KU, KU Medical Center faculty named recipients of Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards

LAWRENCE — Four University of Kansas faculty members on the Lawrence and Medical Center campuses are this year’s recipients of the Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards, the state higher education system’s most prestigious recognition for scholarly excellence.

The annual awards are given in four categories of scholarly and creative achievement. This year’s honorees:

  • John Kelly, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, recipient of the Olin Petefish Award in Basic Sciences
  • Beth Bailey, Foundation Distinguished Professor, history, recipient of the Balfour Jeffrey Award in Humanities & Social Sciences         
  • Steven Soper, Foundation Distinguished Professor, chemistry, mechanical engineering and bioengineering, recipient of the Irvin Youngberg Award in Applied Sciences
  • Dr. Russell Swerdlow, professor of neurology, recipient of the Dolph Simons Award in Biomedical Sciences.

The four will be recognized at a ceremony this spring along with recipients of other major KU research awards.

This is the 40th annual presentation of the Higuchi awards, established in 1981 by Takeru Higuchi, a distinguished professor at KU from 1967 to 1983, and his wife, Aya. The awards recognize exceptional long-term research accomplishments by faculty at Kansas Board of Regents universities. Each honoree receives $10,000 for their ongoing research. 

The awards are named for former leaders of KU Endowment who helped recruit Higuchi to KU. 

More about this year’s winners:

Olin Petefish Award in Basic Sciences

John Kelly, University of Kansas professorJohn Kelly is a professor of ecology & evolutionary biology who has made contributions to the fields of evolutionary biology, genetics and botany. He is considered an international leader in evolutionary genetics research, exploring how organisms adapt to their environment. The impact of his research extends to agricultural selective breeding, understanding organismal adaption to climate change and human genetics. He also has been on the forefront of developing computational genome sequencing methods to address biological questions.

Kelly and his collaborators have received more than $6 million in external funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and other institutions. He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and served as secretary for the Society for the Study of Evolution. He earned his doctorate in ecology and evolution from the University of Chicago.

Balfour Jeffrey Award in Humanities & Social Sciences

Beth Bailey, University of Kansas professorBeth Bailey, Foundation Distinguished Professor and member of the Department of History, is an internationally renowned historian of the United States military, war and society, and the history of gender and sexuality. She is the founding director of KU's Center for Military, War, and Society Studies, which brings together scholars, military leaders, government officials and students to discuss issues relevant to the military, war and more.

In the past year, she has received an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship and was named one of 24 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholars for her research on race and the U.S. Army. She was elected to the Society of American Historians in 2017, and the secretary of the Army appointed her to the Department of the Army’s Historical Advisory Committee.

Bailey’s vast publication record includes journal articles, book chapters and books on a variety of subjects, including the history of gender and sexuality, U.S. military history and social history. She holds a doctorate and master’s degree in American history from the University of Chicago.

Irvin Youngberg Award in Applied Sciences

Steven Soper, University of Kansas professorSteven Soper is a Foundation Distinguished Professor of chemistry, mechanical engineering and bioengineering as well as an adjust professor of cancer biology and member of The University of Kansas Cancer Center. A world leader in bioanalytical chemistry, he researches biological macromolecules — including DNA, RNA and proteins — to develop new tools for medical diagnostics and discovery.  

Soper directs the NIH-funded and multi-institutional Center of BioModular Multi-Scale Systems for Precision Medicine based at KU. The center coalesces scientists, clinicians and biomedical engineers to design, manufacture and deliver biomedical tools for detecting and managing disease. For example, the center developed an at-home rapid COVID-19 test that is now going to market.

Soper has founded two companies, BioFluidica and Sunflower Genomics, to translate his research into commercial products. He received a doctorate in bioanalytical chemistry from KU.

Dolph Simons Award in Biomedical Sciences 

Russell Swerdlow, University of Kansas professorDr. Russell Swerdlow is a professor in the Department of Neurology at KU Medical Center, with secondary appointments in molecular & integrative physiology and biochemistry & molecular biology. Swerdlow directs KU’s Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, and his contributions have helped make KU a world leader in Alzheimer’s care and research.

His work has defined a role for mitochondrial dysfunction in late-onset neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s. He proposed a hypothesis for the cause of the disease, the “sporadic Alzheimer’s disease mitochondrial cascade hypothesis,” which has steadily gained traction for over a decade. His research also has identified potential therapeutics for the disease.

Swerdlow received his doctor of medicine from New York University.

The award funds are 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.

Mon, 01/24/2022


Rylie Koester

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Rylie Koester