Four researchers named recipients of University Scholarly Achievement Award


I am delighted to announce this year's recipients of our annual University Scholarly Achievement Award, which recognizes four faculty members for their research or scholarly achievements in each of four categories: arts and humanities; medicine and clinical sciences; science, technology and mathematics; and social science and professional programs.

This year’s recipients are as follows:

  • Andrew Denning, associate professor, Department of History, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (social science and professional programs)
  • Huazhen Fang, associate professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering (science, technology, and mathematics)
  • Lauren Ptomey, associate professor, Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine (medicine and clinical science)
  • Armin Schulz, professor, Department of Philosophy, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (arts & humanities)

Taken together, these faculty members and their achievements demonstrate how KU is benefitting society as one of the nation’s leading research universities.

These four winners — along with the winners of other annual research awards — will be honored at the University Research Awards ceremony April 11. All faculty and staff are invited to attend.

Additional information about each of this year’s recipients is below, as provided by the awards selection committee.



Douglas A. Girod

Andrew Denning

Andrew Denning is a professor of history whose research is focused on technology, environmental history, and cultural history in modern European states and their overseas empires in the twentieth century, with particular expertise in France, Germany, and Italy.

Andrew DenningHis two books — “Skiing into Modernity” and “Automotive Empire: How Cars and Roads Fueled Colonialism in Africa” — are significant research achievements, and peers have praised his work with phrases such as “excellent, highly original and remarkably wide-ranging” … “a stunning accomplishment” … and “unlikely to be surpassed for a very long time”.

His research has required working in multiple locations and languages, deep dives in archives and harnessing material unique to his scholarship. His interdisciplinary research works across environmental studies and science and technology studies to trace transnational relationships, requiring him to work in multiple languages and write across national borders and historiographies. This work has been described as “path-breaking” and “a landmark in the field of global history.”


Huazhen Fang

Huazhen Fang is an associate professor in mechanical engineering who is recognized as an outstanding researcher in the field of advanced battery management. In particular, he is known as a leading expert for his significant work on improving the safety and performance of lithium-ion batteries for applications ranging electric cars and aircraft to grid energy storage.

Professor Fang has proven to be an ingenious researcher who consistently introduces new approaches to address important challenges. His research has been full of interdisciplinary explorations that transcend the areas of systems and control, power electronics, machine learning and electrochemistry, and the outcomes arising from his explorations have significantly expanded the frontiers of knowledge and practice in high-performance battery systems. In addition to his strong funding track record and significant scientific contributions, his continuous leadership in professional societies is noteworthy. He has received many prestigious awards, including the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Award in 2019.


Lauren Ptomey

Lauren Ptomey is an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Physical Activity and Weight Management; co-director of the Brain Health in Down Syndrome Program; and Scientific Director for Clinical Research in the Center for Healthy Lifestyles and Nutrition at Children’s Mercy Hospital, where she leads research efforts related to the role of diet and exercise in adults and adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and on brain health of individuals with Down syndrome, a group where Alzheimer's disease pathology is present in nearly 100% of adults by age 40. 

Professor Ptomey is a national leader in interventions to increase physical activity and promote weight loss/maintenance as a primary strategy for slowing the trajectory of chronic disease in individuals with IDD, including Down syndrome, with a special focus on Alzheimer's disease. Her work has established the feasibility of different dietary and physical activity approaches to work in this population; these approaches are now being tested in full-scale studies. She has published more than 70 peer reviewed articles, been PI/MPI of four NIH R01 awards, an R61/R33, and co-I of others totaling $34M in direct costs. Along the way, her research has brought national recognition to KU Medical Center. Specifically, KUMC is a site for the NIH-funded “Clinical Trials to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease in Down Syndrome” and “Alzheimer’s Biomarker Consortium- Down Syndrome” longitudinal cohorts, she is co-chair on an American College of Sports Medicine Committee that is developing a position statement on physical activity for individuals with disabilities, co-author on an important piece that developed recommendations for primary care providers on weight management for children with autism (published in Pediatrics), and she is a core member for the MCHB funded Healthy Weight Research Network for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. In total, she has served on three committees to develop national guidelines for individuals with disabilities.


Armin Schulz

Armin Schulz is a philosopher with expertise in the philosophy of science, cognitive science, biology, social science and formal epistemology. His work addresses central issues concerning the cognitive structure of human reasoning and decision-making that breathe new life into traditional philosophical inquiries by incorporating evolutionary considerations and other research from biology, psychology and economics. His work raises novel questions about evolutionary science and its impact on our understanding of both cognition and economics. His prolific interdisciplinary research is viewed as advancing not only philosophy of science but as impacting evolutionary biology, economics and psychology.

Armin SchulzProfessor Schulz has a stellar international reputation both within and beyond philosophy. He is seen as one of the leading philosophers of social sciences, and he is viewed as a star in several fields and among a vanguard of philosophers who are engaging with the biological and psychological sciences. His reputation beyond philosophy is reflected in his selection as the Northwestern University Department of Chemistry’s Ratner Scholar in 2023 on the grounds that his ideas would “spark the imagination of a broad range of scientists.” It is also reflected in his being chosen to coordinate an interdisciplinary cluster, “a modeling Agency Formally,” of a $14 million project on Agency, Directionality and Function” funded by the Templeton Foundation. 
Professor Schulz has an outstanding publication record relative to norms in philosophy. Whereas scholars in his field at top institutions average fewer than 1.5 publications per year, he averages 2.4. He has published two books in the philosophy of the biological, cognitive, and social sciences, has one more book forthcoming, and finished writing a fourth. He has written 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals that are the best in his field, six peer-reviewed book chapters and various conference proceedings. Additionally, he has published nine comments, book reviews and encyclopedia entries.