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KU Research Achievement Award honors two distinguished academic staff members

Monday, June 24, 2013

LAWRENCE — Two prominent senior scientists at the University of Kansas are the 2013 recipients of the KU Research Achievement Award. The award is the highest honor given annually to a full-time academic staff researcher working in a department or research center on KU’s Lawrence campus.

The two honorees:

  • Craig Freeman, curator-in-charge and senior scientist in the Division of Botany at the Biodiversity Institute’s R.L. McGregor Herbarium, as well as a senior scientist with the Kansas Biological Survey; and
  • Todd Williams, director of KU’s Analytical Proteomics Laboratory and a senior scientist and director of KU’s Mass Spectrometry Laboratory.

The award includes a plaque and $10,000 each in research funds. Williams will be recognized at a ceremony Wednesday, June 26, and Freeman will be recognized July 8. The award was established in 2006 and is administered by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

This is the first year we’ve presented two awards,” said Steve Warren, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, “but it’s entirely fitting. Craig and Todd are outstanding examples of academic staff research engagement, with excellent professional reputations that impact their work with colleagues at KU and around the world. They are both very worthy of this recognition.”

Freeman came to KU in 1986 as coordinator of the Kansas Natural Heritage Inventory under the auspices of the Kansas Biological Survey and The Nature Conservancy. He has been affiliated with the survey ever since, including three years as acting co-director. In 1990 he joined the herbarium — part of the Biodiversity Institute since 1995 — serving in progressively more responsible roles until becoming curator-in-charge in 1999 and senior scientist. He was made a courtesy associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in 1998.

Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Institute, nominated Freeman for the award. “He has established the herbarium as the premier and most comprehensive research collection of Great Plains floras in the world,” said Krishtalka, “and his achievements have brought international acclaim to KU as the center of scholarship” in that field. He added that Freeman’s applied research and service activities have had “an inestimable positive political impact on sustaining and conserving Great Plains ecosystems and floral biodiversity and the public’s understanding of it.”

Freeman’s academic background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wartburg College and master's and doctoral degrees from Kansas State University.

Williams came to KU in 1989 as an assistant scientist, with duties as director and high-performance instrument operator in the Mass Spectrometry Laboratory. He advanced to associate scientist in 1995 and senior scientist in 2000. He became director the Analytical Proteomics Laboratory in 2005. He was made a courtesy associate professor of chemistry in 1999 and a courtesy professor of medicinal chemistry in 2000.

Robert Hanzlik, professor of medicinal chemistry, nominated Williams for the award. “He has been amazingly productive as a researcher,” said Hanzlik, “and extraordinarily helpful as a colleague to a huge number of faculty and students at KU and other Regents institutions.” The Mass Spectrometry Laboratory was a two-person, three-instrument operation in 1989 but now includes three additional staff, nine grant-funded instruments costing $250,000 to $750,000 each, and a steady list of 50 client research groups. “Thanks to Todd’s leadership,” said Hanzlik, “KU’s mass spec facilities are now equal or superior to those at all but a very few of the world’s best research universities.”

Williams’ academic background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from Middlebury College, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Maine, and a postdoctoral experience at the University of California, Berkeley.

Past recipients of the KU Research Achievement Award are David VanderVelde, former director of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory; Rick Miller, senior scientist in the Exploration Services Section of the Kansas Geological Survey; Debra Kamps, director of the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training; Donald Huggins, senior scientist with the Kansas Biological Survey; Daryl Mellard, director of the Division of Adult Studies in the Center for Research on Learning; and Frank Schoenen, associate director of the Specialized Chemistry Center.


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