Distinguished Scholar Awards announced: Corbett, Lorigan, Saine and Zhang

Distinguished Scholar Awards for 2014 have been presented to Mary Jean Corbett, professor of English; Gary Lorigan, professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and Abdoulaye Saine, professor of political science.

The Miami University Distinguished Scholar Award honors faculty whose sustained excellence in research or other creative activity has brought them prominence in their fields.  

Jing Zhang, assistant professor of statistics, received the Junior Scholar Award for a faculty member who has demonstrated great potential in research and achieved significant standing in the field. 

The scholars, named by the committee on faculty research (CFR) and the office for the advancement of research and scholarship (OARS), each receive a $2,000 grant for the pursuit of further research. They were announced at the Faculty Assembly meeting Sept. 16. 

The deadline for nominations for the 2014-2015 Distinguished Scholar Awards is March 2, 2015.

Mary Jean Corbett, professor of English, received the Distinguished Scholar Award for sustained excellence in the fine arts and humanities.

Corbett has earned an international reputation for her work in Victorian literature and is now pushing beyond that territory into literary modernism, according to her nominators.


Mary Jean Corbett, professor of English

With two dozen articles, three published books from first-rate university presses (Cornell, Cambridge, Oxford) and a fourth monograph approaching completion, "Corbett is one of the most prolific humanities scholars in the College of Arts and Science," one of her nominators wrote.

Her books include Family Likeness: Sex, Marriage, and Incest from Jane Austen to Virginia Woolf (2008); Allegories of Union in Irish and English Writing, 1790-1870: Politics, History, and the Family from Edgeworth to Arnold (2000); and Representing Femininity: Middle-Class Subjectivity in Victorian and Edwardian Women's Autobiographies (1992).

Family Likeness proved so influential that the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth Century Studies Conference hosted two separate panels on it: "Family Likeness I and II: Special Sessions in Honor of Mary Jean Corbett." "The papers given on these panels were later published as a Festschrift in honor of Mary Jean - the rare tribute that one expects only at the very end of a remarkable scholarly career," said one nominator.

Corbett was recently awarded the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) 2014 Fellowship for her current book project "Behind the Times: Virginia Woolf in Fin-de-Siècle Context." She joins 64 other fellows out of 1,000 applicants from more than 50 universities.

Beyond her writing, Corbett's standing in literary, feminist and interdisciplinary studies is evident in her speaking invitations and professional service. In addition to giving more than 40 conference presentations, she has been invited to lecture at institutions nationally and internationally.

She regularly referees for prestigious journals in English; sits on the advisory board for some of the best journals in her field, including the Victorian Institute Journal and Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies; and has held various elected positions of the Modem Language Association (MLA).

Corbett served as interim director of the Western College Program during its transition period. In the department of English she has served as graduate director, director of the literature program and a member of the advisory committee.

She joined Miami in 1989 after receiving her doctorate from Stanford University that same year. She was named the John W. Steube Endowed Professor for 2007-2013.

Gary Lorigan, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, received the Distinguished Scholar Award for sustained excellence in research in the applied and natural sciences.

Lorigan is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of membrane protein structure. He and his research group have pioneered strategies to characterize membrane proteins by using magnetic resonance techniques, such as electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) and nuclear magnetic resonance  (NMR) spectroscopies.  


Gary Lorigan, professor of chemistry and biochemistry

Their initial work was highlighted by the journal Nature Methods as a “promising new structural biology tool.” 

These techniques helped Lorigan demonstrate, for the first time, how phospholamdan, which is involved in heart muscle contraction, interacts with cell membranes. 

To further these techniques he successfully obtained funding for two large magnet NMRs and a state-of-the-art pulsed EPR spectrometer, one of 20 in the world, now part of the Ohio Advanced EPR Laboratory at Miami.

Lorigan received the Distinguished Scholar Award for a junior faculty member in 2003 and "has built a career that does Miami University and the department proud," said one of his nominators.

He was the first faculty member at Miami to receive an American Heart Association Scientist Development Award (2001) and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2003).

Since he joined Miami in 1998 Lorigan has received more than $5.2 million in research grants and has been a lead or co-principal investigator on equipment grants totaling more than $2.5 million.

His research has led to 79 publications in top-tier journals, including one selected in 2013 as a Hot Topic and Most Downloaded in the journal Biochemistry.

Lorigan has served on many grant panels at the NSF and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and he is a permanent member of the NIH Biochemistry/Biophysics of Membranes study panel.  

Serving as a permanent study panel member for the NIH is a first for any faculty member in the department of chemistry and biochemistry "and is a testament to Gary's standing in the biophysical community," said one of his nominators.

Among other awards, Lorigan was named Miami's Sigma Xi Researcher of the Year in 2010 and was selected as the Volwiler Distinguished Research Professor for 2007-2012.

He has had an active role in the department's recently approved curriculum revision plans and in new course development.

His nominators describe Lorigan as "an invaluable resource as a research collaborator."

"While Gary is an outstanding researcher, he is also an outstanding teacher and colleague," his nominators said. He has taught at all levels and mentors five to six undergraduate research students annually in his lab, along with advising doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers.

Abdoulaye Saine, professor of political science, received the Distinguished Scholar Award for sustained excellence in research in the area of business, education and social sciences.

An internationally renowned expert on Gambia, Saine's scholarship focuses on democracy and elections in Africa, human rights and the role of the military in politics.


Abdoulaye Saine, professor of political science

Saine, who became a full professor in 2011, joined the department of political science in 1998 as a visiting assistant professor.

"Professor Saine's hire offered a valuable opportunity to expand the department's course offerings for undergraduate and graduate students interested in global and comparative politics from an African perspective and to broaden the intellectual exchange among faculty in the department and across the university," a nominator wrote.

Saine, who earned his doctorate from the University of Denver, served as interim chair of the department in 2009-2010.

He is the author of two books, The Paradox of Third-Wave Democratization in Africa (2009) and Culture and Customs of Gambia (2012), and co-author or editor of three other books on Africa. He also has published 19 articles in peer-review journals and contributed 14 chapters to edited volumes.

Saine's writing has touched on such broader theoretical and policy issues as the growing role of China in Africa, the role African governments have played in the global war on terror, the way western media outlets portray Africa and the efficacy of western foreign aid programs in Africa.

Another nominator said Saine is "not only well-versed in political, social, cultural and economic issues pertaining to a key world region, but that he also is among the few scholars who explore larger international problems and how they are related to the African context. This sets Professor Saine apart and marks him as truly outstanding."

As a human rights activist, Saine has lectured widely in the United States and elsewhere and regularly contributes op-ed pieces to national and international media on issues, including women's rights.

"For the past 16 years, Dr. Saine has volunteered his time to write affidavits for victims of human rights abuses in West Africa in order that they might be granted political asylum," a nominator wrote. 'To date, Dr. Saine's services in this regard have helped over 50 individuals and their families find safe haven."

Jing Zhang, assistant professor of statistics, received the Junior Faculty Scholar  Award for a faculty member in the applied or natural sciences who has demonstrated great potential in research and achieved some standing in the field. 

Candidates for this award must have received their highest degree no more than eight years before the time of nomination.

Zhang's statistical expertise lies in two main areas:  Bayesian methods and spatial data analysis methods. Her outstanding contributions to the analysis of experiments in aquatic toxicology serve as the foundation for setting environmental exposure limits, one nominator said. 


Jing Zhang, assistant professor of statistics

Bayesian methods describe tools that have been developed to provide a formal incorporation of prior information into the analysis of data. This can lead to more sensitive studies and can potentially reduce the cost of conducting experiments.

Zhang has published seven research papers in 2012 and 2013, of which three have explicitly addressed the Bayesian analysis of aquatic toxicology problems.

Her contributions to this problem were recently recognized by the Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI) with funding to continue this work.  

In addition, the analyses that she is proposing could impact the practice for setting exposure limits in the European Union (EU) and beyond. The EU has an active program investigating better methods for analyzing these toxicity experiments for use in regulatory decision-making and the HESI support reflects this interest, one nominator said.

"She is emerging as a leader in the development of statistical risk estimation methods using this Bayesian paradigm," her nominator said.

Zhang also collaborates with others on the development of statistical models for the spatial analysis of biodiversity.

As a statistician, her understanding of ecology and environmental science has played an important part of our successful collaboration, said one colleague.

Her expertise provided breakthroughs to several problems. "Our collaboration resulted in analysis of species diversity that explicitly incorporates environmental and spatial variation in the distribution of individual species."

Zhang's ability to integrate ecological and environmental data analysis into courses in applied statistics has also enhanced the capacity of students to synthesize complex environmental data in their own research.

"In short, Zhang's research and collaboration have elevated the scholarship of faculty and student colleagues across other departments and programs in addition to her home department of statistics," her nominators said.

Zhang joined Miami in 2008 after receiving her doctorate from the University of Missouri, Columbia, that same year.