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UW Celebrates Inaugural Research and Innovation Excellence Awards

The University of Wyoming’s Research and Economic Development Division last week recognized the achievements of UW’s outstanding faculty and departments with its inaugural Celebration of Research and Innovation Excellence.

In the 2022-23 fiscal year, UW reported $150 million in research expenditures, the highest level of research activities ever reported for the university. To celebrate this achievement and the culture of research and innovation at UW, outstanding researchers identified by colleges and schools were recognized. Additionally, four university-wide awards were given for outstanding research contributions, further highlighting the university’s vibrant research ecosystem.

“The inaugural Celebration of Research and Innovation Excellence marks a pivotal moment for the University of Wyoming. It’s a reflection of our collective endeavor to foster an environment where innovation flourishes and research translates into meaningful impact,” says Parag Chitnis, vice president for research and economic development. “The dedication of our faculty and departments to excellence in research and innovation is what positions UW as a leader in addressing current challenges and future opportunities for Wyoming.”

Here are the award highlights:

UW Distinguished Researcher Award -- for a researcher with the highest annual research expenditures averaged over the last three years

Professor Mohammad Piri, a leading figure from the Department of Energy and Petroleum Engineering, was honored with this award for his exceptional contributions to the field. Piri’s research, particularly in the areas of fluid flow in porous media and enhanced oil recovery techniques, has set new benchmarks in energy research. His innovative methodologies and groundbreaking studies have not only garnered significant research expenditures, but also have elevated UW’s stature in global energy research circles.

UW Distinguished Innovator Award -- for a researcher with the most prolific innovation portfolio

UW graduate Nate Storey, visionary chief science officer at the controlled environment agriculture company Plenty, received this award for his transformative work in agricultural technologies. Storey’s pioneering efforts in developing sustainable, scalable vertical farming systems represent a quantum leap in food production methodologies. His work, characterized by a blend of innovation and practical application, has led to numerous patents and the launch of successful startups, showcasing the university’s commitment to addressing global challenges through innovation.

UW Exemplary Research Culture Award -- for a department with highest per-faculty research expenditures and innovation portfolio

The Department of Molecular Biology, under the stewardship of Department Head Jay Gatlin, was recognized for outstanding achievements in fostering a research-intensive environment where collaboration, innovation and academic excellence thrive. The department’s impressive per-faculty research expenditures and its vibrant innovation portfolio underscore its pivotal role in advancing molecular biology research and education.

UW Distinguished Research Service Award -- for a faculty or staff member who has made major contributions to UW’s research services and infrastructure

In a tribute to a lifetime of dedication, Professor Greg Brown, formerly of the Department of Botany, was recognized for an illustrious career marked by his impact on botanical research and his unwavering commitment to enhancing the university’s research infrastructure. His contributions, spanning decades, have not only enriched the academic community, but also have laid a strong foundation for future research endeavors at the university, Chitnis says.

In addition to these awards, the university honored faculty members recognized by their respective colleges for their contributions to UW’s research and innovation landscape:

College of Education -- Mark Perkins, School of Counseling, Leadership, Advocacy and Design.

Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources -- Kevin Monteith.

College of Business -- Todd Cherry, Department of Economics.

College of Arts and Sciences -- Shelby Shadwell, Department of Visual Arts.

College of Health Sciences -- Katelyn Kotlarek, Division of Communication Disorders.

School of Energy Resources -- Zunsheng “John” Jiao.

College of Engineering and Physical Sciences -- Laura de Sousa Oliveira, Department of Chemistry; Daniel McCoy, Department of Atmospheric Science; and Di Yang, School of Computing and Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center.

College of Law -- George Mocsary.

College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources -- Cody Gifford, Department of Animal Science; and Dan Wall, Department of Molecular Biology.

This annual celebration underscores UW’s dedication to advancing knowledge, fostering innovation and making significant contributions to society through research. The achievements of this year’s awardees and honorees reflect the university’s commitment to excellence and its role as a leader in academic and research pursuits, says UW President Ed Seidel.

“Tonight’s celebration is a testament to the spirit of discovery that thrives at the University of Wyoming,” Seidel said during the award ceremony. “Each awardee and honoree embodies our commitment to pushing the boundaries of knowledge and innovation to benefit the state and people of Wyoming.”

Also recognized for research and innovation excellence were Professor Kevin Monteith, of the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources; Assistant Professor Thomas Boothby, of the Department of Molecular Biology; Professor Maohong Fan, of the Department of Energy and Petroleum Engineering; Professor John Oakey, of the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering; and Professor Don Jarvis, of the Department of Molecular Biology.

Also recognized at the ceremony were researchers who gave research excellence presentations to the UW Board of Trustees in 2023:

Piri -- “Experimental and Computational Research on Enhanced Oil Recovery and its Application to Wyoming’s Needs.”

Professor Brian Mealor, College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources -- “Institute for Managing Annual Grasses Invading Natural Ecosystems.”

Professor Tara Righetti, College of Law -- “Decarbonization in Wyoming: Opportunities and Imperatives.”

Associate Professor Anna Chalfoun, College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources -- “Wyoming’s Songbirds of the Sagebrush Sea.”

Professor Matthew Kauffman, College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources -- “Tracking Wyoming’s Wild Ungulate Migrations.”

Professor Todd Surovell, College of Arts and Sciences -- “The Excavation of a Columbian Mammoth in Laramie County, Wyoming.”

Contact Us

Institutional Communications
Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2929

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