• National early career awards honor Baylor faculty’s ‘Future Stars’

    L-R, headshots of Drs. Peter James, Rebecca Jones-Antwi, Sarah Kienle, Yang Li, and Sam Urclacher

    In the world of sports cards, a “Future Star” or “Rated Rookie” means you’ve got a card of someone who merits paying attention to — someone whose career looks like it’s about to take off.

    In the world of higher education, early career awards function in a very similar fashion — recognizing up-and-coming faculty who have already shown indications of excellent research and scholarship, with the potential to be future leaders in their fields.

    Baylor abounds in such excellent young faculty members. In 2024 alone, five Baylor professors have earned early career awards from such organizations as NASA, the American Heart Association, and the National Science Foundation. These Bears join the ranks of many other colleagues across campus who have earned such honors in the past (see below), and this growing lineup demonstrates Baylor’s excellence in welcoming top young faculty to join in growing a Christian research university.

    Meet the five Baylor professors who have received early career awards already this year:

    Dr. Peter James, a Baylor planetary geophysicist, earned a Planetary Science Early Career Award from NASA this spring. James founded Baylor’s Planetary Research Group after coming to Baylor in 2017, and his research thus far has uncovered a mysterious mass on the far side of the moon and examined gravity field data from spacecraft orbiting planets.

    Dr. Rebecca Jones-Antwi came to Baylor last year as an assistant professor in public health, and her work focused on the cardiovascular health of multiracial adults is breaking new ground. For that, she earned a Career Development Award this spring from the American Heart Association, and she’ll continue to provided needed focus on a growing population: multiracial adults have increased from 2.9 percent of the population in 2010 to 10.2 percent in 2020.

    Dr. Sarah Kienle is perhaps the world’s top expert on the facial form of pinnipeds — marine mammals such as seals and walruses who spend time both in and out of water. Kienle’s work has often focused on leopard seals, and a prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation will help her further that focus, examining why female leopard seals are larger than males, studying lifespan and more.

    Dr. Yang Li became the first Baylor environmental science faculty member to earn a NASA Early Career Investigator Program in Earth Science Award. She earned the award for an innovative project integrating space-based remote sensing data along with other datasets into models to study wildfire smoke events that are becoming more frequent. Li’s research will allow scientists to better understand the impact of climate change and atmospheric conditions related to wildfire smoke and pollution.

    Dr. Samuel Urlacher, a Baylor anthropologist whose work has taken him abroad to South America to study how children utilize calories and how experiences and economics impact metabolism, earned a Michael A. Little Early Career Award from the Human Biology Association in March. His work been featured in journals such as Science and popular outlets like Good Morning America and The New York Times.

    Sic ’em, Baylor early career researchers!

    Meet some of Baylor’s other recent early career award winners:
    * Baylor stress researcher recognized for groundbreaking early career work (April 2023)
    * Comms prof becomes BU’s first non-STEM researcher to earn NSF Career Grant (Jan. 2023)
    * Baylor math prof earns coveted NSF early career award (July 2021)
    * Baylor profs earn school-record 4 NSF CAREER awards (July 2020)