April 15, 2009

Faculty members named outstanding scholars

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Eight Southern Illinois University Carbondale faculty members named outstanding scholars by their deans will be honored at the University’s “Excellence Through Commitment” awards dinner April 21 at the Student Center.

Mary E. McAsey will represent the School of Medicine; Gordon “Skip” C. Bruner II will represent the College of Business; Jay F. Needham will represent the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts; William A. Schroeder will represent the School of Law; Dale H. Vitt will represent the College of Science; Theodore R. Weeks will represent the College of Liberal Arts; Karl W.J. Williard will represent the College of Agricultural Sciences; and Wei Zhang will represent the College of Engineering.

In addition to a certificate, each will receive a cash award, funds from the Office of the Provost to support professional activities during the next fiscal year and a watch courtesy of the SIU Alumni Association.

McAsey, an assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology, focuses on ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, umbilical cord stem cells and estrogen receptors in the brain. One recent project examines how estradiol interacts with brain lipids and lipoproteins. She has served as principal or co-investigator on 16 grants and published 19 peer-reviewed articles and 60 abstracts.

McAsey also has played a key role in mentoring fellows, residents and students, many of whom have later won local, regional and national recognition for their research.

A two-degree graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh (bachelor’s in 1975, master’s in 1978), she earned her doctorate in 1994 at the University of Arizona, Tucson, where she also served as a post-doctoral scholar.

Bruner, a professor of marketing, focuses on consumer behavior and technology, scale usage in marketing research, consumer problem recognition, and music and marketing. Current projects include a look at gadget lovers, technology addiction and the latest in cool. His innovative approach to real-world problems combined with rigorous research design has helped attract corporate funding for a series of projects.

A prolific author, Bruner has published five books and a book chapter, 39 articles, nine creative/popular works and dozens of cases, proceedings and monographs. “Journal of Advertising” ranks his department No. 6 in terms of producing globally influential research in the field, specifically citing his work as a major component of that ranking.

Bruner earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M University (in 1976 and 1978 respectively) and his doctorate from the University of North Texas in 1983.

Needham, an assistant professor of radio-television who spent 13 years as an independent director and producer of commercial video, emphasizes the creative in his scholarly activity. His specialties include the sonic arts, acoustic ecology, documentary radio production, radio drama, video art and conservation.

Needham’s most recent project, undertaken with a colleague in forestry, involved capturing sounds from a neo-tropical rainforest in Panama, information useful from both a conservation/management perspective and as art addressing environmental issues.

Needham earned his bachelor’s in 1986 from SIUC and his master of fine arts degree in 1989 from the California Institute of the Arts.

Schroeder, a faculty member since 1984, specializes in criminal law and evidence. He has published a number of volumes relating to evidence in Alabama, Illinois and Missouri for West, a company serving the legal community, as well as 22 articles and seven op-ed pieces.

As a Fulbright Scholar, he served as a visiting lecturer at Vilnius University and as a visiting professor at Mykolas Romeris University, both in Vilnius, Lithuania.

A two-degree graduate of the University of Illinois (earning his bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees in 1966 and 1969 respectively), he went on to earn a master of law degree in 1977 from Harvard Law School.

Vitt, professor of plant biology and chair of his department, is considered one of the world’s top authorities on peatlands (areas made up of dead plant material that has not decomposed). He has produced seminal work not just on peatlands but on mosses and associated plants and was one of the first to discover indications of melting permafrost, in retrospect a major finding with regard to global climate change.

Over the last eight years, Vitt has published two books and 39 refereed journal articles. Annual citations of his work total 98 per year since 1985. He serves as editor of “The Bryologist,” his field’s top journal. He also directs PEATNET, a global network for peatland research funded by the National Science Foundation.

Vitt earned his bachelor’s in 1967 from Southeast Missouri State University and his master’s and doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1968 and 1970 respectively.

Weeks, professor of history, focuses on nationality and ethnicity in East Central Europe. His working knowledge of 12 languages allows him access to a broad array of source material not available to most historians.

Weeks has written books on such topics as Czarist policies of “Russification” in the 19th century and the Jewish assimilationist movement and the rise of Jewish identity in Poland. His newest book focuses on the shifting national and imperial struggles and identities in Vilnius, Lithuania. His publishing record includes some 30 journal articles, a dozen book chapters, more than 60 conference papers and in excess of 130 book reviews.

Weeks earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Colorado in 1980 and 1984 respectively and his doctorate in 1992 from the University of California, Berkeley.

Williard, associate professor of forestry, focuses on the movement of phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment in agricultural watersheds; quantification of the water quality benefits conferred by buffer strips; the role of invasive, nitrogen-fixing species in nitrogen leaching; and nitrogen biogeochemistry in forested watersheds. Among his current projects is an assessment of the environmental impact of tank training at Fort Knox.

Williard’s research has brought in more than $3 million in external support and has resulted in 32 peer-reviewed publications, two book chapters, 59 abstracts, 25 invited talks and 78 presentations at meetings held in settings ranging from regional to international.

Williard earned his bachelor’s in 1994 at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and his master’s and doctoral degrees in 1996 and 1999 respectively at The Pennsylvania State University.

Zhang, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has won national and international attention for his work on real-time embedded systems and computer architecture from other researchers, federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation and major corporations such as The Boeing Co. and Lockheed-Martin Corp.

In the last two years alone, he has received four major awards totaling roughly half a million dollars from the NSF, and he serves as a panelist for that agency, reviewing research proposals by others in his field. International journals have published his work, which is widely cited by researchers both here and abroad. He also serves as an associate editor for “International Journal of Computers and Applications.”

Zhang, who earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in his native China, received his doctorate from The Pennsylvania State University in 2003.

Mary McAseyGordonWilliam A. SchroederDale H. Vitt

Theodore R. WeeksKarl W.J. WilliardWei Zhang