Texas Tech University

Faculty News

August 2020

5 Faculty, 3 Staff Win for Excellence

The College of Arts & Sciences has awarded five professors and three staff members for excellence on the job in 2020.

Faculty winners:

  • Anthony Cozzolino, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, was awarded for Excellence in Research — Natural & Physical Sciences.
  • Barbara Hahn, a professor in the Department of History, was awarded for Excellence in Research – Humanities.
  • Erin-Marie Legacey, an associate professor in the Department of History, was selected for the Teaching Innovation Award.
  • Marc Lochbaum, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management, was awarded for Excellence in Research — Social Sciences.
  • Jeremy Schwartz, an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, was selected for the Excellence in Teaching Award.

Staff winners:

  • William Barela, a program analyst in the Department of Biological Sciences, was awarded for Excellence in Support.
  • Mark Hendley, a business manager in the Department of Psychological Sciences, was awarded for Excellence in Leadership.
  • Karen York, an academic advisor in the College of Arts & Sciences, was awarded for Excellence in Academic Advising.

Wong Named Honors College Interim Dean

TTU history professor Aliza Wong, interim dean of Honors College

Aliza Wong, a professor in the Department of History and the associate dean of the Honors College, has been named interim dean of the Honors College. Her duties will begin on Sept. 1. Wong is assuming the role of interim dean after former Honors College Dean Michael San Francisco was selected as the interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Wong said she feels fortunate to have been mentored throughout the years by countless faculty and staff, including San Francisco; the Honors College Heads of Houses (Jane Winer, Gary Bell, Don Haragan and Bob Lawless); faculty emeriti, including Bell, Jim Brink and Jim Clopton; Provost Michael Galyean; and President Lawrence Schovanec and his Chief of Staff Grace Hernandez. "They are some of the most brilliant, most generous leaders on this campus," Wong said. "But I also have been privileged to be inspired and educated by some of the most creative, most giving, most active upstanders, our Honors College students, both past and present."

July 2020

Van Gestel Coaches 6th-Graders' Climate Research

TTU biogeochemist Natasja van GestelNatasja van Gestel, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, was approached by a group of local 6th-graders asking for help with a research project. The Carbon Keepers group from Southcrest Christian School wanted to tackle climate change in a creative way—by making agriculture part of the solution to reducing excess carbon in the atmosphere. Along with David Weindorf, associate vice president of research and innovation, van Gestel's collaboration with the children has brought Carbon Keepers recognition on a national and even global scale, becoming grand prize winners in the 2019-2020 Lexus Eco Challenge in the Air & Climate category for Middle School and first place winners in the 6th-grade category of the 18th Annual eCYBERMISSION Competition for 2019-2020.

Presley Lab Receives Grant for COVID-19 Support

TTU professor and chair of Environmental Toxicology Steve Presley

Steve Presley, director of Texas Tech University's Biological Threat Research Laboratory (BTRL) and chair of the Department of Environmental Toxicology, and his research team have received $2.23 million from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to continue COVID-19-related activities through April 1, 2022. The BTRL's expertise and technical diagnostic capabilities provide support to city and county public health agencies and other health care providers covering a region of some 66,000 square miles—from the northern border of the Panhandle south to the San Angelo area. In addition to testing samples, the BTRL also provides the region's public health departments, hospitals and clinics with the viral transport medium they need to safely package and transport samples to the BTRL for testing. Presley and his team have several proposed vaccine-development projects in the works.

Burns Leads Biology as New Chair

Texas Tech University's College of Arts & Sciences is proud to welcome Jennifer Burns, Ph.D., as chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. She assumed the position effective June 1. As chair, Burns leads more than 40 tenure-track faculty and research/teaching professionals, a strong cohort of adjunct and affiliate professors and scientists, a graduate program that counts more than 120 students, and an undergraduate program of some 1,600 undergraduate student majors. “My focus moving forward will be to increase faculty and student diversity; to grow our health, ecological, and environmental related research and capacity; and to foster academic programs that will develop the next generation of STEM scientists,” she said. Burns, who joined Texas Tech from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), brings with her more than two decades of research exploring the linkages between physiology, nutrition, and performance in mammalian systems. 

Rivera Sandoval Awarded Time on Hubble

TTU astrophysics post-doc Liliana Rivera Sandoval

Liliana Rivera Sandoval, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, has been awarded two observing times on the Hubble Space Telescope, along with a grant to analyze existing observations. Rivera Sandoval is one of only 11 researchers worldwide to have been granted at least three proposals in the same observing cycle in the last decade. "Since Hubble's proposal-selection process is highly competitive, it is very rare for the same person to win three awards as a PI (principal investigator) in the same program cycle," said Sung-Won Lee, professor and chair of the Department of Physics & Astronomy. "It is a highly recognized achievement for Liliana to receive multiple observing times on the Hubble Space Telescope." Rivera Sandoval will use her observing times on the telescope for three different research projects. In collaboration with fellow researchers at Texas Tech, across the U.S., and in Canada, Europe and Australia, Rivera Sandoval will study accreting white dwarfs and other compact binaries in globular clusters. 

Cukrowicz Moves to School of Veterinary Medicine

TTU psychology professor Kelly Cukrowicz

Kelly Cukrowicz, a clinical psychologist with 14 years on the faculty of the Department of Psychological Sciences, has accepted an offer to join the faculty of the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) in Amarillo as a professor of psychological health. The transition comes as a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed an increasing rate of suicide among veterinarians; to address that trend the SVM aims to prepare future veterinarians with the skills, knowledge, and mental-health resiliency to not only survive but thrive in their profession. Cukrowicz has devoted her career to research on depression and suicide—particularly in rural communities. She has been recognized for her work in this field with the Edwin Shneidman early career research award for contributions to the field of suicidology from the American Association of Suicidology, the Barnie E. Rushing Jr. Faculty Distinguished Research Award, and the Excellence in Research Award from the College of Arts & Sciences.

June 2020

Larson Awarded for Spanish Distinguished Research

TTU Spanish professor Susan Larson

Susan Larson, the Charles B. Qualia Professor of Romance Languages in the Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures, has received one of the Texas Tech Parents Association's 2020 Barnie E. Rushing Jr. Faculty Distinguished Research Awards. For many years, and particularly since the 2008 economic crisis—a problem not only in the United States but also in Asia and Europe—Larson has studied Spain through the lens of literature, film, cultural and urban studies and environmental justice. Spain was hit particularly hard by the economic downturn, Larson says, but its cities have since adjusted to the circumstances and are looking for ways to deal with what's left behind: abandoned and peripheral spaces with half-finished, yet already crumbling architectural projects, including entire airports and housing. Into these spaces, plants, insects and animals are returning in unexpected ways, for example. "I've noticed a marked tendency in all kinds of art in Spain since 2008 that, taken as a whole, says something I believe is very important about how cities are reconsidering nature," she says.

Bruning Confirms Record 'Megaflash' Lightning

TTU atmospheric scientist Eric Bruning

Eric Bruning, an associate professor in the Department of Geosciences, is a member of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Committee on Weather and Climate Extremes, which has certified two new world records for "megaflash" lightning events. According to the WMO study, the world's greatest distance for a single lightning flash covered a horizontal distance of 440.6 miles across southern Brazil. The WMO study also confirmed the world's greatest duration for a single lightning flash, which now stands at 16.73 seconds, measured from a flash over northern Argentina. 

Phillips: Genetics May Rule Wound Infections

TTU biologist Caleb Phillips

Caleb Phillips, an assistant professor at Texas Tech University and director of thePhillips Laboratory in the Department of Biological Sciences, and doctoral student Craig Tipton led a first-of-its-kind study that shows genetics may play a role in how wounds heal—or not, especially chronic wounds that are often associated with other chronic diseases or conditions like diabetes, decreased circulation and neuropathy. The study, "Patient genetics is linked to chronic wound microbiome composition and healing," published June 18, 2020, in the open-access, peer-reviewed medical journal PLOS Pathogens. Phillips, who also serves as the Curator of Genetic Resources at the Natural Science Research Laboratory's (NSRL) Robert J. Baker Genetic Resources Collection, said the study determined that certain genes are associated with the number of bacteria and abundance of common pathogens in wounds. The collection of microbes, known as a "microbiome," can determine how a wound heals and how long that process takes. The research also showed that the more diversity within a wound microbiome, the less time it took to heal. "A chronic wound is a serious burden," Phillips said. "The median healing time of patients in this study was more than 200 days, but some people deal with these wounds for years. We were able to show that a person's genetics explain differences in the species that infect their wounds. The information in this study could be valuable in a clinical setting as pre-operative information to help inform preventative measures before a procedure, as some chronic wounds arise as non-healing surgical wounds, and could help inform a course of treatment for an existing infection." 

Legacey Awarded for Creativity in Teaching

TTU hisotry professor Erin-Marie Legacey

Erin-Marie Legacey, an assistant professor in the Department of History, teaches a senior seminar about the French Revolution—in a way that engages each student as a real-life historical figure who played a role in the revolution. After researching their historical figures, students then step into their shoes: writing, speaking, debating, scheming and legislating in character for six weeks. It's this kind of innovative activity that earned Legacey the Texas Tech Parents Association's 2020 Spencer A. Wells Creativity in Teaching Award. "I have never had a class where students are so engaged and excited about course content," Legacey said. "The outcome of 'our' French Revolution was very different from what actually happened in the 18th century, but at the end of the game, students had to reflect on their experience and write a paper describing and analyzing why what happened in our role-playing game would have been unlikely, if not impossible, in the 18th century." 

San Francisco Named Interim Dean

TTU interim dean, College of Arts & Sciences, Michael San Francisco

Michael San Francisco, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and currently dean of the Honors College, has been named interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Texas Tech University Provost Michael Galyean announced the appointment on June 4. "Michael brings a wealth of experience to this role," Galyean said. "We all understand that our academic community will face many challenges in the days ahead, but I am confident with Michael's capable leadership, combined with partnership and support from the college, that the College of Arts & Sciences will prosper." San Francisco takes up his new duties beginning Sept. 1, 2020, and replaces W. Brent Lindquist, a professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, who has served as dean of the College of Arts & Sciences since July 2014. 

Ray to Study Bats for Answers to COVID-19

David Ray, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Diana Moreno Santillán, a post-doctoral researcher in Ray's lab, received a grant through the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding mechanism to investigate whether bats may offer a solution to the current COVID-19 pandemic. "We hope to find specific patterns in the bats that appear to explain how they manage to tolerate viruses." Ray says. Then they will investigate how immune system genes and immune responses differ between bats and humans.