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Announcement of the 2017-2018 Jefferson Science Fellows

The 2017-2018 Jefferson Science Fellows (JSF) is the thirteenth class of Fellows selected since the program was established in 2003 as an initiative of the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State. The Jefferson Science Fellows Program is designed to further build capacity for science, technology, and engineering expertise within the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The 2017-2018 JSFs were selected in December 2016 and will begin their one-year assignments in Washington, DC in August 2017. The 2017-2018 Jefferson Science Fellows are:



Nancy D. Connell
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Nancy D. Connell is Professor and Director of Research in the Division of Infectious Disease in the Department of Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. A Harvard University PhD in Microbiology, Dr. Connell’s major research focus is antibacterial drug discovery in respiratory pathogens such as M. tuberculosis and B. anthracis; recent work also focuses on the use of predatory bacteria as novel therapeutics for treatment of Gram negative bacterial infections. Dr. Connell has been continuously funded by the NIH, the Department of Defense, industry, and other agencies since 1993. Dr. Connell chairs the Institutional Biosafety Committee of Rutgers University and directs the institution’s biosafety level three containment laboratory. She serves on or has chaired multiple NIH review panels. Dr. Connell has a long-standing interest in the development of regulatory policies associated with biocontainment work and so-called Dual Use Research of Concern. To this end, she has served on a number of committees of the National Academy of Sciences, e.g., the Advances in Technology and the Prevention of their Application to Next Generation Biowarfare Agents (2004), Trends in Science and Technology Relevant to the Biological Weapons Convention (2010), and Review [of] the Scientific Approaches used in the FBI's Investigation of the 2001 Bacillus anthracis Mailings (2011). In addition to biomedical research policy, Dr. Connell has considerable experience and interest in pedagogy, with a focus on ethics education and the responsible conduct of research: she chaired the NRC “Standing Committee for Faculty Development for Education about Research with Dual Use Issues in the Context of Responsible Science and Research Integrity”, which directed a series of workshops throughout the Middle East and North Africa over the past 5 five years. These workshops sought to apply contemporary teaching and learning methodologies (“active learning”) to the challenge of increasing awareness among young scientists of the societal implications of their research. She has presented at workshops and meetings around the world on the interrelated issues of biocontainment, infectious disease research, research ethics and dual use research of concern. Dr. Connell was recently appointed a member of the Board on Life Sciences and is a National Associate of the National Academies of Sciences.




Bernard Gonik
Wayne State University School of Medicine

Bernard Gonik is a tenured professor and the Fann Srere Endowed Chair of Perinatal Medicine in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan. He completed his undergraduate studies with honors in Zoology at the University of Michigan. His medical school training was at Michigan State University. He completed residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center. He undertook advanced fellowship training in Maternal-Fetal Medicine, with an emphasis on infectious diseases, at this same institution. Dr. Gonik began his professional career at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and in 1994 moved to the Wayne State University School of Medicine. He has dedicated his career to academic medicine, basic and clinical research, medical education, and most importantly, advocating for women’s and children’s health. He has prior NIH, private sector and industry funding in basic science and clinical research pertaining to his specialty. He has served as an expert advisor on adult and maternal vaccination to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vaccine Advisory Committee, and internationally with the Brighton GAIA Collaborative related to vaccine safety and clinical vaccine trials. Earlier in his career, he was awarded a Berlex International Research Fellowship and spent a sabbatical year abroad as the Lady Davis Visiting Professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Immunology at the Hebrew University studying placental trophoblast immunologic function. He was also a visiting professor on the clinical obstetric service at Chubu Hospital in Okinawa, Japan. In the recent past, he helped fund and co-chaired an international NIH sponsored conference with the School of Engineering at Wayne State University on a biomedical engineering interest of his, the forces of labor and obstetric antecedents to neonatal brachial plexus palsy. Later this year, along with three other international editors, Cambridge University Press will be publishing the 5th edition of his textbook High Risk Pregnancy: Management Options.




Ernest Richard (Dick) Greene
New Mexico Highlands University

Ernest Richard (Dick) Greene has been a Professor of Engineering and Biology at New Mexico Highlands University and a Research Professor of Engineering and Medicine at the University of New Mexico since 1992. He received his BS and MME degrees in Mechanical Engineering at Rice University and a PhD in Mechanical/Bioengineering at Colorado State University. He was raised on a family cattle ranch in rural New Mexico. After working in the oil fields during his college years and after graduation, he became an offshore Project Engineer for Brown and Root Inc. He served as a US Army First Lieutenant and Platoon Leader for 2 years in the Combat/Construction 34th Engineers during the Vietnam conflict. Subsequently, Dick was a Senior Scientist and Director of the Cardiovascular Laboratory for 12 years at the Lovelace Institutes. There, he was awarded an NIH Fogarty International Fellow. As an active biomedical engineer focusing on noninvasive anatomical and physiological measurements in human health and disease, he has been a Visiting Professor at major research universities throughout the world including Brazil, Chile, USSR/Russia, New Zealand, Denmark, China, India, Nepal, Bolivia, Canada, and most recently, Namibia. He has served on, or for, various major journal editorial boards and review panels within multiple disciplines. His numerous awards include Medical Volunteer of the Year by the American Heart Association and National Young Investigator of the Year by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery. His research has been funded by over 50 competitive grants from various agencies including the NIH (RO1), AHA (Grants in Aid), NASA, and VA (Merit Reviews). Two edited books, 12 chapters in books, and over 100 peer reviewed publications have been published with over 200 abstracts presented at international meetings. Dick has taught over 140 university courses, mentored 58 senior projects, senior advised 33 MS, 17 PhD, and 7 MD research theses insubjects ranging from thermodynamics and bioengineering to basic biology and human anatomy and physiology. Other interests and activities include sustainable farming and ranching, water management, educational outreach, wilderness preservation, women’s rights and family planning, and rugby (international player and coach of USA national championship teams).




Peter Hirst
Purdue University

Peter Hirst is professor of Horticulture at Purdue University, where he has served on the faculty since 1997. He received a BHortSci degree from Massey University in New Zealand and a PhD degree from The Ohio State University. His research has focused on the physiology, genetics and management of fruit trees, in particular apple. In recent years, his research has concentrated on understanding and manipulating flowering initiation which is a necessary precursor to reliable cropping, and on fruit development. Other areas of emphasis include the application of robotics and sensing technologies to fruit orchards, and the development of predictive computer models of growth and fruiting for educational and research applications. In his position as state extension specialist, Professor Hirst translates research data into strategies able to be implemented by growers. He is a guest professor at the Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University in China, and has communicated research results and recommendations to scientists and growers in many countries. He has been involved in addressing capacity building and food security in both Africa and Asia.




Karthik Kannan
Purdue University

Karthik Kannan is a Professor at Purdue's Krannert School of Management. He has served as academic director for the MBA programs (two-year MBA, STEM-MBA, Weekend MBA), academic co- director for MS in BAIM (Business Analytics and Information Management), and co-director for BIAC (Business Information and Analytics Center). Dr. Kannan is interested in "Designing for Human Instincts" as a way to organize businesses in the current age. Specifically, he studies how different aspects of information technology may be used to exploit human instincts and biases in order to nudge/manipulate behavior. He has applied related ideas in three primary research streams: pricing using auctions of information goods, pricing of data networks, and economics of information security. His papers have been accepted in several leading conferences and journals in the information systems area, including Management Science, Information Systems Research, Workshop on Information Technology and Systems, Workshop on Information Systems Economics, International Conference on Information Systems, and Conference on Information System and Technology. His papers have won the Best Paper Awards at the 10th and the 15th Annual Workshop on Information Technology and Systems. He currently serves/has served as an Associate Editor for Management Science, Information Systems Research, and MIS Quarterly. He is a member of AIS and INFORMS. He is also a CERIAS Fellow and Krannert's Faculty Fellow. Prior to joining Purdue, he obtained his PhD in information systems, MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and MPhil in Public Policy and Management all from Carnegie Mellon University. Before joining the graduate school, he worked with Infosys Technologies for a couple of years. His undergraduate degree is in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from NIT Trichy (formerly, REC Trichy).




Jacqueline S. McLaughlin
The Pennsylvania State University, Lehigh Valley

Jacqueline McLaughlin is an Associate Professor of Biology at Penn State Lehigh Valley, and Founding Director of CHANCE (Connecting Humans and Nature through Conservation Experiences;, Penn State's award-winning international environmental engaged-scholarship program. She earned her PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from Rutgers University/University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, an MS in Cell and Developmental Biology from Florida State University and a BA in Biology/Chemistry from New College (Sarasota, FL). Whether working as a cell and developmental biologist on cancer cell lines or the embryonic vertebrate heart with her undergraduate students, or as a conservation scientist studying the effects of global climate change, habitat destruction, or pollution on ecosystem diversity and dynamics with high school teachers and undergraduates in the fields of Africa, Australia, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Panama, and Peru, her overall mission is to create learning environments wherein students, at any level, are inspired and effectively learn science by engaging in real-world research. As a scholar, she has published, as an author or editor, over 45 publications in peer-reviewed books, journals, proceedings, and online environments, and has gratefully accepted numerous awards at the local, state, and national levels for excellence in teacher professional development, international programming and education, and her ultimate passion – undergraduate biology teaching and learning. She has been an active voice for the NSF/AAAS Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education movement through an NSF TUES grant award and her research in developing effective CUREs (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences). Dr. McLaughlin’s professional service is extensive, including the National Association of Biology Teachers, Society for Conservation Biology, Society of Developmental Biology, and the Undergraduate Research at the Capitol – PA event, to name only a few of her volunteer focal points. She has been a visiting professor at Jiangnan University (Wuxi, China) for nearly a decade, researching the pollution of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River) and the eutrophication of Tai Hu (Lake Tai) with her Chinese students and colleagues.




John F. Muth
North Carolina State University

John F. Muth is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University where he has served on the faculty since 1998. He received a BS in Applied Engineering Physics from Cornell University in 1988. Upon graduating he served as a submarine officer on fast attack nuclear submarines from 1988 to 1993. He received a PhD in condensed matter physics at North Carolina State University in 1998. His thesis specialized wide bandgap semiconductors and photonic devices. He also has made contributions to sensors, wearable electronics and underwater optical communications. In 2008-2009 he was called back to active duty to serve in Iraq. His primary responsibility in Iraq was leading a team of military and civilian police officers. Embedded in the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, he worked with the senior Iraqi leadership on issues related to security and the rule of law. Since then, he cofounded the NSF Engineering Research Center ASSIST. The ASSIST Center focuses on ultralow power wearable devices that monitor physiological and environmental parameters. In 2014 he became Principle Investigator and CTO/Deputy Director for PowerAmerica. The PowerAmerica Institute is a private-public partnership funded by the Department of Energy, Industry and Universities, and is part of the National Network of Manufacturing Institutes now called Manufacturing USA. The mission of PowerAmerica is to increase US manufacturing capacity, to create jobs and to accelerate the adoption of wide bandgap semiconductors into power electronics. These technology innovations will make power electronic systems significantly smaller, lighter and more energy efficient. In the classroom Professor Muth has taught a variety of nanoelectronics, photonics and product innovation courses. He has over 130 publications, 9 patents and has received a variety of awards including a Bronze Star for meritorious service in Iraq.




Juan Claudio Nino
University of Florida

Juan Claudio Nino is an Endowed Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, FL. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1997 at Los Andes University (Bogotá, Colombia). He was a Lecturer at the Colombian Engineering School before joining The Pennsylvania State University in 1998, where he completed his doctoral degree in Materials Science and Engineering in 2002. After a postdoctoral appointment focusing on ferroelectric thin films at the Materials Research Institute (State College, PA), he joined UF in fall 2003 as an Assistant Professor. Since then, he has established the Nino Research Group (NRG) with a main focus of the investigation of advanced energy materials towards enhancing their efficiency, performance, and sustainability. He received tenure with promotion to Associate Professor in 2008, and was promoted to Professor in 2013. His research at NRG on ceramics, polymers, bio-inspired materials, and their composites has resulted in 120 publications and five patents. Dr. Nino’s current research focus includes optimization and development of advanced functional materials for: (a) energy conversion and storage, (b) high frequency and high temperature electronics, (c) neural networks, and (d) semiconductors and scintillators for radiation detection. He is a recipient of the CAREER and the American Competitiveness and Innovation awards by the US National Science Foundation. In 2009 he received the J Bruce Wagner Jr Young Investigator Award from the Electrochemical Society. In 2014 he received the Fulbright US Scholar Innovation and Technology Award from the US Department of State. In 2016 he served as Expert within the Division of Materials Research at the US National Science Foundation. He is an Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Ceramics Society, and a Coordinating Editor for the Journal of Electroceramics.




Sonak Pastakia
Purdue University

Sonak Pastakia serves as an Associate Professor at Purdue University, adjunct faculty at Indiana University, and visiting lecturer at Moi University, and, since 2007, spends 10-11 months per year on site in Kenya. Within these faculty appointments he fulfills a wide variety of roles including, being a founding member and a member of the board of directors of the Tumaini Street Youth Center, serving as co-chair of the Academic Model Providing Access to Health Care (AMPATH) Pharmacy department, and being the acting chair of the AMPATH Cardiovascular/ Chronic Disease Management Working Group. Over the past 9 years in Kenya, he has focused on implementing a wide variety of programs including a rural diabetes care program which currently serves over 8000 patients and has screened over 50,000 people, a portabilized care system linked to microfinance groups which provides chronic disease management services entitled BIGPIC, a pharmacy distribution system which provides antiretroviral medications to over 150,000 HIV-infected patients receiving care at 500 clinics throughout western Kenya, a large multi-country gestational diabetes study in low- and middle- income country settings, and an anticoagulation monitoring program which serves over 2200 patients and has a focus on rheumatic heart disease. He has helped layer on robust infrastructure to research the many different facets of the aforementioned care programs with a particular emphasis on diabetes. He also spends a considerable amount of time teaching future leaders in Global Health through his diverse faculty positions at North American and Kenyan Universities. In addition to his work in Kenya, he has several ongoing research and care efforts focused on diabetes and population health in India.




Gad Perry
Texas Tech University

Gad Perry is a professor of Conservation Science and the Senior Director of the International Research and Development Division (IRDD) at Texas Tech University (TTU). He has served on the faculty at TTU since 2002 and heads the IRDD since its creation in 2014. He received a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Zoology from Tel Aviv University in Israel, where he was born, and a PhD in Zoology from the University of Texas at Austin. His main research interest centers on conservation biology, with particular emphasis on invasive and endangered species issues. Dr. Perry is interested in the application of biological insights to real-world problems. He is a member of the IUCN invasive species and iguana specialist groups and has conducted field studies in the British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guam, Israel, and the US, among others. Recent trips related to his IRDD role have included China, Ethiopia, Germany, Guyana, and Oman. Current and recently-completed student projects involve reptile ecology in Madagascar, biogeography in the Caribbean, iguana conservation in the Virgin Islands, sustainable civet use in Ethiopia, and urban ecology of birds in Lubbock, Texas. Dr. Perry has worked extensively with international colleagues in many countries. He has served as the Editor of the Journal of Herpetology, in addition to several past and ongoing stints as Associate and Section Editor for various other journals. He also serves as the Director of the International Center for Arid and Semi-Arid Land Studies at TTU. His teaching currently includes international ecology and conservation courses (alternately visiting Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe) and a graduate course on scientific writing at TTU, as well as a graduate-level courses for Ethiopian civil engineers taught as part of a European-funded capacity-building project. A long-term advocate for faculty governance, he has served in elected office on both the TTU Faculty Senate and the local and state chapters of the American Association of University Professors.




Francis E. “Jack” Putz
University of Florida

Jack Putz is a Distinguished Professor of Biology and Forestry at the University of Florida where he has been a faculty member since 1982. He also holds an honorary professorship at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He received his undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia, has a PhD from Cornell University, was a NATO Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Tropical Forestry Institute at Oxford University, and was a Bullard Fellow at Harvard University. His research focuses on the ecological basis of environmentally sound and economically viable tropical forest management, but he also studies issues related to savanna ecology and restoration, non- timber forest products, and ethnobotany. Much of his work is based on market-based incentives for improved management; he started working on forest certification in the 1980s and ran a forest-based carbon offset project in Malaysia in the 1990s. Dr. Putz’ current research on landscape-level land-use planning for conservation and development is based mostly in Indonesia and Mexico, but he is also involved in projects in Guyana and Malaysia. Since receiving his undergraduate degree in education in 1973, he has actively promoted science-based approaches to pedagogy both at his university and with the institutions and individuals with whom he works around the world. Along the way he’s published more than 300 research articles, essays, and reviews, and also popular magazine and newspaper articles on natural history and nature conservation issues.




Omowunmi "Wunmi" Sadik
State University of New York at Binghamton

Omowunmi “Wunmi” Sadik is a Professor of Chemistry and the founding Director of the Center for Research in Advanced Sensing Technologies and Environmental Sustainability (CREATES) at the State University of New York at Binghamton (SUNY Binghamton), where she has been a member of the faculty since 1996. She is also the President and Co-Founder of the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization (SNO) (, a non-profit, international professional society dedicated to advancing sustainable nanotechnological solutions around the world through education, research, and the promotion of the responsible growth of nanotechnology. Dr. Sadik received her BS and MS in chemistry from the University of Lagos (Nigeria) and her PhD in chemistry from the University of Wollongong (Australia). She has held appointments at Harvard, Cornell University and the Naval Research Laboratory. Dr. Sadik’s research areas are in surface chemistry, chemical sensors and biosensors, and in their application to solving real-life problems in biological systems, energy and the environment. Dr. Sadik holds five U.S. patents for her work on biosensors and nanostructured membranes. She has authored over 160 scientific publications, and has given over 350 invited lectures and conference contributions across the world. Some of Dr. Sadik’s notable career highlights include being a recipient of: the National Academy of Sciences Collaboration in Basic Science & Engineering Fellowship (2000), the SUNY Research Foundation’s Award for Outstanding Inventor (2002), the Harvard University Radcliffe Fellowship (2003), the NSF Discovery Corps Senior Fellowship (2005), and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Research (2011). In addition, Dr. Sadik is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2010), a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2012) and a 2015-2017 Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer. In 2016, Dr. Sadik became only the fourth woman and the first female scientist to be conferred with the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) Award, Nigeria’s highest national honor for academicians.




Elisabeth Smela
University of Maryland

Elisabeth Smela is a professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland, where she has served on the faculty since 2000, and she also holds an appointment in the Institute for Systems Research. She received a BS in physics from MIT and MS and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. As a graduate student she spent a summer working in Tsukuba, Japan through the NSF Summer Institute. Dr. Smela worked as a postdoc and research scientist in Linkoping, Sweden and then in Risoe, Denmark before becoming Vice President of Research and Development at Santa Fe Science and Technology, New Mexico.

Dr. Smela’s interdisciplinary research interests center on microfabricated electroactive polymer (EAP) actuators and on sensors that include an organic or polymeric component. She microfabricated conjugated polymer actuators for the first time and more recently demonstrated electrokinetically-driven hydraulic polymer actuators. She is developing simple large-area tactile sensors based on latex and nano-carbon composites for cancer detection and for use in touch-sensitive skins for robots. She was also part of a team that created a “bionose” on a chip that employs living olfactory sensory neurons on the surface of a custom chip to detect odorants. Her teaching includes mechatronics, microfabrication, statistics, and materials science, and she has participated in Engineers without Borders.

Upon beginning a faculty member, Dr. Smela was awarded an NSF Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the DuPont Young Professor Award, the Outstanding Invention Award from the University’s Office of Technology Transfer, and the E. Robert Kent Junior Faculty Teaching Award. More recently, she was recognized with the EAPromising European Researcher Award from the European Society for Electromechanically Active Polymer Transducers and Artificial Muscles.




Patricia A. Sobecky
The University of Alabama

Patricia Sobecky is the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Alabama (UA) and a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. She received a BS in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a PhD in microbiology from the University of Georgia. Her postdoctoral fellowship was with Dr. Donald Helinski at the University of California, San Diego. Prior to joining UA in 2009 to serve as chair of the Biological Sciences Department, she was a tenured Associate Professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In her role as UA Associate Provost, she leads a number of campus-wide collective network initiatives including the UA STEM Forward Initiative to broaden the participation of individuals from traditionally underserved and/or underrepresented groups in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. She also leads the UA Project Rising Tide Retention and Student Success Initiative. As an active researcher, she and colleagues are currently funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Institute to assess the impact of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster on biodiversity and ecosystem services in marshes and nearshore habitats. She has authored 65 scientific publications, and has been funded by the Office for Naval Research, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and industry. Dr. Sobecky served as chief scientist for oceanographic and manned submersible cruises in the Gulf of Mexico, and serves as an editor for an international journal. Her teaching ranges from introductory-level courses in biology to advanced lecture and laboratory in microbial ecology, pathogenic microbiology, and molecular biology. She is an advocate for access to educational opportunities, for women and women of color in STEM fields, science outreach, environmental justice and community empowerment, through developing programs that bring academic, industry, and government sectors together to solve the local, regional, national, and global issues of the 21st century. In recognition of her research accomplishments, she was elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2016.