New Presidential Innovation Professors announced at Western

Contact: Erin Flynn

Dr. Massood Atashbar

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Office of Research and Innovation is recognizing three faculty members for their innovative ideas and drive to make the world a better place. Dr. Massood Atashbar, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Dr. Wendy Beane, associate professor of biological sciences and Sue Ellen Christian, professor of communication, have been awarded three-year Presidential Innovation Professorships.

Dr. Wendy Beane

"The three outstanding faculty members selected as this year’s Presidential Innovation Professors are all pursuing projects that address important issues facing our society," says President Edward Montgomery. "Though they come from very different disciplines, they are all employing the creativity and ingenuity that open the door to discoveries that advance knowledge and transform our world. They represent the excellence that we see continually expressed across the Western Michigan University faculty in every one of our colleges."

Sue Ellen Christian

The awards were determined by a selection committee and announced at Spring Convocation on April 16. Launched in January 2020 to spark innovation in teaching and research, Presidential Innovation Professorships recognize and provide funding to outstanding faculty members for creativity in research and entrepreneurial approaches to their disciplines.

“The review committee was very impressed with the applications this year; limiting this to three awards was very difficult.  One member even said there were so many excellent faculty at Western they did not know about," says Dr. Terri Goss Kinzy, vice president for research and innovation. "We hope this program helps others learn about the innovations happening at WMU in research and education.”

"This year's class has outstanding examples of innovation in educating our students, and their research greatly impacts the broader community," adds Dr. Jennifer Bott, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

This is the second class of Presidential Innovation Professors. The first class, announced in 2020, includes Dr. Upul Attanayake, associate professor of civil and construction engineering, Dr. Anne Chapleau, professor of occupational therapy, and Dr. Matt Reeves, associate professor of geological and environmental sciences. Learn more about the research proposed by the newest class below.

Flexible and Portable Microplasma

The World Health Organization identifies surgical site infections (SSI) as the most common and costly of all hospital-acquired infections. More than 50% of them are also antibiotic-resistant. Dr. Massood Atashbar proposes developing a flexible and portable mycoplasma discharge platform to sterilize wounds, incisions and surgical equipment to effectively prevent infection occurrences and reduce health care costs.

Promoting Advances in Quantum Biology through Interdisciplinary Exchange

Quantum biology has immense potential to identify entirely new therapies and diagnostics, but a barrier exists in a lack of shared language across disciplines to capitalize on that potential. Dr. Wendy Beane proposes to further her research investigating the ability of all cells to sense and respond to quantum effects and also establish a Quantum Biology Interdisciplinary Trainee Exchange program. The program would allow trainees from other disciplines to come to Western to gain experience with biomedical quantum biology research, and Western students could get cross-disciplinary training in other quantum biology laboratories.

Media and News Literacy Museum Exhibit

Sue Ellen Christian created an interactive museum exhibit to take an innovative look at media and news literacy. The 10-station immersive exhibit offers user-directed experiences to build skills and knowledge in the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media, and to verify news and information. It will first run at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and have the potential to travel to other Michigan museums in the future. Additionally, it will serve as a prototype for a traveling national exhibit.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.