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CAS Distinguished Research Awards

The College of Arts and Sciences' Distinguished Research Award (CASDRA) was initiated in 1993-94. Awards may be given in four areas: Natural Sciences and Mathematical Sciences; Humanities; Social Sciences; and Engaged Scholarship, which was initiated in 2005.

In recognition for outstanding research achievements, each recipient receives $500.00 toward research expenses, a plaque, and recognition at our August faculty meeting.

We are very pleased today to acknowledge three of our faculty members for their outstanding research performance. Dr. Emily A. Thrush, Department of English, is receiving the CASDRA in the area of the Humanities; Dr. Mohamed Laradji, Department of Physics, is receiving the award in the area of Natural Sciences and Mathematical Sciences; and Dr. Leslie A. Robinson, Department of Psychology, is receiving the award in the area of the Engaged Scholarship.


Emily A. Thrush

Dr. Emily A. Thrush received the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Research Award in the area of the HumanitiesDr. Emily A. Thrush, Professor of English, is receiving the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Award in the area of the Humanities. She completed her Ph.D. at Georgia State University in 1990 and joined the University of Memphis faculty in 1990. She is Coordinator of the Professional Writing Program and teaches in both the Applied Linguistics and Professional Writing programs.

Professor Thrush depicts her research as involving "making connections," including connecting disciplines such as psychology, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), organization communication and technical writing. She has drawn upon concepts from these multiple disciplines in order to clarify the kind of challenges readers from non-English languages and cultures face as they learn to express themselves in English. In short, "her work has provided insights related to the integration of linguistic concepts into professional writing and technical communication practices," according to a colleague from another university.

Dr. Charles Hall, in his letter of nomination notes the importance of Dr. Thrush's 1994 article "Bridging the Gaps: Technical Communications in the International and Multicultural World" published in the journal Technical Communications and receiving an award for being the best article published in that journal that year. This article has been referred to as the "seminal" work in international and intercultural communication. Dr. Hall notes that Dr. Thrush uses linguistic tools to explore writing and communication with non-native speakers of English.

Dr. Thrush has received many collaborative grants for her research through the US Department of Education, among others. She was a Senior Fulbright Scholar (2000-01) to Mexico. She is author or co-author of 13 books and approximately 30 articles and chapters. Her ESL textbooks, have been used broadly throughout the world, including in China, Vietnam, and Mexico. With regard to her publications overall, one of the letters from a colleague from another university notes, "Her writing is lucid and engaging and genuinely knowledge-making—inspiring in its theoretical sophistication and solid foundation in pertinent research as well as in the clarity and wisdom of its practical applications."


Mohamed Laradji

Dr. Mohamed Laradji received the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Research Award in the area of the Natural Sciences and Mathematical Sciences.Dr. Mohamed Laradji, Professor in the Department of Physics, is receiving the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Award in the area of the Natural Sciences and Mathematical Sciences. He received his Ph.D. in Physics from McGill University in 1993 and joined the faculty at the University of Memphis in 2002. In the interim, he completed a Postdoctoral Research Associate position at the University of Toronto (1994-97) and served as Visiting Scholar at several institutions of higher education in Denmark.

A computational physicist, Dr. Laradji describes his research as focusing on "the development of new computer simulations for capturing both equilibrium and dynamical properties of various soft materials…"

In his letter of nomination, Dr. M. Shah Jahan notes that Laradji has "been very active in building interdisciplinary and collaborative programs both nationally and internationally." This includes research with colleagues in chemistry, biomedical engineering, and computer sciences, among others. Nationally, he collaborates with scientists at Oak Ridge National laboratory and at Los Alamos National laboratory and internationally, with colleagues in China, Denmark, and India. One of his University of Memphis colleagues describes Dr. Laradji's research productivity since arriving at the University of Memphis as "truly impressive" and notes a continuing international reputation for his scholarly work.

Dr. Laradji's research activity has been supported both internally and externally through funding, for example, from the National Science Foundation, American Physical Society, and the Petroleum Research Fund. Additionally, an important professional contribution of Dr. Laradji is his serving as a co-PI on a three year Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation (2008-11) with a focus on nano-materials. With regard to publications, Dr. Laradji holds 3 patents and has published close to 50 refereed articles and 15 refereed proceeding articles in journals that are described by one of his colleagues, as being "high impact" including the Journal of Chemical Physics and the Physical Review.

To put it succinctly, a colleague from another university describes Dr. Laradji as "an outstanding scientist and a world leader in his area."


Leslie A. Robinson

Dr. Leslie A. Robinson received the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Research Award in the area of the Engaged Scholarship.Dr. Leslie A. Robinson, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, is receiving the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Award in the Area of Engaged Scholarship. Dr. Robinson completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Memphis in 1990 and became a faculty member in the Prevention Center of the Department of Psychology at the University of Memphis in 1993. In the interim, she was Staff Psychologist in Rehabilitation Medicine at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

Nominated by Dr. William Zachry, then Interim Chair, and colleague James Murphy, Dr. Robinson is described as having "an international reputation as a pioneer in the areas of tobacco initiation and cessation among urban, and especially, ethnic minority teens. …her...seminal findings were the result of several large scale community based research studies conducted through the University of Memphis in collaboration with the Memphis City and Shelby County Schools."

In describing her own research objectives and noting the fact that colleagues from over 40 middle schools and 50 high schools worked with her on her research, Dr. Robinson writes, "I believe that research such as this can only be successful when there is a respectful and equal collaboration between researchers and the community involved."

Supporting this concept of collaborative research with regard to Dr. Robinson's studies of smoking prevention and smoking cessation, one of her community letters, notes her "research collaborations with Memphis City and Shelby County Schools on smoking prevention and smoking cessation." Her research has consistently addressed important public health issues while at the same time providing practical benefits to the students of Memphis City and Shelby County Schools as well as for the community as a whole.

Dr. Robinson's research has resulted in approximately 40 refereed journal articles, including in Addictive Behaviors and Journal of Pediatric Psychology and has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, from whom as PI she has been awarded with over $4,000,000 for research on tobacco use among adolescents.

Another colleague notes that "success conducting research with community organizations such as Memphis City Schools is a testament to the superb job Leslie has done building and sustaining community partnerships."

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