Researchers celebrate impactful work

East Carolina University held its annual Research and Scholarship Awards Ceremony April 2. The event recognizes excellence among researchers, scholars and inventors at ECU – those whose activities have a major impact on their field, their students, the region and the world.

The event was hosted by ECU’s Office of Research, Economic Development and Engagement (REDE) at the Murphy Center.

Provost Robin Coger provided opening remarks on the meaningful work taking place at ECU. Coger noted that faculty at ECU are “creating and sharing discoveries to 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, Dr. Sharon Paynter, noted that the research and scholarly activity taking place at the university is a true example of ECU’s motto, to serve.

“The work you do is an act of public service that has impact both locally and far reaching. You provide transformative experiences that lead to student success and ultimately workforce success; you engage in partnerships that help drive regional transformation; and you consistently look for ways to improve health care access and outcomes for rural communities,” Paynter said.

The top award of the evening, the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity, went to Dr. Xiaoping Pan, professor of biology. Pan is seen as a leader in her field of environmental toxicology. Her work looks at how exposures to toxins like crude oil, pesticides, nicotine, PFAS and other chemicals impact the environment, organisms and human health. Her team is currently researching nematode infections on crops and developing strategies to combat nematode infection, which could have major beneficial impacts on crop yields.

Dr. Christine Habeeb, assistant professor in kinesiology, received the Five-Year Research & Creative Activity Award. Habeeb’s work focuses on improving performance, teamwork and well-being in sport and military settings. Her expertise is in demand, and she has been invited to speak with various organizations about teams performing under pressure. Her aim to inform teamwork in the Army has great value for the Department of Defense and national security.

The Scholarship of Engagement Award went to Dr. Kristen Cuthrell, director of the Research Education Institute and professor in the College of Education. Cuthrell’s work is based in mutually beneficial relationships with numerous community partners. Her initiatives focus on the development of evidence-based programming in rural schools and communities. The partnerships she’s built support new teachers in some of the region’s most underserved communities.

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

Recognizing the efforts of those who play an integral and exemplary role in advancing ECU’s research productivity goals, a new category was introduced to the ceremony this year: Excellence in Research Administration Awards. Research administrators provide support throughout all stages of the research process including identifying funding opportunities, participation in proposal development, internal review processes, submission to funding agencies, negotiation of terms and conditions of awards, award administration, compliance, management of invention disclosures and intellectual property, and other responsibilities that promote a strong, efficient and sustainable research culture at ECU.

The inaugural awards went to:

The latest Trendsetter Award winners were also announced during the ceremony. 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 36 applicants, seven faculty members were selected.

The winners in the early career category were:

The winners for the mid-career category were:

The winners for the eminent achievement category were:

Other recognitions included the Sponsored Activities and Research Catalyst (SPARC) Program awardees. REDE established the SPARC program to support scholarly activities that lead to competitive grant proposals.

ECU faculty inventors who earned patents in the past year and two who were inducted as National Academy of Inventors senior members were recognized and received plaques.

Additionally, the 2023-24 Engagement and Outreach Scholars Academy cohort was acknowledged along with their community-engaged projects.

Coger closed the ceremony by saying, “The exemplars highlighted this evening help illustrate why universities engage in research and creative activities: to drive greater understanding of transdisciplinary challenges, and to educate students who will become the innovators of tomorrow. The faculty at ECU are doing an excellent job at delivering on both.”



Dr. Xiaoping Pan, professor in the Department of Biology, is this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research & Creative Activity. The award is presented in recognition of originality and excellence in research and creative activities over the course of an entire career. A recipient’s qualifications are based on their sustained high-quality work and contributions to the academic functions of ECU.
Read more about Pan’s contributions to ECU and her field.