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K-State Today

November 14, 2016

Aakeroy and Nel to receive Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards

Submitted by Noelle Blood

Four faculty members at two universities in Kansas have been named recipients of the state's most prestigious recognition for scholarly excellence: the Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards. The four will be recognized Dec. 13 during a ceremony at the Kansas Memorial Union.

This year's recipients from K-State are both faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences: Christer Aakeroy, university distinguished professor of chemistry, and Philip Nel, university distinguished professor of English.

This is the 35th annual presentation of the awards, established in 1981 by Takeru Higuchi, a distinguished professor at the University of Kansas from 1967 to 1983, and his wife, Aya. The awards recognize the exceptional long-term research accomplishments of faculty at Kansas Board of Regents universities. Each award includes a citation and a $10,000 award for ongoing research efforts. The money can be used for research materials, summer salaries, fellowship matching funds, hiring research assistants or other support related to research.

Awards are given in four categories: humanities and social sciences, basic sciences, biomedical sciences and applied sciences. Each award is named for former leaders of KU Endowment who played key roles in recruiting Higuchi to KU. Their financial support of KU helped enhance university research throughout Kansas.

Nel is the recipient of the Balfour Jeffrey Award in Humanities and Social Sciences. He is an internationally renowned expert in literature, with a specific area of focus on the understanding of literature written for children. At K-State, he co-founded and serves as the director of the program in children's literature. He has presented and published extensively, including 10 books and 24 refereed articles. His most recent book, "The Complete Barnaby, Volume Three: 1946-1947," is the third of five co-edited volumes that will comprise the first complete collection of the Crockett Johnson comic strip. His 11th book, forthcoming from Oxford University Press in summer 2017, will be "Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children's Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books." Nel came to K-State in 2000. His academic background includes a bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester and a master's degree and doctorate from Vanderbilt University.

Aakeroy is the recipient of the Olin Petefish Award in Basic Sciences. He an international leader in the emerging fields of crystal engineering and supramolecular chemistry, which involve exploration and application of chemistry "beyond the molecule." His research program combines fundamental and applied aspects of intermolecular interactions and materials science. His research has garnered more than $9 million in external support since 2000, attracting major grants from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, NIH, the Petroleum Research Fund and industry. Aakeroy joined the faculty in the chemistry department at K-State in 1996. His academic background includes a master's degree from Uppsala University, Sweden, and a doctorate from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little will speak at the presentation ceremony. She will be joined by Jim Tracy, vice chancellor for research. Past Higuchi Award recipients who attend also will be recognized.

Attendance at the Dec. 13 ceremony is by invitation. More information about the Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Awards is available online.

The awardees from KU are Judith Carta, professor of special education and senior scientist at the Schiefelbusch Institute for Lifespan Studies and Randolph Nudo, Marion Merrell Dow Distinguished Professor in Aging and professor and vice chairman of Research in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center.

The fund is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.