From social sciences to social work, management to medicine, and biology to biomedical engineering, research is at the heart of Case Western Reserve University. In fact, this past fiscal year alone, researchers earned 1,623 sponsored research awards, totaling more than $311 million.

Faculty across disciplines spur this commitment to research endeavors. To honor their work, Case Western Reserve now bestows Faculty Distinguished Research Awards to leaders in their fields.

To show their appreciation for and support of the exemplary scholarly pursuits of professors across the university, President Barbara Snyder, Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III, and Vice President for Research Suzanne Rivera surprised this year’s winners in their respective classes. Each recipient receives a plaque and a $10,000 one-time salary supplement.

This year’s recipients are:

  • David Cooperrider, Weatherhead School of Management
  • Jessie Hill, School of Law
  • Mukesh Jain, School of Medicine
  • Stuart Rowan, Case School of Engineering
  • Elisabeth Werner, College of Arts and Sciences

“As a world-class research university, it’s only fitting that we honor our leading researchers for the exemplary contributions each has made to their respective fields of inquiry,” Rivera said.

The winners will be honored at Research ShowCASE Friday, April 17, in the Veale Convocation, Athletic and Recreation Center. Their accomplishments are highlighted below.

David Cooperrider, Fairmount Santrol – David L. Cooperrider Professor in Appreciative Inquiry

David Cooperrider

David Cooperrider during the surprise visit from President Barbara Snyder, Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III, and Vice President for Research Suzanne Rivera.

More than 20 years ago, Cooperrider co-created Appreciative Inquiry (AI), a strengths-based approach that focuses on what is working well for a company or organization and asks its members to analyze why those areas have been so successful. The idea is to encourage aspirational thinking, which in turn can contribute to even better results.

Cooperrider’s groundbreaking model has led him to assist such organizations as the U.S. Navy, Walmart, Sherwin Williams, Boeing Corp. and Fairmount Minerals (now Fairmount Santrol).

Cooperrider also designed and facilitated a summit on global corporate citizenship for the United Nations, attended by Kofi Annan and 500 business leaders, and designed a series of dialogues among 25 of the world’s top religious leaders for the United Religions Initiative, which was launched by the Dalai Lama to create more cooperation and understanding.

Cooperrider’s research on appreciative inquiry has been featured in such outlets as The New York Times, Forbes, NPR and Fortune, as well as in scholarly works such as Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization and Environment and the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, among others. He has published 15 books and authored about 50 articles.

B. Jessie Hill, professor of law and associate dean for faculty development and research

B. Jessie Hill

B. Jessie Hill during the surprise visit from President Barbara Snyder, Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III, and Vice President for Research Suzanne Rivera.

Hill’s knowledge of constitutional law, health law and reproductive rights is so extensive that her expertise is often sought by individuals and organizations across the country and around the world.

During her 10 years at the School of Law, she has been published in top-ranked journals more than any other member of the faculty, according to interim deans Jessica Berg and Michael Scharf. In addition, she’s been cited in law review literature nearly 100 times over the course of her time at Case Western Reserve.

Her work is so highly regarded that she was invited to write for a nationally recognized U.S. Supreme Court blog—scotusblog.com—to which she has lent her expertise on religious clauses.

“In the religion clause area, it is no exaggeration to state that Professor Hill has become the leading authority in the country on the understanding of a critically important aspect of the United States Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence—the Court’s ‘endorsement test,” William P. Marshall, professor of law at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, said in Hill’s nomination package.

Hill’s specialties in religion and reproductive rights intersected when she was asked to write about Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, which sought to determine whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was violated by requiring closely held companies to provide female employees with access to no-cost contraception. As part of a small group of scholars, she worked to submit amicus curiae brief in the case, arguing that the Religious Freedom Restorative Act violated the establishment clause in the case.

Mukesh Jain, Ellery Sedgwick Chair and Distinguished Scientist, professor of medicine, and founding director of Case Cardiovascular Research Institute

Mekesh Jain during the surprise visit from President Barbara Snyder, Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III, and Vice President for Research Suzanne Rivera.

Mekesh Jain during the surprise visit from President Barbara Snyder, Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III, and Vice President for Research Suzanne Rivera.

With his research in cardiovascular biology, Jain has proven to be an asset not just to the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, but to the entire medical field.

Jain is recognized for his discovery of essential roles for Kruppel-like factors in immunity and metabolism. Kruppel-like factors are DNA-binding proteins that regulate a host of biological processes in the body, including those of the heart, blood vessels and immune cells.

In recent years, his lab has found that Kruppel-like Factor 15 in particular governs the body’s ability to burn fat during exercise; blocks the blood vessel inflammation that can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other potentially life-threatening events; and links the body’s natural circadian rhythm to and regulates the heart’s electrical activity, among other findings.

While Jain has focused his work primarily on the basic regulatory processes that impact the cardiovascular system, his findings have been extended to have numerous other practical applications across all of medical science.

“Dr. Jain’s contributions are of sufficient breadth and depth that his name has become synonymous with the field of KLF biology,” Douglas Vaughan, professor and chair in the Department of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said of Jain in the nomination materials. “These accomplishments have garnered significant national/international recognition.”

Jain serves as president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, which is a prestigious physician-scientist organization in the United States. Jain is the first Case Western Reserve faculty member to serve in this position.

Stuart Rowan, the Kent Hale Smith Professor of Macromolecular Science and Engineering

Stuart Rowan during the surprise visit from President Barbara Snyder, Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III, and Vice President for Research Suzanne Rivera.

Stuart Rowan during the surprise visit from President Barbara Snyder, Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III, and Vice President for Research Suzanne Rivera.

Since arriving at the Case School of Engineering 15 years ago, Rowan has never stopped pushing for improvements in his department. Not only has he established himself as an international leader in supramolecular polymer chemistry, but he has also affected change on all levels in the Department of Macromolecular and Science.

Most recently, Rowan led the effort in establishing the Institute for Advanced Materials at Case Western Reserve, which has more than 90 faculty members from the School of Dental Medicine, School of Medicine, Case School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences.

He’s also helped to rebuild the undergraduate macromolecular and science program, created a new departmental graduate training in proposal preparation and mentored young faculty members.

“His technical leadership at Case Western Reserve University has catapulted his national laboratory into a very visible spotlight,” Timothy Long, professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech, said. “He is a researcher who is amazingly open to collaboration and new ideas. By having this outlook on research, he has pioneered new scientific frontiers that are critical to our nation, and his integrative approach marks him as a technical leader in our field.”

Rowan is known for his scholarly advances toward design and development of functional polymer materials, and for taking an active leadership role for a broad community of scholars. His research developments have included progress toward safer and more comfortable medical devices, such as glucose monitors and prosthetic arms, inspired by a squid’s beak. He’s also worked on a self-healing polymer-based coating that can repair itself when exposed to UV light. The development has the potential to be used in automotive paint and varnish to make scratches far less concerning.

In the past, Rowan, who has published more than 110 scientific papers and reviews, has been recognized as a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and with the National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

Elisabeth Werner, professor in the Department of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

Elisabeth Werner

Elisabeth Werner

Werner’s research in convex geometry, analysis and probability—and its application to approximation theory, mathematical physics and quantum information theory—has established her as a leader in the field of mathematics. In 2012, the American Mathematical Society honored that leadership by inducting her into the inaugural American Mathematical Society Fellows program for her leadership in research and education.

Through her research, Werner has sought to advance many mathematical principles. Much of her work has centered on understanding the structure of complex geometrical figures, particularly convex shapes. Over the years, she’s been written and contributed to countless scholarly articles on different aspects of her research.

Most recently, Werner has been working on a project titled “Convexity and Applications,” while continuing on other projects of interest. Werner’s studies build off of many aspects of mathematics to classify complex convex sets. Convex geometry is an area of mathematics that looks at specific high dimensional objects.

Her research has far-reaching applications, including with facial recognition technology, computer programs, statistics and probability.

To fund her projects, Werner has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation, and the Focused Research Group Collaborative Research Grant.

Werner’s work has been published more than 50 times and she’s often invited to speak at conferences all over the world to share her knowledge with the mathematical community.

Currently, Werner is on sabbatical at the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), where she is associate director of the institute. As associate director, she oversees the day-to-day operations of the IMA and serves as a professor in the Department of Mathematics.