• Baylor profs earn school-record 4 NSF CAREER awards

    Drs. Kenny Befus, Elyssia Gallagher, Stanley Ling & Michael Scullin

    For young faculty members at research institutions across the nation, the CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) is an aspirational goal that only a handful attain each year. Along with its prestige comes a high degree of competitiveness — early-career faculty members at every major university are also applying — which makes 2020 especially meaningful for Baylor research.

    A school-record four BU faculty members earned NSF CAREER awards this spring as “early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” In addition to prestige and professional validation, the awards come with significant funding for each professor’s research and educational projects, and provide Baylor’s Tier 1 research ambitions with an exciting boost forward.

    The four Baylor faculty honorees are:

    * Dr. Kenny Befus, assistant professor of geosciences, who will “read” gemstones by searching for strains and imperfections that could serve as a record that allows scientists to uncover information about the geologic process that shaped them. Befus has also developed a Gems and Minerals course with the educational portion of the fund for non-major students at Baylor.

    * Dr. Elyssia Gallagher, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who will seek new ways to analyze biomolecules called glycans. Glycans are traditionally difficult to analyze, but they’re important; they impact the body’s ability to resist infection, among other functions. For the educational portion of her grant, she will develop active learning plans for Central Texas high school science teachers to implement college-level science concepts in the classroom.

    * Dr. Stanley Ling, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who utilizes supercomputers in his quest to develop sophisticated modeling techniques engineers could use to develop fuel-injection systems and engines that are more efficient and create less pollution. To further the pipeline of young people who might someday follow in his footsteps, he is developing summer science camps for students in grades 7-12.

    * Dr. Michael Scullin, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, who will analyze the impact of sleep habits on a student’s ability to learn complex STEM courses. Across University Parks Drive, he’ll also develop a permanent sleep exhibit at Baylor’s Mayborn Museum to educate students and adults on the impact of sleep.

    Baylor now has 12 professors who have earned such prestigious early career grants from either the NSF or the National Institutes of Health (NIH): Drs. Annie Ginty (NIH, 2019), William Hockaday (NSF, 2012), Howard Lee (NSF, 2018), Caleb Martin (NSF, 2018), Lorin Matthews, BS ’94, PhD ’98 (NSF, 2009), Emeka Okafor (NIH, 2019), Bryan Shaw (NIH, 2014), and Kelly Ylitalo, BA ’04 (NIH, 2019), plus Befus, Gallagher, Ling and Scullin.

    Prior to 2020, Baylor’s previous high was two winners in a year, and this year’s honorees add significantly to the overall total. The university’s strategic focus on impactful research, coupled with professors who are leaders in their field from a young age, promises even more to celebrate in the years ahead.

    Sic ’em, CAREER award winners!