Four faculty members honored for exemplary research contributions

In recognition of the critical importance of research to Case Western Reserve’s success, university administrators recently announced the recipients of the second Faculty Distinguished Research Awards.

The awards, created last year under the direction of Vice President for Research Robert Miller, recognize faculty members for outstanding contributions to knowledge creation, scholarship and/or artistic creativity in their areas of expertise. Awardees are expected to have national and international renown for their scholarly contributions.

The deans of each school and college nominated individuals for the awards, and a committee composed of Distinguished University Professors and previous recipients of the Faculty Distinguished Research Awards selected the winners.

Honorees received a plaque and $10,000 to be used as a one-time salary supplement or as discretionary funds to support their research.

The Faculty Distinguished Research Award winners for 2014 are:

  • Dominique Durand, the Elmer Lincoln Lindseth Professor in Biomedical Engineering, for his contributions to the field of neural engineering;
  • Jim Kazura, professor of international health, medicine and pathology, for his contributions to the field of global health;
  • Peter Ritchken, professor of banking and finance, for his contributions to the field of finance; and
  • Michael Weiss, the Cowan-Blum Professor of Cancer Research and chair of biochemistry, for his contributions to the study of precursors of insulin

Dominique Durand, the Elmer Lincoln Lindseth Professor in Biomedical Engineering

Dominique Durand with VP Robert Miller CWRU
Dominique Durand (left) after receiving the award from Vice President for Research Robert Miller.

Durand is known for his significant, creative research on the function of the nervous system—especially as it relates to the understanding and treatment of alcoholism, epilepsy, sleep apnea, paralysis and amputation.

Durand, who also serves as director of the Neural Engineering Center, consistently receives federal funding for his work—including two projects funded by the National Institutes of Health in the past year. Durand has published more than 125 peer-reviewed articles that have generated more than 4,500 citations; founded the Journal of Neural Engineering; and serves on the editorial boards of nine journals. He also translates his research into real-world applications; he has 12 patents awarded or pending and 26 patent disclosures.

Durand’s work has been recognized on campus and around the world. At Case Western Reserve, he’s received the Case School of Engineering’s Research Leadership Award (2005) and Innovation Research Award (2012), as well as the university’s Carl F. Wittke Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching (1991) and John S. Diekhoff Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching (1994). In addition, he has been named a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering (1998), the Institute of Physics (2004) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (2010).

Jim Kazura, Professor of International Health, Medicine and Pathology

Jim Kazura and VP Robert Miller
Jim Kazura (left) with Miller

Kazura’s work is credited with helping eradicate disease and improve public health policy around the world. Kazura leads research on how immunity and genetics affect susceptibility to infectious diseases—particularly those prevalent in the developing world, such as malaria and parasitic worm infections.

He also is adept at translating these findings into clinical applications, conducting field studies around the world to uncover a way to eradicate disease. Just last year, his research showed that insecticide-treated bed nets reduce the transmission of malaria to almost undetectable levels.

Kazura has served on the university faculty for more than 35 years, moving from an instructor position through to full professor and, now, as director of the Center for Global Health and Diseases and director of International Affairs in Health Sciences. He serves as editor-in-chief of The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and on a number of National Institutes of Health study sections and advisory panels. At the moment, he is principal or co-investigator on four National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is the university’s project director on one from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Peter Ritchken, Professor of Banking and Finance

Peter Ritchken headshot CWRU
Peter Ritchken

With more than 75 journal articles, seven book chapters and six books to his credit, Ritchken is a renowned for his work on valuation, risk management and financial engineering. His work varies from accessible to highly technical, but, no matter the topic, is regularly well received within his field.

For the past 21 years, Ritchken has worked with researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland to improve forecasting of the term structure of expected inflation and inflation risk. He has investigated the benefits of regulatory proposals for monitoring bank risk-taking and the fair pricing of risk-based deposit insurance in the presence of moral hazard. Ritchken’s work is appreciated at the highest levels of government, with former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke using it at policy meetings and Ritchken and colleagues presenting it to federal leadership, including the president of the United States.

Ritchken founded the Master of Science in Management–Finance program at the Weatherhead School of Management and twice received the school’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award (1988 and 2010). The school honored his research work in the mid-90s with its Research Recognition Award.

Michael Weiss, the Cowan-Blum Professor of Cancer Research and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry

Michael Weiss Bud Baeslack CWRU
Michael Weiss (left) with Provost Bud Baeslack, after receiving the award

After decades of speculation, Weiss and an international research team uncovered in 2013 precisely how insulin binds to cells to allow them to transform sugar into energy. This was just the latest in his insulin-related discoveries. In 1991, he used nuclear magnetic resonance techniques to describe the structure of insulin. More recently, he developed a preliminary version of insulin that does not need to be refrigerated—a critical breakthrough for those with diabetes in the developing world. His research has led to a series of 13 published or pending patent applications describing novel insulin analogs to improve patient care.

Weiss’ lab also recently discovered the pathway for male sexual development is less stable than other genetic programs. Their findings showed it only takes a slight deviation from the normal process to dramatically alter fetal sexual development.

Weiss arrived at Case Western Reserve University in 1999; since joining the faculty, he’s received the Richard Day Distinguished Young Alumnus Award from Hawken School and the Maurice Saltzman Award from Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation. He also was elected to the American Association of Physicians and Beta Gamma Sigma, a business school honorary society thanks to his dedication to his studies in the MBA program at the Weatherhead School of Management.