Kevin Boatright
Office of Research

Four named recipients of Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards

Thu, 10/08/2015

LAWRENCE — Four faculty members at two universities in Kansas have been named recipients of the state's most prestigious recognition for scholarly excellence: the Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards. The four will be recognized Nov. 10 during a ceremony at the Lied Center of Kansas.

This is the 34th annual presentation of the awards, established in 1981 by Takeru Higuchi, a distinguished professor at the University of Kansas from 1967 to 1983, and his wife, Aya. The awards recognize the exceptional long-term research accomplishments of faculty at Kansas Board of Regents universities. Each award includes a citation and a $10,000 award for ongoing research efforts. The money can be used for research materials, summer salaries, fellowship matching funds, hiring research assistants or other support related to research.

This year's recipients are Michael Wehmeyer, Ross and Marianna Beach Professor of Special Education, KU; Paulette Spencer, Deane E. Ackers Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, KU; David Nualart, Black-Babcock Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, KU; and Stephen Welch, professor of agronomy, Kansas State University.

Awards are given in four categories: humanities and social sciences; basic sciences; biomedical sciences and applied sciences. Each award is named for former leaders of KU Endowment who played key roles in recruiting Higuchi to KU. Their financial support of KU helped enhance university research throughout Kansas.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little will speak at the presentation ceremony. She will be joined by Jim Tracy, vice chancellor for research. Past Higuchi Award recipients who attend also will be recognized.

This year's recipients of Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards:

Balfour Jeffrey Award in Humanities and Social Sciences

Michael Wehmeyer is the foremost researcher in the world in an area of study in education and psychology known as self-determination. He has focused primarily on its application to adolescents and adults, especially those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Wehmeyer came to KU in 1999 from the nonprofit Arc of the United States, where he held research and administrative positions. At KU’s Life Span Institute, he is director of the Beach Center on Disability and co-director of the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities. His academic background includes bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Tulsa, an M.Sc. from the University of Sussex and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Dallas.


Dolph Simons Award in Biomedical Sciences

Paulette Spencer is an internationally recognized scholar in the design and development of biomaterials that can be used to repair, reconstruct and replace human tissues. Spencer came to KU in 2007 from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she was a curator’s professor and director of the Center for Research on Interfacial Structure and Properties. At KU, she is the founding director of the Bioengineering Research Center. Her academic background includes a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, a master's degree from the University of Minnesota, a master's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a D.D.S. and doctorate from UMKC.


Olin Petefish Award in Basic Sciences

David Nualart is one of the world’s leading experts on probability theory, with an emphasis on stochastic analysis, the study of classical equations driven by random noises. He is a prolific author, and his book on Malliavin calculus is considered the definitive account of the subject. Nualart came to KU in 2005 from the University of Barcelona, where he was professor of statistics and operational research. His academic background includes a licenciado en ciencias (matemáticas) and a doctorate, both from the University of Barcelona.


Irvin Youngberg Award for Applied Sciences

Stephen Welch uses mathematical models to study the relationships between genomics and the physiological traits that plants show under various climatic environments. Applications of these methods are central to developing the crop breeding and management programs needed to double the rate of yield increases that will be required to meet global food demands in 2050. His research is highly interdisciplinary, and his collaborators include researchers in agriculture, veterinary medicine, engineering, and the arts and sciences. Welch came to K-State in 1977 from a postdoctoral fellowship at Michigan State University. His academic background includes a bachelor's degree and doctorate from Michigan State.

Attendance at the Nov. 10 ceremony is by invitation. More information about the Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Awards is available online.

The fund is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

KU in the news
According to a 2016 @KUbschool study, baggage fees are not entirely bad for passengers: They have contributed to fe…

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
KU Today