Outstanding NAU researchers and scholars honored

Romy Ghanem holds her award next to Diane Stearns, left, and Vice President for Research Bill Grabe

Last month, leading NAU researchers and scholars were honored for their exemplary work over the past year during the 2016 Research and Creative Activity Awards.

Each academic department nominated up to one eligible individual/work for each of the award categories. Nominations were made through department chairs and directors.

Awardees of each category received a $1,500 discretionary fund which can be used for any purpose allowable under university policy.

In addition to the presentation of the RCA awards,  Early Career Innovator awards were given to Michael Shafer, assistant professor and Andrew Koppisch, assistant professor, during the event.



Most Promising New Scholar

Awarded to a tenure-track faculty member who has demonstrated the potential to contribute outstanding research and scholarship to his or her discipline.

Nicholas McKay 200x250Nicholas McKay, assistant professor
School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability

Nick McKay grew up in Flagstaff before getting bachelor’s and master’s degrees at NAU in environmental science and geology. Nick got his doctoral degree at the University of Arizona before returning to Flagstaff in 2012, and has been an assistant professor in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability since the Fall of 2014. McKay’s research spans the discipline of paleoclimate dynamics, including reconstructing past environments, using data and models to understand past climate dynamics and building paleoclimate informatics cyberinfrastructure. McKay is married to another Flagstaff native, Amber, and has three boys, Carter, Ethan and Landon.



Most Promising Postdoctoral Researcher/Scholar

Awarded to a postdoctoral scholar whose scholarly, scientific and/or creative contributions to his or her mentor’s research program has had significant impact.

michael_mommert 200x250Michael Mommert, postdoctoral researcher
Department of Physics and Astronomy

Michael Mommert’s research is focused on studying the properties of asteroids and comets. After completing his studies and finishing his Ph.D. in Germany, he moved to Flagstaff in 2013 to work as a postdoctoral researcher in NAU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. Using ground-based and space-based observations, he explores the properties of asteroids and comets and what they can tell us about the formation and evolution of the Solar System.





Most Promising Graduate Student Researcher/Scholar

Recognizes excellence in graduate student research and scholarship. Nominees must have passed comprehensive exams at the time of nomination.

Romy Ghanem 200x250Romy Ghanem, graduate student researcher
Department of English

Romy Ghanem is a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Linguistics. Ghanem speaks four languages and has always been passionate about language learning. Her research interests are speech perception/production and language structure. She has conducted research on the perception of nonnative speakers and teachers as well as accented speech. Her dissertation investigates the manner in which nonnative speakers modify their speech to accommodate different interlocutors. More specifically, she examines the way in which communication success is achieved through accommodation and adjustment strategies. Her goal is to narrow the gap between linguistic theory and the practical use of language.



Research Mentorship Award (tie)

Awarded to a faculty member whose mentoring of graduate or undergraduate students is demonstrated by effective approaches, a clear time commitment and positive student outcomes.

Dave Wagner 200x250Dave Wagner, associate professor
Department of Biological Sciences

Dave Wagner conducts research on a number of different infectious diseases. In particular, he’s developed an international reputation for his work on the plague, including the use of contemporary and ancient DNA studies to understand the geographic source of the three historical human plague pandemics. He’s the associate director of the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics and mentors a large research group of staff and students, including many undergraduate students. His students are treated as junior colleagues and participate in cutting-edge research, obtain training in advanced scientific techniques and regularly earn authorships on research presentations and publications.


Chun Hsing Jun Ho 200x250Chun-Hsing Jun Ho, assistant professor
Department of Civil Engineering, Construction Management and Environmental Engineering

Chun-Hsing Jun Ho is an assistant professor in Civil Engineering at NAU. His research interests lie in transportation systems and construction materials. Jun has been with NAU for almost four years. To date, Jun and his research team have received 13 awards at national and international competitions, published 23 papers in peer-reviewed professional journals and conference proceedings, and presented 46 presentations at professional conferences. He has graduated at least 20 undergraduate students from his research lab, and many of them have successfully admitted to their chosen graduate school such as Columbia University, Northwestern University, Virginia Tech, University of California-Berkeley and University of Washington.


Most Significant Research/Scholarly Work

Awarded to a single or group of NAU employees who have produced a research or scholarly work—an article, book or book chapter, video, monograph, etc.—that has had or is anticipated to have a significant impact in the discipline. While individuals or groups are nominated for this category, the emphasis is on the scholarly work itself, which must have been first published within three years of the date of nomination.

Kees Jan van Groenigen 200x250Kees Jan van Groenigen, assistant research professor
Faster Decomposition Under Increased Atmospheric CO2 Limits Soil Carbon Storage

Van Groenigen, who earned his Ph.D. degree at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, joined NAU in 2010. He began as a postdoctoral researcher and last year, became an assistant research professor in the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society. His research focuses on how human activities and environmental changes affect the flow of carbon and nitrogen through land ecosystems. Van Groenigen studies the role of soil microbes in these processes through lab incubation experiments and other approaches. He also spends a lot of time synthesizing findings in his field of research, using a range of statistical methods.



Most Significant Artistic/Creative Work

Awarded to a single or group of NAU employees who have produced a creative or artistic work—a performance, sculpture, novel or book, composition, exhibit, etc.—that demonstrates creative innovation and impact in the discipline. While individuals or groups are nominated for this category, the emphasis is on the creative work itself, which must have been first presented within three years of the date of nomination.

reiprich_bruce 200x250Bruce Reiprich, professor
“Flowing Waters Caress Fallen Petal” and “Lambent.” Music compositions by Bruce Reiprich, professor, School of Music

Bruce Reiprich’s music has been described as having “unapologetic lushness” (NewMusicBox), as “postromantic radiance” (Danbury News-Times), “a deeply personal mediation on the poet’s feelings” (San Francisco Classical Voice), “very powerful” (All Music Guide), “lovely and evocative” (Guitar Review- New York), “very impressive” (Cumhuriyet-Turkey) and “of special interest” (Guitar International-England).