Seven faculty members have been named Presidential Research Faculty Fellows at San Diego State University in recognition of their outstanding research, scholarship, and creative endeavors. Each grantee received $25,000 to support their research activities.
Two faculty members who were promoted to associate professors received the 2023 ad: Maid Xie (electrical engineering and information technology) and Chris Warren (audio creation). Five faculty members who were promoted to full professor were also named: Natalie Mladenov (civil engineering), Noe Crespo (health care), Marina Kalyushnaya (Biology), Iana Castro (Marketing) and Hilary McMillan (Geography).
“As we continue to grow, it is critical that we celebrate and reward faculty members whose world-class research not only enhances our university’s reputation and investments, but also creates opportunities for our students,” said SDSU President Adela de la Torre. “The work of our faculty in all disciplines contributes to the well-being of society and prepares our students for influential careers. It is this focus on positive impact, on application, that further defines what research at SDSU means.”
The Presidential Research Fellowships were established in 2022 to recognize the faculty for its world-class research, scholarship, and creative activities. The scholarships are sponsored by the Department of Research and Innovation and the Department of Academic Affairs and are awarded annually in conjunction with PhD and tenure.
Deans of each academic institution nominated faculty members based on their contributions to their field and the impact of their work on the public interest. Madanat and Provost Salvador Hector Ochoa reviewed all nominations and made recommendations to de la Torre, who selected the grant recipients.
“These scholars are at the forefront of their fields and I am thrilled that we are able to recognize and reward them for their incredible contributions to their field and to this university,” he said Hala MadanatVice President for Research and Innovation.
Here is a look at the new Research Fellows:
Iana Castro- Marketing
Castro examines consumer decision-making around food choices and understanding and addressing food access challenges in underserved communities. In 2017, she developed and founded BrightSide Produce, a product distribution model created to overcome the limitations of traditional distribution systems that result in limited access to healthy food in smaller grocery stores such as corner and convenience stores.
“I am honored to be selected as a Presidential Research Faculty fellow,” said Castro, who has published research on parent-child decision-making and how the retail environment affects consumer responses and behaviors. “I am passionate about the work I do. Everyone should have access to healthy food options in their communities, and I hope my ongoing work will have an impact on how we understand and address limited access to healthy food in communities across the country.”
Noe Crespo – School of Public Health
“This award means a lot to me personally because I’m a Mexican immigrant who grew up in poverty and a first-generation college graduate,” he said Noe Crespo, Professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science. “My journey to success has been supported and influenced by family, friends and close colleagues who believed in me and by the many opportunities I have been offered. This award is a testament and celebration of all their contributions and I share this award with all of them.”
Crespo’s extensive research portfolio focuses on addressing many of the health disparities between vulnerable and underserved populations at the local, national and global levels US goals for healthy people 2030.
“The award also means a lot to me professionally, as it recognizes the culmination of much of the hard work and effort my team and collaborators have put into conducting meaningful and impactful public health research, particularly in the context of combating of COVID -19 pandemic,” added Crespo.
Marina Kalyuzhnaya – biology
Kalyuzhnaya research uses bacteria to fight climate change. In her lab, she grows methanotrophic bacteria that convert methanol into proteins to build novel materials like super-strong spider silk. These innovations will help farms and wastewater treatment plants become less wasteful with excess methane gas.
“I am very pleased that my colleagues and administration are recognizing the contributions of my team in a unique area of non-traditional microbial metabolism. I’ll tell my team it’s our award!” Kalyushnaya said.
In addition to this recognition, President De la Torre Great ideas initiative and the California State University Biotechnology Education and Research Program both recognized Kalyuzhnaya’s collaborative leadership qualities.
Hilary McMillan – Geography
McMillan’s research focuses on the vital issue of water: how much we have, how we measure it, where it is stored and how much will be available in the future. As a hydrologist, McMillan has published numerous peer-reviewed articles, many in the leading trade journals.
A hallmark of McMillan’s research is that she frequently mentors students and contributes to the university’s educational mission to provide impactful education, working collaboratively and internationally.
“I am delighted and honored to receive this award. I plan to use it as seed funding to explore some new and riskier topics such as: B. how we can use machine learning to gain new insights from previous field studies,” said McMillan. “The results will help me to apply for larger grants in the future. The award will also support the research and professional development of my students, who are an integral part of my laboratory.”
Natalie Mladenov – Water Resources Engineering
Most people in San Diego flee the rain, but rain is the starting point for water sustainability researcher Mladenov’s research. In its Water Innovation and Reuse Lab (WIRlab), the San Diego County Engineering Council 2022 Outstanding Educator employs interdisciplinary research staff to tackle real-world problems to understand pollution in both natural surface water bodies such as rivers and engineered systems such as wastewater treatment facilities.
The grant supports Mladenov’s ongoing research, such as her recent study, which found bacterial outbreaks in the San Diego River are primarily caused by leaks in aging sewer pipes. “We have to maintain our infrastructure if we want to have the high quality of life that we have here,” Mladenov said in a recent statement CBS8 interview.
Christopher Warren – Music
Warren has always been fascinated by the relationship between sound and space. His extensive research into acoustic measurement has produced EchoThief, a library of reverberations from across North America that is so precise that it accurately measures how a sound resonates in a room before fading into silence. These sonic snapshots of distinctive spaces have been featured in video games (Sony, Bethesda), museum exhibits, sonic software, and artistic works around the globe.
“Acoustic spaces strongly shape the sounds that inhabit them; By digitizing these spaces, we can develop powerful tools to rework and reinvent sound,” said Warren. “This grant will help me greatly expand my reverberant library and disseminate it widely.”
Junfei Xie – Electrical and Computer Engineering
What once seemed like a distant advance in the world of drone technology is now becoming a reality in Xie’s SysteMs & InteLligEnce (SMILE) Laboratory: “In the near future, drones will become an indispensable part of modern society and provide various services that make our lives easier” , she said.
This grant allows Xie to continue her pioneering work on airborne networks formed by drones with direct flight-to-flight communication links, further opening the door to the possibility of integrating artificial intelligence into drone systems. Future capabilities include cargo and passenger delivery, traffic monitoring, and even search and rescue services.
Suzanne Finch, Lizbeth Parsons, Peggy Pico, Leslie IJ Reilly, Melinda Sevilla, Sarah White, and Kellie Woodhouse contributed to this article.