2024 Research and Creative Activity Awards

Most Promising New Research Scholar 

Eric Cerino, Department of Psychological Sciences. Cerino’s research focuses on promoting health and well-being in aging individuals, and his team is working toward advancing cognitive health equity and addressing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in rural northern Arizona. 

Most Promising New Artistic or Creative Scholar 

Lillie Gordon, Kitt School of Music. Gordon established the NAU Middle East Ensemble, a group that includes both music and non-music majors and community members; the ensemble held a benefit concert in 2023 for Turkish and Syrian earthquake survivors featuring music from those countries. 

Most Promising Graduate Student Research Scholar 

Melinda Smith, Ph.D. student in interdisciplinary health and the Center for Health Equity Research. For her dissertation, Smith is investigating the link between specific cancers and Type 2 diabetes in Indigenous populations in Arizona, aiming to understand cancer risks and collaboratively develop a health education intervention on the Hopi reservation to enhance cancer and diabetes management and prevention. 

Lindsey Gallagher, MFA student, Department of English. Their thesis project includes creating a collection of creative nonfiction essays exploring the concept of home through the lens of Shelter Island, New York, delving into how the various elements of home—such as landscape, family and community—shape identity and meaning, while also challenging societal disregard for origins and past narratives. 

Graduate Research Mentorship  

Anita Antoninka, School of Forestry. Antoninka has mentored 11 graduates in her 15 years at NAU, including five students—one master’s and four Ph.D. students for whom she is the advisor or co-adviser, helping students find the opportunities, training and experience to be successful in their chosen field. 

Graduate Artistic or Creative Work Mentorship 

Ryan Drendel, Department of English. As the faculty advisor of Thin Air Magazine, a product of NAU’s creative writing program, Drendel mentored 14 students who produce the publication, helping students not only create what he considers the best edition of the magazine but also coordinate public events as part of the Northern Arizona Book Festival.    

Undergraduate Research Mentorship 

Tinna Traustadóttir, Department of Biological Sciences. Traustadóttir has mentored dozens of students since coming to NAU in 2011, including five current students in three different majors who have received Hooper Undergraduate Research Awards and are in the Intern-2-Scholars program. 

Undergraduate Artistic or Creative Work Mentorship  

Alexandra Carpino, Department of Comparative Cultural Studies and Björn Krondorfer, Martin-Springer Institute. Carpino and Krondorfer mentored 12 undergraduate students in the production of three creative projects on Gino Parin, an artist who lived during the Holocaust: a nine-episode podcast series; an exhibition at the Clara M. Lovett Art Museum; and a digital exhibition that is in process.  

Most Significant Research/Scholarly Work  

Cristina Thomas, Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science. Thomas was one of the research leads of NASA’s pioneering DART mission; she led the telescopic observations and coordinated an international group of scientists to measure the change in orbit of Dimorphos around Didymos after impact. 

Most Significant Artistic/Creative Work  

Kurt Lancaster, School of Communication. Lancaster made the award-winning documentary film “Steve Roach: Life in the Soundcurrent” about the Grammy-nominated musician who was a pioneer of analog synthesizer music. 

Most Impactful Community-Engaged Research, Scholarship 

Brooke de Heer, Department of Health Sciences. Her research examines gender and power in sexual and domestic violence, focusing on health disparities and the inequitable treatment of marginalized victims in the criminal justice system, aiming to involve these communities in the research and prevention efforts while prioritizing their voices. 


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