Published May 16, 2018
Six faculty members and three staff members have been named recipients of the 2018 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence.
The Chancellor’s Awards acknowledge and provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence.
“Our faculty and staff educate, inspire and support our students to pursue their passions; they are the driving force on campus,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “Those we honor are leading this effort through their commitment to their craft and their dedication to our students. I am proud to celebrate and honor this year’s recipients.”
The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities recognizes the work of those who engage actively in scholarly and creative pursuits beyond their teaching responsibilities. Recipients are Jochen Autschbach, professor, Department of Chemistry; Laurie Read, professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology; Kui Ren, professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering; and Gil I. Wolfe, UB Distinguished Professor, the Irvin and Rosemary Smith Professor, and chair, Department of Neurology.
The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching honors those who consistently demonstrate superb teaching at the undergraduate, graduate or professional level. Recipients are Gail Radford, professor, Department of History, and David Watson, professor and chair, Department of Chemistry.
The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service honors professional staff performance excellence “both within and beyond the position.” Recipients are Rebecca Brierley, assistant dean for external affairs and director of communications and alumni relations, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Elizabeth Lidano, director of the Office of Student Conduct and Advocacy.
The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service recognizes classified staff members who have consistently demonstrated superlative performance within and beyond their position. This year’s recipient is Theresa Nusstein, a secretary in the Office of the Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Jochen Autschbach is praised by colleagues around the world as “one of the brightest stars of his entire generation of chemists,” who has achieved an “astounding level of productivity of highly impactful work.”
He develops new quantum theoretical methods and computer programs that can be used to calculate, from first principles, the properties of molecular chemical systems. He studies the interaction of molecules with light and other types of electromagnetic fields, exploring how these interactions relate to molecular structure and chemical bonding. Colleagues call his research “groundbreaking,” and say his work “continues to innovate and open new areas in chemistry to computational study.”
Autschbach is the first scientist to develop and apply a complete working theoretical framework and software for reliable relativistic first-principles electronic structure methods for nuclear magnetic resonance parameters of small and large molecules. His research has allowed, for the first time, the entire periodic table to be subjected to first-principles calculations. He was also the first to predict NMR chemical shifts of carbon nanotubes from first principles.
A prolific scholar, Autschbach has published 277 peer-reviewed publications, with nearly 12,000 citations and an h-index of 60, according to Google Scholar.
He has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator for research awards totaling $4.4 million, including two active grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy on which he is principal investigator.
As assistant dean for external affairs and director of communications and alumni relations in the pharmacy school, Rebecca Brierley helps execute the school’s strategic planning, partnership outreach and policy development.
She also manages external communications, working to enhance the school’s ability to maintain contact with more than 7,200 alumni, provide prospective students with key information about the school and its programs, and build on its external reputation and ranking.
To that end, she reorganized her office so that it is now fully engaged in social media. She also raised the level of electronic and print publications from the school, and is credited with revamping and modernizing the school’s web presence.
In addition, she co-directed the pharmacy school’s move from the North Campus to the South. Colleagues credit her focus on detail and organization with making the transition “seamless and efficient.”
Highly regarded by her peers across the country, Brierley was recently elected chair of the Administrative Services Section for the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the central organization for pharmacy schools. As chair in 2019, she will lead a group of more than 300 administrative professionals, advocating for their representation within AACP.
In her role as director of the Office of Student Conduct and Advocacy — formerly known as Judicial Affairs and Student Advocacy — Elizabeth Lidano leads a team that administers the campus judicial system and students of concern response, and provides advocacy services to students in need.
Lidano makes herself available to students, parents, faculty and staff daily. She is a resource to numerous offices regarding student behavior issues and works with faculty and staff to solve complex problems relating to these issues.
Over the past 16 years, Lidano has led her office through many changes, including the student conduct requirements of the Enough is Enough legislation, and the increasing need to assist students struggling with mental health issues to get the proper resources. She and members of her staff demonstrate great compassion in their varied roles as discipline officers, professionals working with victims of crimes and as campus liaisons to families whose students are struggling or ill.
Always advocating for students, Lidano and her staff led UB’s application for a Student Emergency Fund grant from the Gerstner Family Foundation and the Heckscher Foundation for children. UB was one of only seven SUNY institutions to be awarded the grant, receiving $100,000 to help undergraduate students in need. These funds added to the existing emergency gift funds Lidano’s office has administered for many years.
Lidano is also active in university affairs beyond the scope of her position, serving as a member of UB’s Intercollegiate Athletic Board and as a member of a university-wide committee reviewing UB’s academic integrity policies.
A UB staff member since 1985, Theresa (Terri) Nusstein joined the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in 2005 and now works in the Office of the Dean. Tasked with processing financial documents, Nusstein is credited with creating a system to record and provide on-demand balances for faculty startup allocations. She is praised for her work with faculty, staff and students to ensure that everyone understands the school’s processes and requirements.
Nusstein meets with SEAS financial staff monthly to discuss changes and challenges in the school’s financial environment, answer questions and take part in a forum for discussion and questions. She frequently visits departments or individuals directly to help train them or guide them through the application or problem they are trying to solve.
A valuable resource to SEAS students, Nusstein has become the point person who ensures that dean and new faculty startup and student appointments and scholarships are completed. Recognizing that the SEAS graduate student population is overwhelmingly international, she meets with these students and guides them to the appropriate forms, helps students complete the forms to ensure accuracy, and reviews them to make sure that everything is processed and the students receive the support as promised and on time.
Gail Radford’s colleagues call her “one of the most conscientious, thoughtful and generous teachers” at UB, one who “creates a congenial and academically challenging classroom atmosphere that encourages discussion, active learning and a group spirit of inquiry.”
A UB faculty member since 1993, Radford has taught 12 different courses at the university that span a broad range of topics, from general U.S. history and political history to popular culture, film, the New Deal and the Cold War. Her courses include introductory surveys, 300-level topical courses for majors, 400-level research courses for majors, and graduate-level reading and research seminars.
Radford’s stellar student evaluations reflect her pedagogical excellence. In 26 of the last 34 courses she has taught, she averaged a 4.8, 4.9 or a perfect 5.0 — far above both the department’s and the College of Arts and Sciences’ mean scores of 4.3 and 4.0, respectively. In these evaluations, students repeatedly cite her knowledge, fairness, enthusiasm, availability, helpfulness and kindness.
She also has had a significant impact as a student mentor and adviser. She has advised three successful PhD candidates in the past 11 years, served on 22 doctoral exam and dissertation committees since 2001, supervised or mentored 32 master’s students — including 10 in the past five years — and advised numerous undergraduate students on their honors theses, including 13 in the past eight years.
Laurie Read is an internationally acclaimed scholar who is described by colleagues as being “among the few world leaders in the study of trypanosome cell and molecular biology” and “a star in the fields of parasitology and microbiology.”
Read co-authored a series of papers describing various aspects of mRNA editing in mitochondria — research that is considered seminal by peers not only in the parasitology field, but in the much larger field of RNA processing. Respected by colleagues for her nearly three decades of scholarly excellence in the RNA editing field, Read also is highly regarded for her recent investigations into mRNA degradation in mitochondria and notably for her outstanding research with the protein methylome in trypanosomes and the particularly important role of arginine methylation in trypanosome RNA biology.
A highly productive researcher, Read has published 73 peer-reviewed papers, most of which have appeared in top-ranked journals in her field, and two book chapters. Her research has been continuously funded for more than 20 years.
In addition to her scholarship, Read is dedicated to her professional field. She served the National Institutes of Health as a full member of two study sections, a further testament to her reputation in her area of expertise, and the trust and respect she has earned from her peers. She has provided ad hoc reviews of grants for the NIH and the National Science Foundation, among many others.
The SUNY Empire Innovation Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Kui Ren is widely considered a “global leader” in the field of computer and information security and privacy.
His work has significantly impacted the area of secure cloud data storage and computation with many foundational discoveries that have opened up new and meaningful research directions. These include cloud storage auditing, private and versatile cloud data search and fine-grained cloud data sharing.
In the area of wireless security, Ren has broken new ground with his seminal research on anti-jamming communications, security designs for cognitive radio networks, wireless physical-layer security, and secure mobile device-to-device communications. His recent work on exploring smartphone-based side-channel attacks against 3D printers and voice-replay-attack defense on mobile phones is gaining international attention.
A fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Ren is a prolific scholar, with 90 peer-reviewed journal and magazine articles, and another 123 papers published from peer-reviewed conferences. The resulting 22,000 citations — including nearly 19,000 citations since 2013 — have achieved an h-index of 58, according to Google Scholar.
Since he started his career in 2007, Ren has received 15 research awards from both private and public funding agencies, including eight from the National Science Foundation and two from the Department of Energy.
David Watson is renowned for his pedagogical excellence in the classroom, his mentorship of both students on campus and educators in the community, and his leadership within his department and across the university.
He has taught a wide variety of courses at UB, from 100-level general chemistry lectures through graduate-level courses in inorganic and materials chemistry. Routinely receiving high marks from his students in their evaluations, he has exceeded the Department of Chemistry median for student ratings for all but one course over the past 25 semesters.
In addition to his classroom teaching, Watson excels as a mentor. He has graduated 11 PhD students, all of whom have gone on to secure excellent positions in industry or academia, and five master’s students. He also has supervised 32 undergraduates and seven high school interns in his lab. During his 14 years at UB, Watson has served on 109 PhD committees.
In the community, colleagues laud Watson's work promoting STEM activities in the Buffalo schools and the greater Western New York region. He served as director of Internships in Nanomaterials Research from 2007-11 and the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP) Summer Research Internships from 2014-15. Since 2006, Watson has also taken part in professional development sessions for middle school teachers in Buffalo.
An internationally renowned leader in neuromuscular disorders, with a primary focus on myasthenia gravis, Gil Wolfe has made significant contributions to the field of neurology.
His landmark study examining the benefits of surgical removal of the thymus — a mainstay in the treatment of myasthenia gravis — showed definitively, and for the first time, that patients with myasthenia gravis experience a clear benefit from thymectomy. The study was named one of neurology’s “Top Stories of 2016” by The New England Journal of Medicine Journal Watch.
In addition to the New England Journal of Medicine, he has 115 publications in such high-impact journals as JAMA, Neurology, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Annals of Neurology and Muscle & Nerve.
A highly sought-after expert in his field, Wolfe has been invited to present more than 220 lectures, workshops and seminars at national and/or international conferences and meetings, including the 2016 International Congress of Neuromuscular Diseases.
A fellow of the American Neurological Association and the American Academy of Neurology, he is actively involved in establishing national and international consensus guidelines for the management of myasthenia gravis, and trial outcome measures for the condition.
He is also involved in research review committees for the Neuromuscular Section of the American Academy of Neurology, and as an ad hoc reviewer for the Department of Defense NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.