Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

University Scholarly Achievement Awards

The University Scholarly Achievement Award is a marquee award for our university and a way to recognize standout researchers who embody our mission to make discoveries that change the world.

Each year, the University of Kansas recognizes up to four mid-career faculty members as recipients of a University Scholarly Achievement Award. This $10,000 award recognizes a significant scholarly or research contribution, creative work (an exhibition, performance, composition, article or book, or major collaborative project) or a series of closely related contributions.

The annual awards recognize achievement in four areas: arts and humanities; clinical sciences; science, technology and mathematics; and social science and professional programs.

2021 recipients

This year’s winners are:

  • Kelsie Forbush, associate professor of psychology (social science and professional programs)
  • Kyoungchul (K.C.) Kong, professor of physics and astronomy (science, technology, and mathematics)
  • Nicole Nollen, professor of population health (clinical science)
  • Peter Ojiambo, associate professor of African and African-American studies (arts and humanities)

The recipients will be honored during a virtual University Research Awards ceremony in April, along with winners of other university research awards such as the Steven F. Warren Research Achievement Award and the Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Award. Details about the virtual University Research Awards ceremony will be announced soon.

Information about this year's winners is below.

Kelsie Forbush, associate professor of psychology

Professor Kelsie Forbush’s research focuses on eating disorders, serious mental health conditions that have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness and affect people across all age, socioeconomic, and racial groups. Forbush is at the forefront of research using rigorous statistical methods to test innovative models of eating disorder classification and is the developer of the Eating Pathology Symptoms Inventory (EPSI), an empirically based self-report instrument with strong psychometric properties and utility across a broad range of individuals, including clinical and community samples of men and women, and diverse ethnic and racial groups. She recently developed a mobile phone application that can be used to identify individuals who are at risk for poor treatment response. Her work has shaped the direction of scientific literature in eating disorders, reflected in over 70 peer-reviewed publications, and also has significant implications for clinical care and improving outcomes for people with eating disorders.

Kyoungchul (K.C.) Kong, professor of physics and astronomy

Professor K.C. Kong has made foundational contributions to theoretical physics and has an exceptional international reputation in the field of high-energy physics. Kong’s seminal research paves a road into the uncharted territory of dark matter and new physics beyond the Standard Model. Kong is a leading expert on collider phenomenology. He has developed novel methods that are essential for new physics searches at the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s premier particle accelerator. Studying dark matter particles is especially difficult, and Prof. Kong’s contributions have enabled entirely new searches for these enigmatic objects. His seminal work, “The 750 GeV Diphoton Excess May Not Imply a 750 GeV Resonance,” published in the prestigious Physical Review Letters was one of four featured articles in Nature News, the most prestigious magazine that covers the sciences.

Nicole Nollen, professor of population health

Nollen's work represents more than 18 years of research conducted at KU Medical Center to understand racial disparities related to smoking cessation. Nollen's multi-disciplinary research team is one of the only groups in the country focused on improving tobacco use treatment outcomes in African-American smokers with the goal of reducing disparities in tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. By evaluating promising pharmacotherapy and behavioral interventions for African-American smokers, Nollen's team has made significant contributions to the scientific literature, and their findings have directly impacted clinical practice guidelines for treating African-Americans. Her work in this area was highlighted by the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee in its report to the FDA on the threat of menthol cigarettes to public health. Nollen's research has elucidated mechanisms that explain racial and ethnic differences in tobacco use and cessation, and have helped move the field away from a generic focus on race/ethnicity toward a targeted focus on specific, modifiable barriers and facilitators to quitting smoking and reducing racial health disparities.

Peter Ojiambo, associate professor of African and African-American studies

Professor Peter Ojiambo’s work focuses on the democratizing potential of education. Across two single-authored books, two co-edited volumes, and dozens of articles, Ojiambo argues that transformative educational practices in Africa require combining progressive models of education with traditional African strategies. The U.S. Department of Education, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and a range of other funders have found these arguments compelling, funding a collective set of proposals amounting to over $3 million on which Dr. Ojiambo was the PI, Co-PI, or co-author. Finally, Dr. Ojiambo is a leader in finding ways to make humanistic research a public good. His open-access software to teach the Kiswahili language is widely used on multiple continents. He is the leader of two language initiatives at KU: the annual African Languages Festival and the Food and African Film Festival. These events bring in more than 200 students and faculty to celebrate and learn the significance of African and African diasporic languages. These efforts illustrate how Ojiambo has creatively weaved his scholarship with various performance-based activities that are examples of his deep commitment to public scholarship and outreach.


Video of 2019 ceremony

News and Past Winners

Four researchers receive University Scholarly Acheivement Awards honoring midcareer faculty (04/13/2020)
Chancellor to present four University Scholarly Achievement Awards on April 24 (04/03/2019)
Chancellor Girod to recognize five University Scholarly Achievement Award winners (03/15/2018)
Chancellor to present University Scholarly Achievement Awards (03/15/2017)
Chancellor to present University Scholarly Achievement Awards (04/18/2016)
Chancellor to present University Scholarly Achievement Awards (04/09/2015)
Chancellor to present University Scholarly Achievement Awards (04/08/2014)
Four researchers named recipients of University Scholarly Achievement Awards (04/16/2013)
Five researchers named recipients of University Scholarly Achievement Awards (3/27/2012)


Past Winners

Sarah Finocchario Kessler, Family Medicine and Community Health
Stuart Macdonald, Molecular Biosciences
Laura Mielke, English
Karrie Shogren, Special Education

Dale Dorsey, Philosophy
Kirsten Jensen, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, KU Biodiversity Institute
Paul W. Popiel, Music 
Franklin (Feng) Tao, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering 
VIDEO: Watch the full 2019 awards ceremony.

Kathleen Lynne Lane, Special Education 
Xiaogang Li, Internal Medicine, Biochemistry
Laura Moriarty, English 
Leigh Stearns, Geology
Jon Tunge, Chemistry 

VIDEO: Watch the full 2018 awards ceremony.

Nancy Brady, Speech-Language-Hearing
Kimber Richter, Preventive Medicine and Public Health
Dave Tell, Communication Studies
Joy Ward, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
VIDEO: Watch the full 2017 awards ceremony.

Christie Befort, Preventive Medicine, Public Health
Wen-Xing Ding, Pharmacy, Toxicology, Therapeutics
William Elliott, Social Welfare
Peter Grund, English
Greg Rudnick, Physics and Astronomy

Gregory Cushman, History
Wonpil Im, Molecular Biosciences
Andrew Torrance, Law
Atanas Stefanov, Mathematics

Michael Detamore, Chemical & Petroleum Engineering
Michael Engel, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Allen Greiner, Family Medicine
Steven Spooner, Music

Sally Cornelison, Art History
Don Haider-Markel, Political Science
Mikhail Medvedev, Physics and Astronomy
Thomas Prisinzano, Medicinal Chemistry

Jeffrey Moran, History
Russell Swerdlow, Neurology, Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Jeffrey Burns, Neurology
Cory Berkland, Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, and Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Donna Ginther, Economics

Brian Blagg, Medicinal Chemistry
Derrick Darby, Philosophy
Patricia Hawley, Psychology
Bangere Purnaprajna, Mathematics

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Chancellor's Vision

The mission of the University of Kansas is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.

We will do that by raising the expectations we have for ourselves, the aspirations we have for our state, and the hopes we have for our world.