Early Career Research Award (ECRA)

Every year as part of our annual August faculty meeting tradition, the College of Arts and Sciences confers the Early Career Research Award (ECRA) to a select group of faculty members who are in the early stages of developing their research programs.

In recognition for their research achievements, each recipient of the ECRA receives $250 that can be applied toward research-related expenses, a plaque, and recognition at our August faculty meeting.

This year we are very pleased to announce that three faculty members are receiving an Early Career Research Award: Dr. Andrew C. Liu, Department of Biological Sciences; Dr. Meghan E. McDevitt-Murphy, Department of Psychology; and Dr. Andrew McGregor Olney, Department of Psychology and Institute for Intelligent Systems.

Andrew C. Liu

Dr. Andrew LiuDr. Andrew C. Liu, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, completed his Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry in 2003 at the University of Michigan Medical School and joined the faculty at the University of Memphis in 2008. Before coming to the University of Memphis, Dr. Liu held a Post-Doctoral Research Associate position at The Scripps Research Institute and was an Institute Fellow and Group Manager at the Genomics Institute of Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego, CA.

In their letter of nomination, Drs. Stephan Schoech and David Freeman note that Dr. Liu's research focuses on "molecular mechanisms underlying endogenous circadian timekeeping in mammalian cells." Additionally, they highlight his research accomplishments in this way: "Not only is Andrew a productive scientist, but his research is highly cited and recognized by his professional peers." The significance of Dr. Liu's work is noted in another letter of recommendation, indicating that one of his long-term goals is to elucidate the role of the clock in physiology. One of the significant aspects about his research is that many disease states have been linked to defects in the circadian clock, such as seasonal depression, sleep disorders, and cancer.

In addition to an impressive record of publications in top-ranked peer-reviewed journals such as Cell and Journal of Biological Chemistry, since coming to the University of Memphis Dr. Liu has received a National Science Foundation grant for over a half a million dollars to support his research on circadian rhythms in mammals research.

Quotes from colleagues from other universities reiterate Dr. Liu's research accomplishments: "An outstanding young scientist;" "Dr. Liu is not only very bright and aggressive in his work, but also a good writer and speaker;" and "In less than three years he has built a nationally competitive research lab…at the University of Memphis….His path as a scientist is clear."

Meghan E. McDevitt-Murphy

Dr. Meghan McDevitt-MurphyDr. Meghan E. McDevitt-Murphy, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, completed her Ph.D. in Psychology at Auburn University in 2004 and then held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Brown University's Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. Dr. McDevitt-Murphy joined our faculty in 2006.

In their letter of nomination Dr. Randy Floyd and Dr. Frank Andrasik describe her as an "exceptional researcher and trainer of psychologists." The focus of her research and clinical work is on post traumatic stress disorder (PDSD) and substance use disorders and their co-occurrence. She has worked, with veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among others. Her research also addresses the cognitive-behavior treatment for co-occurrence of PTSD and alcohol substance misuse. In conducting her research and clinical activities, Dr. McDevitt-Murphy is a member of the Psychotherapy research area in the department and an affiliate of the Clinical Health Psychology. She directs the Trauma and Coping Research Center. Off campus she is an affiliate with the Memphis Veterans' Affairs Medical Center.

In addition to an impressive publication record in peer reviewed journals, Dr. McDevitt-Murphy has received a prestigious $740,000 K23 award from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for a patient-oriented research career development award.

Colleagues from the Department of Psychology describe Dr. McDevitt-Murphy's research accomplishments in these terms: She is a "model scientist…In particular her concentration on the interface of trauma and substance use" and "This breadth of research talents is most unusual."

A colleague from another university writes, "She has developed into an "outstanding young investigator in the area of PTSD and substance abuse."

Andrew McGregor Olney

Dr. Andrew OlneyDr. Andrew McGregor Olney, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology and Associate Director for the Institute for Intelligent Systems, completed his Ph.D. in Computer Sciences at the University of Memphis in 2006. He was a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Memphis in 2006-07 and then joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, in 2007.

Dr. Olney's work is truly interdisciplinary, positioned at an intersection between computer sciences, linguistics and cognitive science. His publications—including over 50 refereed articles, book chapters and refereed conference proceedings--encompass several fields, including computer science, behavior research methods, computational linguistics, artificial intelligence systems, and intelligence tutoring systems.

It is in the latter regard—intelligence tutoring systems—that many of the internal and external letters address his accomplishments. One colleague describes Dr. Olney's contribution in this way: He "developed intelligent tutorial systems that help students learn." Such systems provide a means for students to learn specific topics, such as biology. These tutoring systems have been used in the Memphis City Schools. Dr. Olney is the PI on a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences with close to $2 million support for this research and application Guru, a computer tutor that models expert human tutors.

One colleague writes that Dr. Olney's accomplishments entail "extensive work in natural language processing and artificial intelligence…he is developing intellectual systems that can accumulate knowledge from huge internet data based, and churn them back in responsive, intelligent, adaptive agents that can assist learners…Andrew's research agenda is exemplary of modern interdisciplinary work." His work has received especially broad recognition, including in 2008 on CNN.com "noting that he recently received a…grant to develop an Intelligent Tutoring System called Guru."