will be a ripple effect with students participating on or taking leadership roles in developing similar teams once they become practicing professionals.

Self has garnered numerous grants to continue the AIDT, and research related to the partnership has resulted in seven refereed articles, a book chapter, other publications and several presentations on the local, national and international level.

Self, who is on the Kansas Governor's Commission on Autism and a member of several professional organizations, also provides training and consultations for educators and speech-language pathologists who serve children with ASD in Kansas schools.

In all her research and training activities, Self involves students, Scherz said. Several master's level research projects have evolved from AIDT and three cutting-edge doctoral dissertations have focused on aspects of ASD.

Self received a college-level teaching award in 2009 and the WSU Excellence in Teaching Award in 2010.


Excellence in Research

The Excellence in Research Award, established in 1997, recognizes a faculty member who has established an exemplary record of research that has advanced the University’s research mission. Full-time faculty who have been at WSU for three years are eligible. The recipient is awarded $2,500.

Ramazan AsmatuluRamazan Asmatulu, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering

Ramazan Asmatulu earned the Bachelor of Science in mining engineering from Istanbul Technical University in Turkey in 1992 as an honor student and the doctorate in materials science and engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2001. He did post-doctoral work at the University of Connecticut and Yale University. Asmatulu joined the WSU faculty in 2006. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard University (2007) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2009) and was a visiting scholar with the Air Force Institute of Technology (2012). He was named WSU's Young Faculty Scholar in 2014.

Ramazan Asmatulu researches small things that can make an impact. He was recruited to Wichita State in 2006, when the College of Engineering decided to develop a focus in nanotechnology research and education. Since then, he's built WSU's nanotechnology research program “practically all by himself,” according to one colleague.

During his 11 years at WSU, he's also built a reputation as an excellent teacher and mentor who has trained more than 400 undergraduate and graduate students and nearly a dozen local high school students on nanotechnology and associated technologies. In his lab, he has trained more than 150 doctoral, master's and undergraduate students, along with 17 post-doctoral and research associates, noted Muhammad Rahman, chair of the mechanical engineering department and the Bloomfield Chair Professor.

Some scientists believe that nanotechology – the creation and application of materials that are super, super tiny – will revolutionize our lives. (For perspective, one nanometer is 100,000 times smaller than a hair strand.) Nanosizing materials creates property changes, so scientists have to study those characteristics to figure out how to arrange or manipulate the nanoparticles to make them better or stronger.
Asmatulu has garnered funds from both local industry and federal agencies to create nanomaterials that can be applied in the aerospace, energy and medical fields.

During his research career, Asmatulu has received more than $5 million in internal and external grants from various sources, according to Rahman. Asmatulu is the primary investigator on 23 of the 38 funded proposals that range from how nanotechnology can convert energy more efficiently, make lighter and stronger airplanes and provide better drug delivery systems for cancer and arthritis treatments.
His publication and research record is prolific: more than 100 journal papers, more than 210 conference proceedings, 33 book chapters, two lab manuals and three edited books, along with more than 100 presentations and 10 patents. His work has been cited nearly 1,650 times, colleagues pointed out.

He's also prolific in the classroom, inspiring and motivating students to succeed.
“He has developed a number of very popular undergraduate and elective courses, including the biomaterials, nanotechnology, biocompatible composites, materials recycling, fracture mechanics and corrosion” courses, wrote Hamid Lankarani, a colleague in the mechanical engineering department and a fellow in the American Society of Mechanical Engineering. Lankarani calls Asmatulu “clearly one of the most hard-working people I have met.”

In total, Asmatulu has taught 13 different undergraduate and graduate courses, eight of which he newly developed. He updated the other courses with new textbooks, handouts, videos, animations, weblinks and PowerPoint slides. He always requires extended projects and assignments, many of which encourage teamwork.
He developed the state's first undergraduate nanotechnology teaching lab, where students can design, fabricate, analyze and test various nanomaterials, biomaterials and nanodevices. He also completely modified the Materials Engineering Laboratory. He's developed a class to cultivate interest in nanotechology among freshman students and is currently creating another new lab (the Energy Systems Laboratory) and a new certificate program.

Several of his students wrote letters of support for his teaching abilities, praising him for motivating them to succeed, for being very approachable and knowledgeable and for providing discussions and examples on the application of course material to various industries.
“I have never had a teacher (who) does such exceptional work than what my professor Dr. Ramazan Asmatulu shows,” said doctoral student Naif Alzahrani. “His interactions with his students and his everlasting drive to help every single student reach their full potential is unprecedented and unlike any other teacher I have ever had in my career as a student.”

He has won the College of Education's Polished Professor Award four times since 2007, an award that is based on the evaluation scores by the college's graduate and undergraduate students. In 2012, he received the college's Dwane and Velma Wallace Outstanding Educator Award in teaching. Asmatulu was named WSU's Young Faculty Scholar in 2014.


Excellence in Teaching

The University of Wichita Board of Regents, now known as the WSU Board of Trustees, established a corpus of $50,000 in 1964 to provide grants to recognize superior teaching through the Excellence in Teaching Award. The recipient is awarded $2,000.

Kim CluffKim Cluff, Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering

Kim Cluff earned the Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in biological systems engineering in 2007 and 2009, respectively, and completed the doctorate in biological engineering in 2012, all from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. He joined the biomedical engineering faculty at WSU in January 2013.

Kim Cluff's path to professorship wasn't a direct one, but there were places and people that pointed him in that direction.

In an early job as a certified aerospace machinist in a machine shop in Arizona, he would watch and listen to engineers solve problems. During a two-year mission trip to Brazil, he was inspired by doctors providing medical services to the local children through Operation Smile. On the advice of his doctoral adviser as he studied biomedical engineering in Nebraska, he took a teaching preparation class and discovered he not only wanted to do research but he wanted to teach in the field of biomedical engineering.

Just as he benefited from inspiring people along his journey, Cluff wants to motivate students on their journey.

“I genuinely love students who like to learn and I want to help them walk through their path of learning,” he said. “I want them to be comfortable learning without a fear of failure.”

Cluff uses active-learning principles in his classes, noted David McDonald, a WSU biology professor who has observed his class. He has students solve problems collectively in real time, provides summations and helpful examples including personal experiences, and interacts with each student as he walks around the classroom, McDonald said.

“Dr. Cluff is the kind of professor who learns all the students' names and is able to make real connections in class,” said Kaitlyn Howard, one of several students who wrote nomination letters for Cluff. “His sincerity fosters a relationship that makes students want to do well in his courses because you can feel that your progress is important to him.”

“Their success is my success,” he said. He gets excited as he talks about students' achievements, which he highlights on his website.

“Dr. Cluff has been instrumental in the growth and success of the biomedical engineering department due to his commitment to our current and future students, as well as their experiential learning,” said Michael Jorgensen, the department chair. “Dr. Cluff has a larger vision of what teaching encompasses, where he also utilizes avenues of research, outreach and service as teaching opportunities to enhance learning.”

“I don't distinguish between research and teaching,” Cluff said. “Research is teaching. The lab can be the best model of teaching, like an apprenticeship.”

In the Biomedical sensors, Imaging, Modeling and Engineering Lab, students get experience with cutting-edge research involving advanced medical imaging systems and other sophisticated instruments, powerful modeling software and innovate sensors. Cluff and his research team currently have a patent pending on a wearable biomedical smart sensor, funded by a $1.1 million grant from NASA.

As part of that grant, he is providing summer internships for some students from Wichita North High School to work in his lab. Cluff also has organized mentors from the Biomedical Engineering Society student chapter to help North High students on senior design projects and has provided lab tours to Upward Bound middle school students.

Cluff received the 2016 Dwane and Velma Wallace Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Engineering and WSU's John A. See Innovation in Research Award in 2015.


Faculty Risk Taker

Wichita State University’s Office of Academic Affairs established the Faculty Risk Taker Award in 2017 to acknowledge and reward experiments outside the norm in teaching, research, and service. The recipient is awarded $2,000.

Khawaja SaeedKhawaja Saeed, Associate Dean and Professor, Graduate Studies in Business, W. Frank Barton School of Business

Khawaja Saeed earned the Bachelor of Commerce in accounting from the University of Punjab in Pakistan in 1991, two MBAs from the University of Central Punjab in 1993 and from the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand in 1995, and a doctorate in information systems from the University of South Carolina in 2004. He joined the WSU faculty in 2004.

 

Jingjun XuJingjun (David) Xu, Associate Professor, Department of Finance, Real Estate and Decision Sciences, W. Frank Barton School of Business

David Xu earned the Bachelor of Business Administration in information systems, with first-class honors, from Lingnan University in Hong Kong in 2002, the Master of Philosophy in information systems from City University of Hong Kong in 2006 and a doctoral degree in information systems from the University of British Columbia in Canada in 2011. He joined the WSU business school faculty in 2011. He earned WSU's Young Faculty Scholar award in 2015.

When Khawaja Saeed and David Xu, decided to look for a venture to introduce young, creative students to the field of information systems and to WSU's Barton School of Business, they figured there might be an app for that.

Mobile applications are in high demand and so are the developers who create them. In 2014, Saeed and Xu decided to create a four-day mobile app summer camp for high school students from Wichita and surrounding communities. The camp has become an annual event, and will again take place this summer.

The camp, the two explained, has turned out to be a creative way to accomplish three things. First, it stimulates students' interests and learning in the area of IT. Second, by holding the camp within the state-of-the-art Koch Trading Center on the first floor of Clinton Hall, students get a positive image of WSU, the Barton School and the management information systems program. Third, the camp helps build relationships between the students and potential employers, as two major, local IT companies – LogMeIn and Cybertron – are sponsors of the camp. Meritrust Credit Union is also a sponsor.

“We live in a digital world and Wichita, like many other cities, is having a difficult time attracting and retaining a technical workforce, which is essential for the growth of local businesses,” the pair wrote in a statement describing their camp. The camp helps students see the possibility of getting not only an education but also a career in high-tech field, right here in Wichita.

“It's not just all technical app development,” said Saeed about the camp's curriculum that he and Xu developed. “It's also behavioral and business centric.”

Within the four days of the camp, students are exposed to several experiences and concepts, from team-building to visiting WSU’s human performance lab and Ennovar, the Institute of Emerging Technologies and Market Solutions to creating the applications.

As they work on the apps, the students take into consideration how to make the apps user-friendly, create paid, premium options and more. Last year, for example, one team created the app, Where is My Car, which allows the user to use GPS functionality to pin the location of their car, while another team created CityRate, an app that generates list of upcoming events and attractions happening near the user based on the user's profile.

The camp has been getting favorable reviews from the participants: “The camp is perfect for a start for anyone who seeks a career in app development. The instructors are professionals throughout the whole camp,” wrote one student. “It was very hands-on and fun to develop new apps,” another wrote.

Camp attendance has grown each year, from 16 the first year to 22 last year. The camp can accommodate up to 30 students.

“It's impressive that two dedicated scholars with excellent research records took the risk and initiative to go out and raise funds and attract sponsors to create this innovative, educational program,” said Rick LeCompte, chair of the finance, real estate and decision sciences department. “And they also actively promote the camp and recruit students.”

Saeed, for example, has published more than 20 peer-reviewed articles and is currently doing research on mobile banking services. He has received several best paper awards for his research work from the Decision Sciences Institute. A few years ago, he and two WSU students created the Wichita Report app for the city of Wichita so that citizens can report issues of any kind, from potholes to illegal dumping.

Xu, who won WSU's Young Faculty Scholar award in 2015, has been on a fast track to academic success, publishing 12 articles, most related to how users interact with technology, within his field's top-tier journals.


Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching Award

Wichita State University’s Board of Trustees established the Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching Award in 1982 to recognize exemplary effort and leadership in improvement and learning at WSU. The recipient is awarded $1,000.

Gergana MarkovaGergana (Gery) Markova, associate professor, Department of Management, W. Frank Barton School of Business

Gergana (Gery) Markova earned Bachelor and Master of Science in finance at the University of Naitonal and World Economy in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1998, MA in Law in 2001, and PhD in Business Administration from the University of Central Florida in 2006. She joined Wichita State University's faculty in 2006. She teaches classes in Human Resource Management and Diversity.

Cultivating and developing workforce talent are key components in human resource management, and Gergana (Gery) Markova not only has an opportunity to share how to do that with students in her management classes but with her WSU colleagues, as well.

“I am passionate about faculty success,” she said. “Faculty are the creative force in the university and what I teach and research about is the advancement of creative employees.”

Drawing on her own experiences of benefiting from peer-to-peer mentoring and of structuring online courses, Markova has become a respected mentor in the areas of faculty development and online learning at WSU.

When she joined the WSU faculty as a new assistant professor, Markova said she appreciated the advice and counsel of senior faculty who helped her understand the rigors of academe.

Now, she helps ensure new faculty members receive similar support by leading the Pre-Tenure Club, an informal gathering of faculty that meets twice a month. The group is dedicated to improving the experiences and careers of tenure-track faculty. Many faculty will seek Markova's counsel outside of those meetings, too.

John Perry, chair of the management department, praised Markova's leadership in online class development in both the Barton School of Business and WSU. She participates in an informal college-level group that seeks ways to improve online course delivery and in a more formal university-level program that is helping to grow and enhance WSU's online course offerings.

“Within the Barton School, Gery has developed and taught more online courses than any other faculty members,” said Perry.

Since 2015, Markova has developed and taught three online courses. That experience, she said, has helped her become a better teacher. “It requires more structure,” she said. This semester, she is teaching exclusively online.

Markova’s Fundamentals of Human Resource Management meets WSU's Office of Online Learning's gold standard, which is based on the Quality Matters rubric that lists guidelines for designing high quality online classes. That class also has tripled its enrollment numbers since moving to an online format, going from an average of about 30 students when taught in a traditional format to more than 90 online.

Markova currently co-chairs WSU's Online Learning Faculty Fellows program, which she calls “an amazing platform to exchange ideas and promote best pedagogical practices.” The program brings together more than a dozen faculty members from WSU six academic colleges who help other WSU faculty improve online teaching.

Markova has also researched, published and presented on the topics of professional associations, professionals, employee motivation, mentoring, ethical human resource practices and more. With funding from the American Society of Association Executives, Markova is currently investigating the impact of professional associations on the development of professionals.


Young Faculty Risk Taker

Wichita State University’s Office of Academic Affairs established the Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2017 to acknowledge and reward experiments outside the norm in teaching,
research, and service. The recipient recieves a $2,000 award.

Ali EslamiAli Eslami, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering

Ali Eslami earned the Bachelor of Science and the Master of Science in electrical engineering from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran, in 2004 and 2006, respectively, and a doctoral degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2013. After spending two years as a post-doctoral research associate at Texas A&M University and almost a year as a visiting research scholar at Duke University, Eslami joined the WSU faculty in 2015.

Ali Eslami likes a challenge. Shortly after joining WSU's College of Engineering as a tenure-track professor less than two years ago, he made an unexpected and what several of his colleagues call “ bold shift” in his research focus.

“Despite having sound research in cyber-physical systems, in which he is actively publishing with students, he decided to completely change his research direction to an area which is completely new,” wrote Associate Professor Preethika Kumar in her nomination letter. “This is something we might expect from a tenured faculty, but very rarely from a new untenured faculty since it is very risky.”

Up until recently, Eslami has studied cyber-physical systems, which essentially are “smart” systems that rely on the interaction of both physical and computer networks. Robotics and auto pilot systems are examples of such systems.

In his new research, Eslami is looking at developing the tiniest of smart sensors – the size of a microscopic red blood cell with shape-shifting and powered capabilities – that could travel through one of the most complex, natural physical systems – the human body's vascular system – to search for tumor and cancer cells and other abnormalities. The sensor, which he has named a biomote, would then communicate its findings to an external device, such as a smartphone.

He's pored over anatomy and physiology books borrowed from the library, watched countless videos on cancer, blood flow and other aspects of the blood flow, met with other researchers on campus who study biomechanics and has connected with a retired medical doctor to understand more about how the body works.

He's studying what exists currently within the realm of nanosensors, energy systems and more to see what can be adapted to create a prototype for this biomote.

His enthusiasm, drive and passion will help give him the edge he needs to succeed with his new research, Eslami believes. For him research isn't about building tenure, but building a career he is passionate about and that can bring about change.

His new research already has some positive outcomes. Eslami has received grant money to pursue the project and has two students working with him daily. The project has won a Bright Future award from WSU Venture because of its ground-breaking potential. Plus, Eslami's research efforts have also led him to develop a new multidisciplinary course on nano communications that combines concepts from electronics, wireless communications, mechanical engineering and biology.

For Eslami, pursuing a new field of research isn't any more challenging than continuing to study an established one.

“Research is always about taking risks,” he said.

One of his student researchers, Ali Behfarnia, has begun to realize that, as well.

“What is clear to me from my firsthand experience with this project is that pursuing such an interdisciplinary research is only possible by putting aside fear of confronting new areas, taking a big risk and learning a lot of theories from scratch,” he said.


Young Faculty Scholar

Wichita State University’s Board of Trustees established the Young Faculty Scholar Award in 1988 to recognize faculty members who are between their third and eighth year of service and have records of excellence in teaching performance and substantial achievement in research and/or creative activity. The recipient receives a $2,000 award.

Esra BuyuktahtakinEsra Buyuktahtakin, Associate Professor, Department of Industrial, Systems and Manufacturing Engineering, College of Engineering

Esra Buyuktahtakin earned the Master of Science in industrial engineering at Bilkent University in 2005, the Master of Science in management science at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania in 2007, and the doctorate in industrial and systems engineering at the University of Florida in 2009. She joined the WSU faculty in 2011, after spending two years as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Arizona.

Through her research, Esra Buyuktahtakin is helping fight the bad guys – pests that create havoc on crops and diseases that ravage the human body.

Her research involves creating mathematical optimization algorithms to tackle these problems. With the results from that modeling, policymakers can make better decisions about where and when to allocate limited resources to battle biological invasions.

“I like to provide new perspectives and innovative ways of thinking to address problems in various disciplines,” said Buyuktahtakin, who won a coveted $500,000 Career Award from the National Science Foundation in 2016. It's the highest award given to junior faculty at U.S. universities. “Mathematics can be a powerful tool to solve difficult problems in any aspect of life.”

In addition to the NSF award, Buyuktahtakin has received other grants to study invasive species that impact ecosystems and the economies that rely on those ecosystems. With a $430,000 grant from the USDA, Buyuktahtakin, along with WSU biological sciences faculty member Greg Houseman, is researching weed management in rangelands. With another USDA grant, she's creating models related to controlling the aggressively spreading ash borer, which has caused $40 billion in economic damage in the U.S. since 2002.

She also uses her modeling research in the area of human diseases, such as optimal chemotherapy planning strategies for patients with breast cancer and optimal management of infectious diseases, such as Ebola and the human immunodeficiency virus.

With most of her research, she works with professionals from other disciplines, another facet she enjoys about her work. Graduate and undergraduate students also work alongside her in the Systems Optimization and Analytics Lab (SOAL) she created when she came to WSU, giving them an opportunity to publish in highly respected journals. Fourteen of the 18 refereed journal articles that Buyuktahtakin has published have student co-authors.

Buyuktahtakin has more than 31 publications including conference proceedings and book chapters. She's published in several top-tier journals, including IIE Transactions, the flagship journal of industrial and systems engineering; the European Journal of Operational Research, one of the most prestigious journals in operations research; Applied Energy; and Biomass and Bioenergy.

In 2015, she and her first doctoral student graduate Halil Cobuloglu won the 2015 INFORMS Best Publication Award in Environment and Sustainability, given to the best publication selected from a competition among nominated journal papers. Buyuktahtakin’s students have also won WSU's Outstanding Doctoral Student awards and two awards in the Capitol Graduate Summit in Topeka.

Buyuktahtakin has received other recognition from INFORMS, the leading international association for professionals in operations research and analytics. In 2016, she received three awards from the group: its early career award, its Moving Spirit Award and its Volunteer Service Award. Buyuktahtakin is highly involved in INFORMS peer-to-peer development group for junior faculty, has served in several leadership roles within INFORMS, and has organized and chaired several sessions at its conferences.

Buyuktahtakin has also helped broaden the curriculum of the industrial, systems and manufacturing engineering department by developing and teaching three new courses, noted Krishna Krishnan, the department chair. All of her classes receive highly positive student evaluations.

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