Faculty members recognized for achievement

East Carolina University faculty and students gathered Tuesday, Feb. 28 to honor outstanding scholars during the Research and Scholarship Awards Ceremony. 

ECU Chancellor Dr. Cecil Staton congratulated the honorees and stressed the importance of research experiences for students. 

“One of the very special and great things about East Carolina University is the service you’re doing – the research you undertake,” said Staton. “We must be a gateway for our students to succeed and certainly research and international experiences are a way to do that.” 

Dr. Kyle Summers (left) and Dr. Paul DeVita received the ECU Lifetime Research and Creative Activity Award.

ECU professors Dr. Paul DeVita and Dr. Kyle Summers were presented the Lifetime Research and Creative Activity Award. 

“This year the committee narrowed the field down to two nominees and could not pick a clear winner and when you see these individuals you will understand their dilemma,” said Michael Van Scott, interim vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement. 

DeVita is the LeRoy T. Walker Distinguished Professor and director of the biomechanics laboratory in the Department of Kinesiology. He has spent more than 30 years analyzing complex biomechanical processes and presenting them to audiences in an understandable way. He established the first National Biomechanics Day, which was celebrated by more than 2,000 elementary and high school students in 30 states across the nation in April 2016. 

“Anyone who has worked with Paul knows that he is a talented scientist and teacher who combines wit and knowledge effortlessly, making science fun,” said Van Scott. 

Research led by DeVita has had significant impact on the understanding of age and disease on lower limb function and provided information for clinical trials designed to improve the quality of life in older adults. 

“Biomechanics is a broad field and I have been so wonderfully lucky to work in it,” said DeVita after accepting the award. “We are so happy that our science has helped other people and improved their quality of life, especially people with arthritis.” 

The second recipient of the Lifetime Research and Creative Activity Award was evolutionary biologist Dr. Kyle Summers. Brightly colored tropical frogs are at the center of most of Summers’ research which includes evolutionary ecology and genetics. 

“My research was inspired by my fascination with nature, especially tropical forests and amphibians. For reasons that are not clear to me I’ve always been fascinated by frogs, since I was very young, and that led me into my career,” said Summers. 

He was the first to demonstrate Müllerian mimicry in frogs and to use modern comparative methods to demonstrate an evolutionary correlation between toxicity and bright coloration in any animal. Additionally, Summers has conducted innovative research on the application of evolutionary approaches to the study of heart disease, cancer and psychopathology. 

“Kyle is respected across Central and South America and across Europe. His work is frequently reported on in popular media including National Geographic, the New York Times and Scientific American,” said Van Scott. 

Also recognized during the ceremony were associate English professor Dr. Amanda Ann Klein and associate sociology professor Dr. A.J. Jacobs, who each received the Five-Year Research and Creative Activity Award. This award is presented to faculty members whose work over five years at ECU had an exceptional impact on their field of study. 

At right, Dr. Jennifer McKinnon receives the ECU Scholarship of Engagement Award from Chancellor Cecil Staton.

Dr. Jennifer McKinnon, an associate professor of history in maritime studies, was awarded the Scholarship of Engagement Award for her commitment to community engagement that positively impacts the region and promotes academic scholarship. 

The Coastal Scholar Award was presented to Dr. Ariane Legaspi Peralta, an assistant biology professor in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. 

Juvencio Rocha Peralta, Jr., executive director of AMEXCAN, received the Academy of Community Engaged Scholars award for his influence helping ECU faculty and students understand ethnic, cultural and linguistic issues in community engagement. 

During the ceremony Van Scott also recognized ECU faculty and a doctoral student who secured a U.S. patent titled J-Series Protaglandin-Enthanolamides as Novel Therapeutics. The following from ECU will be inducted into the National Academy of Inventors: 

  • Dr. Colin S. Burns, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
  • Dr. Allison S. Danell, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
  • Daniel Ladin, Brody School of Medicine (doctoral student)
  • Dr. Rukiyah T. Van Dross, Brody School of Medicine

Nine faculty members who excel at integrating scholarship and teaching were announced as Scholar-Teacher Award recipients. The winners will be formally recognized during the ECU Teaching Awards program April 20. They are as follows: 

  • Dr. W. Leigh Atherton, College of Allied Health Sciences
  • Dr. Rebecca Dumlao, College of Fine Arts and Communications
  • Dr. Maureen Ellis, College of Education
  • Dr. Matthew T. Fish, College of Health and Human Performance
  • Dr. Stephanie George, College of Engineering and Technology
  • Dr. Brad Karl, College of Business
  • Dr. Donna Lake, College of Nursing
  • Dr. Nicole Sidhu, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
  • Dr. Beth E. Thompson, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences

This year, 68 faculty members were named University Scholars, a new program established to acknowledge the diversity in scholarship and excellence in different disciplines across ECU. 

Profiles of some of the award winners will be featured in a special online article during Research and Creative Achievement Week, April 3-7.