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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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The inaugural Outstanding Scholar Award winners with Provost Ochoa (Credit: Rachel Crawford/SDSU) The inaugural Outstanding Scholar Award winners with Provost Ochoa (Credit: Rachel Crawford/SDSU)

Inaugural Awards for Outstanding Scholarship, Creativity and Impact

Nine individuals across colleges and disciplines selected for their scholarship, creative activities, innovation and public impact.
By Sarah White

San Diego State University’s Division of Research and Innovation introduced a new suite of awards to recognize exceptional faculty efforts, honored annually with the Senate Excellence in Teaching Award, and research renown, rewarded by the Albert W. Johnson University Research Lectureship.


The inaugural Outstanding Scholar Awards selected faculty for their scholarship, creative activities, innovation and public impact. Each award included recognition at a ceremony before the Albert W. Johnson lecture on March 15 and prize money.


Artistic and Creativity Award: Sondra Sherman


As noted by professor and nominator Kerianne Quick, “Sondra Sherman's creative endeavors have been manifested in a constantly evolving body of work that is always meticulously executed, intensely poignant, and politically relevant.”


Professor Sondra Sherman is a nationally and internationally recognized artist and scholar in the field of contemporary jewelry. Sherman’s work appears in public collections in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, and the Smithsonian Institution.


Humanities Scholar Award: Jessica Pressman


Jessica Pressman is an award-winning and internationally recognized leader in the field of digital humanities. Pressman’s 2014 book “Digital Modernism: Making it New in New Media” is a touchstone text in the field of digital humanities and has “single-handedly bridged the divide between literature and the digital,” noted her nominator, fellow English and Comparative Literature professor Phillip Serrato.


Pressman’s 2020 book “Bookishness: Loving Books in a Digital Age,” examines the status of books in the digital age and explores why books are still so important and meaningful despite the virtual world in which we live. Pressman also co-founded the Digital Humanities Initiative and led efforts to make Digital Humanities an area of excellence at SDSU.


Humanities Scholar Award: Esme Murdock


The College of Arts and Letters sponsored a second Humanities Scholar Award given to Esme Murdock, a professor of American Indian studies. Her articles and book chapters integrate Black and Indigenous feminist theories, settler colonial theory, and environmental ethics, foregrounding the role and agency of the land on which Black and Indigenous peoples have lived.


Murdock’s nominators, Anne Donadey and David Kamper, emphasized her work as a public intellectual and how she uses art to communicate her arguments to a wider audience. Donadey wrote of Murdock, “I find her work to be nothing short of inspirational.”


Kamper wrote that Murdock’s work “is exactly the kind of work that we need in Ethnic Studies right now — innovative research that is conceived across marginalized communities, not in isolated or siloed ways.”


SDSU Imperial Valley Outstanding Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities AwardJuan Carlos Ramírez-Pimienta


Juan Carlos Ramírez-Pimienta, a professor of Spanish at SDSU Imperial Valley, is an internationally leading expert on the intersection of violence, drug trafficking and Mexican cultural productions. His research and scholarship have had significant impact on Mexican literature and culture and have been featured in The Economist, Rolling Stone, CNN, National Public Radio and the BBC. 


Ramírez-Pimienta was also featured last year in the Amazon Prime documentary, “Los Tigres Del Norte: Stories to Tell,” which focused on one of the most important Mexican and Mexican-American popular norteño music bands of all time.


Ramírez-Pimienta’s nominator, history professor Eric Boime, said: “More than a foundational pillar in his field, he exemplifies the teacher-scholar model at the heart of San Diego State University’s mission.”



Public Impact Award: Annie Buckley


School of Art and Design professor Annie Buckley’s interdisciplinary and community-based research on bringing the arts and higher education to people experiencing incarceration is widely recognized at the local, state, national and international levels.


Since founding the Prison Arts Collective in 2013, Buckley has brought arts classes to over 5,000 incarcerated participants across 12 California state prisons. Buckley was also recently awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study how the arts may improve wellness for individuals and communities experiencing incarceration.


As a champion for the Second Chance Pell initiative, Buckley will be implementing a Bachelor of Arts degree program at a prison in Imperial Valley. 


Elise Moersch, director of development for SDSU’s College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, stated in Buckley’s nomination letter, “The public impact of this work is deep and lasting.”


Innovator of the Year AwardMarina Kalyuzhnaya


Professor of biology Marina Kalyuzhnaya was nominated for the Innovator of the Year award by Tommy Martindale. She leads numerous projects with industry partners applying microbes to solve environmental problems. She has patented methods for fermenting gaseous methane and carbon dioxide via biofilms of methanotrophic bacteria for use in bioreactors. Additional patents are pending, with one set to be applied to reduce carbon emissions in coal mines.


Kalyuzhnaya has been recognized for her expertise by awards from the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology and is leading the SDSU Big Ideas project Advancing Zero-fossil Technologies for Engineered Carbon (AZTEC).


Non-Tenure Track Faculty Outstanding Scholar AwardNathan Dodder


Nathan Dodder is an adjunct associate professor in the School of Public Health and was nominated by Penelope “Jenny” Quintana. He is an analytical chemist with expertise in measuring chemical contaminants and how they affect humans, animals and the environment.  


By publishing more than 50 peer-reviewed publications and securing millions of dollars of grant funding, Dodder has significantly contributed to evidence that the residue left behind by cigarette smoke is pervasive and toxic. His efforts to automate the detection and analysis of thousands of samples of known and unknown environmental chemicals have benefited California’s coasts and wildlife and informed public health policies.


As Quintana noted in her nomination letter, “Nate is an “unsung hero.”


Postdoctoral Scholar AwardJessica Baker (Postdoctoral Scholar) and Jennifer Thomas (Mentor)


Nominator psychology professor Susan Brasser described postdoctoral fellow Jessica Baker as a “natural leader” and “strong role model” whose research has “clear translational implications for the treatment of individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.”


Baker has been instrumental in guiding multiple undergraduate and master’s student theses in addition to managing four research projects on how interventions like choline supplementation and exercise might improve neuroplasticity and behavioral outcomes following prenatal drug exposure.


Psychology professor Jennifer Thomas has a “long history of successfully mentoring investigators at all stages of their career,” wrote Brasser. The Thomas lab has been a home for several undergraduate researchers in the Maximizing Access to Research Careers and Initiative for Maximizing Student Development programs.


In addition to directing SDSU’s Master of Arts in Psychology degree program, Thomas has been involved in statewide initiatives and national research society committees that provide grant writing and career development for early career researchers at SDSU and across the California State University system.


Shown in picture above, from left to right: Annie Buckley, Jessica Pressman, Nathan Dodder, Juan Carlos Ramírez-Pimienta, SDSU Provost Salvador Hector Ochoa, Esme Murdock, Sondra Sherman, Jessica Baker, Jennifer Thomas.