Andy Hyland
Office of Public Affairs

Chancellor to present five University Scholarly Achievement Awards on May 11

Mon, 04/18/2016

LAWRENCE — Five faculty members at the University of Kansas will receive 2016 Scholarly Achievement Awards, which recognize significant scholarly or research achievement for scholars in the middle of their careers.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little will host a reception for the five winners at 5 p.m. May 11 at The Commons in Spooner Hall. The event will be open to the public.

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

This year’s winners are:

  • Christie Befort, associate professor, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health (clinical sciences)
  • Wen-Xing Ding, associate professor, Department of Pharmacy, Toxicology and Therapeutics (clinical sciences)
  • William Elliott, associate professor, School of Social Welfare (social science and professional programs)
  • Peter Grund, associate professor, Department of English (arts and humanities)
  • Greg Rudnick, associate professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy (science, technology and mathematics)

Research colleagues nominated the winners for consideration. The award recognizes either a truly outstanding scholarly or research contribution, or a series of closely related contributions.

“These five researchers have excelled in their respective fields, and have embraced KU’s mission to pursue discoveries that change the world,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “Their research is novel and original, and they all show remarkable promise for the rest of their careers. These awards are a testament to their efforts as part of KU’s top-flight faculty.”

This is the sixth year that KU has presented the awards.

More information about this year’s recipients is available below.

Christie Befort

Befort joined the faculty at KU Medical Center in 2007. Since then, she has developed a reputation for her work in obesity, especially as it relates to cancer and cancer prevention. She has completed more than 20 research grants as a principal investigator or as a co-investigator, including a $10 million award from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute in 2014. That award focuses on treating obesity in rural areas. With that award, Befort is evaluating three different approaches for treating obesity in primary care settings. Her current research builds on her landmark 2012 study that drew attention to the extent of obesity in rural America.

Wen-Xing Ding

Ding came to the faculty of KU Medical Center in 2009 and has published more than 90 peer-reviewed publications and chapters, most of which are in high-tier journals. His studies at KU Medical Center have caused a paradigm shift in cell death research to include adaptive mechanisms to stress as key events that determine the ultimate outcome of cell death or survival. He is considered a leader in the field of autophagy, a process involving cell content destruction in the body, and its relationship to alcohol- and drug-induced liver injury. He has also become increasingly sought as a grant reviewer and journal editor, serving on seven editorial boards and as editor or associate editor for an additional five journals. He has also organized several international meetings.

William Elliott

Elliott, who joined KU in 2011, researches how children’s savings accounts can offset the effects of poverty among children and adolescents. His research has been published in more than 40 prestigious, peer-reviewed journals and has been covered by National Public Radio, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post and others. His research has led to programs and policies across the U.S. for children’s savings accounts that help low-income students attend college. His research has generated more than $2 million in external funding since he joined KU.

Peter Grund

After joining the faculty in 2008, Grund has focused his research on the history of the English language, and how and why the language has changed over time. In particular, he is a leader among scholars in the emerging field of historical pragmatics, which examines contextual and cultural variables in language change. Grund’s publications help to illuminate ways in which people in different historical periods molded the language in social situations to fit their own needs and purposes. His recent research involves a database of documents from the Salem Witch Trials and will be among the first extensive sociocultural analyses of early modern texts.

Greg Rudnick

Rudnick, who joined the KU faculty in 2008, has conducted influential work in the field of observational astronomy, focusing on the visible properties of galaxies. He and his research team have discovered and further examined galaxies from the distant past that have no current-day equivalent. He provided one of the first measurements of how the total mass of stars in the universe grew over 11 billion years of history. The work showed conclusively that average galaxies grew rapidly when the universe was young but grew at a slower and steadier pace afterward. His recent studies have focused on the gas supply for star formation. He has more than 140 publications and has brought in $1.2 million in external research funding.

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