Ohio University

skip to main content

Five OHIO faculty members named 2016 Presidential Research Scholars

From staff reports | Aug 30, 2016

PRS collage

Top Row (left to right): Sarah Wyatt, James Thomas, Nancy Stevens. Bottom row (left to right): Michele Fiala, Arthur Werger. Photo credits: Wyatt/Ohio University and other photos provided by recipients.


Five faculty members have been named the 2016 Ohio University Presidential Research Scholars for excellence in the areas of life and biomedical sciences and arts and humanities.

The award winners are Sarah Wyatt, professor of environmental and plant biology; James Thomas, professor of physical therapy; Nancy Stevens, professor of biomedical sciences; Michele Fiala, associate professor of music; and Arthur Werger, professor of art and design.

The awards program recognizes mid-career faculty members who have garnered national and international prominence in research, scholarship and creative activity.  Each award recipient will receive $3,000 to be used at the scholar’s discretion as an honorarium or to support research or creative works.

The Research Division revived the program, which had been on hiatus since 2005, after faculty members—including The Council for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (CRSCA), a committee of Faculty Senate—requested that the university reinstate the recognition award.

“We are pleased to recognize the achievements and successes of our mid-career faculty who have made significant contributions to their fields,” said Joseph Shields, vice president for research and creative activity and dean of the Graduate College. “The award recipients provide outstanding examples of our faculty’s talent and commitment to creating knowledge and advancing culture.”

For 2016-17, applications were solicited in the areas of life and biomedical sciences and arts and humanities. Applications for social and behavioral sciences and physical sciences and engineering will be requested for 2017-18. The areas will rotate every other year.

Wyatt, Thomas and Stevens were selected as award recipients in the life and biomedical sciences category this year .

Wyatt is recognized as an expert in gravitational and space biology. Using cellular and molecular approaches, she examines how plants sense and respond to gravity. Wyatt has held positions on the executive committee and council of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), as well as on the governing board of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR); she also served as a program director at the National Science Foundation. She has been a strong advocate for student research and outreach programming across campus.

Thomas has been a licensed physical therapist for 31 years, with more than 15 years of clinical experience. His research has taken a multi-track approach to addressing low back pain. His efforts include developing techniques to study neural control of body movement, conducting patient trials to examine classic treatments and creating virtual reality interventions for chronic pain treatment. Thomas has served on several grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health.

Stevens’ paleontological research in Tanzania and Afro-Arabia has made significant contributions to the fields of vertebrate paleontology, paleoanthropology and evolutionary functional anatomy. Stevens and her teams have made numerous important discoveries of new lineages of mammals, opening a new window into the history of African tectonic plate movements and animal diversity over the last 35 million years. Research highlights include the discovery of several species new to science, with two new primates representing the oldest fossil evidence of the split between apes and Old World monkeys. Stevens has provided field and laboratory research and training to dozens of graduate and undergraduate students to date, representing nine universities in six countries.

Fiala and Werger were selected as award recipients in the arts and humanities category this year.

Fiala is an accomplished oboist whose performances at prestigious venues have earned her a national and international reputation. A focus of her creative scholarship is to ensure audience accessibility—connecting audiences to classical music and helping them understand it. Fiala’s two solo CDs containing commissioned works for oboe and her book on 19 th century Italian oboe music have made significant contributions to the field. Fiala has served as secretary and executive member on the International Double Reed Society.

Werger is an internationally renowned artist-printmaker whose works are in many public and private collections.  He also has made significant contributions to the advancement of color etching printing. His two-plate system for color intaglio is well known in the international printmaking community, as is his expertise for mezzotinting. Werger has conducted numerous guest artist presentations, workshops and exhibitions and served as an active member of the Southern Graphics Council International for many years.

The recipients will be honored at a ceremony to recognize Presidential Research Scholars and Presidential Teaching Scholars on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Nominees for the Presidential Research Scholars awards must be Group 1, tenured, full-time faculty from one of Ohio University’s campuses. Scholars must have been employed by Ohio University for at least three years.

Applications from nominated individuals are reviewed by CRSCA and previous Presidential Research Scholar recipients, with recommendations for selection given to the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity for final approval.

All faculty of Ohio University may submit nominations; faculty also may self-nominate.

For more information about the nomination and application process, visit www.ohio.edu/research/funding.cfm .