ECU faculty are honored for research and scholarly activities

East Carolina University held its seventh annual Research and Scholarship Awards Ceremony Wednesday evening, recognizing faculty members whose works have led to important discoveries and impactful inventions and who have engaged the community and external partners for transformative collaborations.

The research and scholarly activities of the group recognized during the event all play a part in advancing ECU’s mission.

Yu "Frank" Yang, right, is congratulated by former East Carolina University Graduate School Dean Paul Gemperline after accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity.

Yu “Frank” Yang, right, is congratulated by former East Carolina University Graduate School Dean Paul Gemperline after accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity. (ECU photo by Rhett Butler)


Passionate about his work, his students, his colleagues, ECU and the planet, Yu “Frank” Yang, professor of chemistry, is this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research & Creative Activity.

Wanting to pursue a career in academia and looking for a place to call home, Yang joined ECU in 1997 as an assistant professor. During his time at ECU, Yang built a robust program in the chemistry department back when resources were fairly limited. And, his lab was one of just three in the world of its kind.

Read more about Yang’s contributions to his field.

The event was hosted by the Office of Research, Economic Development and Engagement (REDE) at the Murphy Center. ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers and Provost Robin Coger provided remarks to honor those being recognized.

In opening the ceremony, Rogers stated, “I’m a strong believer in the notion that universities were built to do this work — to create and share discoveries that impact our economy, health, environment, communities and many other parts of the world we live in today.”

ECU’s Acting Chief Research and Engagement Officer, Sharon Paynter, reflected on a year of growth and record-breaking sponsored awards with more than $82 million in funded projects in the last fiscal year.

Paynter emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary work at ECU, stating, “The boundary-spanning work that pushes discovery across disciplinary lines helps us explain the importance of research to many different stakeholder groups.”

The big award winner of the evening was Yu “Frank” Yang, professor of chemistry, who received the Lifetime Research Achievement Award for Excellence in Research & Creative Activity. Yang is a pioneer in subcritical water chromatography research. The first to conduct and publish research in that area, Yang’s lab was one of only three in the world when he began his career at ECU in 1997. At a time when resources were limited and teaching loads were heavy, Yang built a world class program from the ground up. His overarching productivity, mentorship and kindness were highlights of his merit.

Two faculty members were selected as recipients of the Five-Year Research & Creative Activity Award.

William Banks, professor in the Department of English and director of the University Writing Program received nominations due to his prolific published works and the works in progress. He’s noted as a leading contributor to his discipline as well as collaborative in his work.

Mamadi Corra, professor in the Department of Sociology, was applauded for his research activities that intersect immigration, disability, gender and race relations. His published works have been cited over 800 times and include a law journal review, noted as a rare accomplishment for a non-attorney.

The recipient of the Scholarship of Engagement award was Rachel Gittman, assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Biology and the Coastal Studies Institute. Her contributions as an engaged scholar reflect her investment in mutually beneficial relationships with community partners to include federal and state policymakers, coastal management agencies and conservation practitioners. Her collaborative research focuses on promoting and protecting socio-ecological benefits of coastal communities.

Winners of the awards were selected by the Research & Creative Activity subcommittee of the Faculty Senate Academic Awards committee.

New to this year’s ceremony was the announcement of REDE’s Trendsetter Award winners. The Trendsetter Awards are a REDE-established program to recognize the research and creative work of faculty who have the expertise and enthusiasm to forge a path and inspire their peers. Out of 64 applicants, three faculty members were selected for each award category: early career, mid-career and exemplary.

The winners for the early career category were:

The winners for the mid-career category were:

The winners for the exemplary category were:

Also recognized during the ceremony were ECU faculty inventors who earned patents in the past year and two who were inducted as National Academy of Inventors Senior Members, an honor that places ECU in the same category as some of the most prestigious research institutions.

Additionally, the 2022-23 Engagement and Outreach Scholars Academy cohort was acknowledged along with their community-focused projects.

Coger closed the ceremony by saying, “I am impressed by the amazing contributions being made by our faculty, with our students, to solve problems that impact us all and change the world one project at a time. This event is a wonderful snapshot of really ECU’s mission and commitment to serve in action.”