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UTSA Academy of Distinguished Researchers welcomes the largest cohort since its inception | UTSA today | UTSA

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Chaired by Hamid Beladi, Holder of the Janey S. Briscoe Chair in Business and Professor of Economics at Alvarez College of Business, the academy is made up of 20 faculty members, representing a variety of disciplines in the arts, humanities, sciences social, engineering, business and science.

“The Academy of Distinguished Scholars at UTSA received the largest class of applicants among our eight colleges last year,” said Beladi. “We are inducting five outstanding academic professors from across the university in 2021. The Academy is dedicated to fostering a culture of exceptional research practice at UTSA and to creating a collective of research excellence advocates who serve also a resource for their colleagues.

“The research conducted and performed by our faculty is crucial to our reputation nationally and internationally,” added Bernard Arulanandam, vice-president of UTSA for research, economic development and the knowledge enterprise. “Their contributions are what fuels the knowledge enterprise. Their accomplishments are what attracts students to our institution; they want to be part of a vibrant research community.

An induction ceremony and lunch will be held later this semester to honor the 2021 cohort and 2020 inductees Robert Dur (anthropology) and Jenny hsieh (biology).

Here’s a look at the 2021 inductees:

David Akopian is Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and most recently Associate Dean of Research at the College of Engineering (now the College of Engineering and Integrated Design). His research interests span a broad area of ​​communication and navigation systems, focusing on wireless detection, communication, location technologies and mobile applications such as automated human-machine dialogue systems and healthcare. mobile.

Akopian was inducted as a member of the National Academy of Inventors in 2016 and has more than 30 patents. He is the founder and director of the Software Communication and Navigation Systems Laboratory at UTSA. Since 2004, his lab has trained over 100 students who have pursued successful careers in various companies including Apple, Google, Samsung, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Intel, and Verizon.



Bridget drinka has been a professor of linguistics in the Department of English since 1991. She specializes in Indo-European and historical linguistics. His research has focused on issues such as the sociolinguistic motivations for language change, the role of contact in linguistic innovation, and the importance of geographic contiguity in diffusing changes across Indo-European languages. Drinka was also an academic researcher for UTSA Knowledge Enterprise, helping to launch the Academy Fellows Lecture Series.

His greatest research achievement is his latest book, Linguistic contact in Europe: the perfect periphrastic throughout history (2017), published by Cambridge University Press. In 2019, the book received the most prestigious book award in linguistics, the Leonard Bloomfield Book Award, from the Linguistic Society of America. The book takes a deep and comprehensive look at the malleable construction, the “perfect periphrastic,” as it has spread across the map of Europe from its first documented use in ancient Greek to modern European languages.



Krystel Castillo is GreenStar Full Professor of Energy in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She has led energy and sustainability research efforts through the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute since 2017, including the strategic alliance and up to $ 50 million research portfolio with CPS Energy, the world’s largest utility. electricity and gas belonging to the country’s municipality.

Castillo has built a strong research group with expertise in creating optimization algorithms to solve large-scale instances of engineering systems, as well as big data analysis methods with applications in the fields of clean energy engineering, defense manufacturing and cybersecurity for manufacturing. As part of the $ 111 million Cyber ​​Security Manufacturing Innovation Institute residing at UTSA, Castillo is its vice president for energy efficiency. Its mission is to contribute theoretical and pragmatic innovations to ensure and maintain American leadership in the global competitiveness of manufacturing.



Aimin Liu holds the Lutcher Brown Chair in Biochemistry in the Department of Chemistry. His research group studies biological processes and mechanisms based on metalloproteins. His main research interest is to determine the chemical basis of the biological roles of metal ions and protein-based free radicals. His laboratory has recognized expertise in mechanistic enzymology, structure-function relationships of metalloproteins and free radical processes involved in oxygen activation and electron / radical transfer processes in biology. His current research projects cover a wide range of topics involving amino acid metabolism, cofactor biogenesis via post-translational modification of proteins, biosynthesis of novel antitumor and antibiotic products, as well as redox detection and regulations.

Liu has contributed to the understanding of the activation of oxygen by metalloenzymes and protein-based free radicals in electron / radical transfer processes in biology. Over the years, he has made significant progress in expanding the molecular basis of tryptophan and sulfur metabolism as well as the chemistry of enzymatic oxygenation. Some of these findings are conceptual contributions to bioinorganic chemistry, biochemistry, chemical biology, and biophysical chemistry. Its highly productive, interdisciplinary research program has been well supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.



Rogelio saenz, sociologist and demographer, is a professor in the Department of Demography. His current research is attracting attention and tracking the impact of COVID-19 on the Latin American population. He was nationally recognized for his contributions to Latino scholarship and social justice to promote equity, justice and equal human rights for racially marginalized populations. Most recently, this includes collaborative research on a grant funded by the Department of Health and Human Services to strengthen health literacy and recovery from COVID-19 in San Antonio.

His book Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change was a labor of love, with the aim of increasing the visibility of Latinos in this country. It is one of the few writings on many topics related to Latinos and is popular with undergraduate classes across the country. With his former graduate student and now established academic, Cristina Morales, they are working on the second edition of the book. Sáenz is the recipient of the 2021 American Sociological Association Cox-Johnson-Frazier Prize and the 2020 Saber es Poder Academic Excellence Award from the Department of Mexican-American Studies at the University of Arizona.



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