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OU faculty recognized for research, innovation and engagement at virtual Town Hall


The Research Office at Oakland University presented awards to several OU faculty members in recognition of their outstanding research and initiative during the Research, Innovation and Engagement Town Hall, which was held on Monday, March 29. The awards were presented virtually this year due to the COVID -19 pandemic.

“We are delighted to be able to recognize the hard work and success of our faculty in the area of their funded research efforts,” said Dr. David Stone, vice president for research at OU. “While funded research is only one facet of the wide range of research, scholarship, and creative artistry produced by OU faculty, for most of the faculty we honor today, funded research is central to having a successful career. And for those who we acknowledged today for their achievements in receiving federal or major foundation funding, it is also recognition that they are competing successfully at a national level.”

This year’s award categories included:

• Frank Giblin Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes faculty members for their notable research accomplishments during their career at Oakland University and is named in honor of Dr. Frank Giblin to recognize his remarkable career in the Eye Research Institute.
The award was presented to Dr. Xiangqun Zeng, a distinguished professor of analytical chemistry, who has received $7.05 million in research funding from the American Chemical Society/Petroleum Research Fund, the State of Michigan, the Office of Naval Research, the University of Michigan, the Alpha Foundation, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and National Science Foundation (NSF) during her career at OU.

Professor Zeng’s current research centers on bioanalytical, electroanalytical and electrochemistry at metal electrode interfaces with two active research programs: one focused on bioanalytical chemistry for clinical diagnosis and therapy, and another focused on fundamental and applied electrochemistry for sensors and energy storage device applications.

• President Pescovitz Innovation Research Award, which was presented to Dr. John V. Seeley, a professor of analytical chemistry. The award honors faculty work in invention, innovation and commercialization.

Dr. Seeley received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from MIT while doing research in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Mario Molina. Originally working in atmospheric chemistry, he extended his research into analytical technology developing sophisticated means of analyzing complex mixtures.
Working with gas chromatography (GC), Dr. Seeley developed an easy-to-use device. GC is capable of detecting minute amounts of a substance and is used in diverse areas: fuels, food, fragrances, environmental studies, etc. Dr. Seeley’s GC device improves detection capabilities and is far less expensive than other current models. The device has been licensed to one of the world’s leading producers of gas chromatographs.

• Researcher of the Year Award, which was presented to Dr. Andrei Slavin, a distinguished professor of physics. The award recognizes the faculty member who has received the largest amount of grant funding in the fiscal year.

Dr. Slavin has received over $1 million in funding for fiscal year 2020, as well as two grants to support his work in spintronics and magnetic systems funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research/University of Central Florida and the NSF.

• Most Active Research Award, which is presented to the faculty member who has been awarded the highest number of new grants during the fiscal year. The award was presented to Dr. Wei Zhang, an assistant professor of physics and graduate of the PI Academy.

Dr. Zhang received four grants, funding his work on spintronics and energy studies. Most notable is his CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation, which he received on his first try.

• Most Active Grant Seeker Award, which was presented to Dr. Jonathan Maisonneuve, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and a graduate of the PI Academy. The award is given to the faculty member who has submitted the highest number of grant proposals to federal agencies in the fiscal year.

Dr. Maisonneuve submitted seven proposals in fiscal year 2020, applying to NASA, Michigan Space Grant Consortium, NSF, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). His engineering work focuses on building efficient energy and water systems.

• Outstanding Junior Investigator Award, which is given to the early career faculty member(s) who had notable research accomplishments in the fiscal year. The award was presented to Dr. Wei Zhang, an assistant professor of physics, and Dr. Luis Villa-Diaz, an assistant professor of biological sciences. Both are graduates are the PI Academy.

Dr. Villa-Diaz’s research focuses on understanding and elucidating the self-
renewal properties of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), which are
influenced by the microenvironment in which they are cultured, in particular the
extracellular matrix (ECM). He has received more than $995,000 in funding, including a Major Research Instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation. This grant allowed
the university to acquire a flow cytometer cell sorter, which will support multidisciplinary research.

Dr. Zhang received four external grants totaling $808,000 in funding and won the NSF CAREER Award on his first try.

• Outstanding Research Department Award, which was presented to the Department of Physics. The award recognizes the department that has received the highest amount in research funding in the fiscal year.
This year, the Department of Physics had more 10 major projects supported by over $2.58 million in research funding provided by Air Force Office of Scientific Research/University of
Central Florida, the Binational Science Foundation, the Department of Energy/Argonne
National Laboratory, Henry Ford Health System, NSF, and the United States Air Force.

“Since we started the Town Hall event in 2017, this is the highest amount that any
department has received,” Stone said.

In addition to the awards, Dr. Stone also highlighted some of the initiatives and accomplishments undertaken by other departments this year, including:

• The Department of Biological Sciences had the highest number of proposal submissions this year, with 42 total proposals.

• The Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering had seven proposals and 63 percent of its faculty submitting proposals, making it the department with the highest proportion of faculty submitting proposals.

More information can be found in the Annual Research Report, which is released each fall and provides details about sponsored projects and activities for the prior year. The report can be found on the Research Office website at

Chamber Trustees