Innovation at Western celebrated at Spring Convocation

Contact: Deanne Puca

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University faculty are on the cutting edge of research in the fields of engineering, communication, health care and more. Their expertise will be explored and celebrated on Friday, April 15, at the Office of Research and Innovation's Spring Convocation.

Experts will speak about their work developing a better and more portable process for sterilizing wounds, exploring the potential of quantum biology, taking an interactive look at media and news literacy, identifying multicultural issues in speech disorders and addressing the need to better understand hearing and vision loss challenges facing the aging population.

The event, which is fully virtual, begins at 9 a.m. with a Fulbright workshop hosted by Dr. Michelle Metro-Roland. Presentations on award-winning faculty research follow at 10 a.m. before a virtual Faculty Research and Creative Activities Award poster presentation session at 10:45 a.m. At noon, an awards ceremony will recognize 45 faculty and staff members, with 47 total awards, for their external funding accomplishments in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

"Spring Convocation is a chance for WMU to honor the breadth of research and innovation on campus," says Dr. Steven Carr, interim vice president for research and innovation. "WMU is home to remarkable professors doing cutting-edge work, from engineering a platform to aid in wound care to addressing hearing and vision loss challenges. This event is truly inspiring as we learn more about how WMU is helping to better our world."

The presentations, as well as the entirety of Spring Convocation, can be viewed online. The next class of Presidential Innovation Professors will also be announced at the awards event. More information about Spring Convocation is available.

Atashbar, Beane, Christian, Coles-White and Duncan

Dr. Massood Atashbar, Dr. Wendy Beane, Sue Ellen Christian, Dr. D'Jaris Coles-White and Dr. Jeremy Duncan

Faculty Presentations

Five faculty members were selected to lead presentations and answer questions about their research, including the four faculty members awarded Presidential Innovation Professorships—an award established to recognize and support individuals who serve as role models of excellence and innovation in their discipline.

Faculty members making presentations include:

  • Dr. Massood Atashbar, Presidential Innovation Professor: The World Health Organization identifies surgical site infections as the most common and costly of all hospital-acquired infections. More than half of them are also antibiotic-resistant. Atashbar, professor of electrical and computer engineering, 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.
  • Dr. Wendy Beane, Presidential Innovation Professor: 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. Beane, associate professor of biological sciences, 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.
  • Sue Ellen Christian, Presidential Innovation Professor: Christian, professor of communication, 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 opened April 5 at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and will run through 2023 as well as have the potential to travel to other Michigan museums in the future. Additionally, it will serve as a prototype for a traveling national exhibit.
  • Dr. D'Jaris Coles-White, Presidential Innovation Professor: Coles-White, associate professor of speech, language and hearing sciences, was involved in the development of the Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation , a tool designed to differentiate language difference from disorder in children who speak nonmainstream dialects, such as African American English. She was appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to serve on the Michigan Board of Speech-Language Pathology, Bureau of Professional Licensing and is currently president-elect for the Michigan Speech Language Hearing Association.
  • Dr. Jeremy Duncan, member of the 2021 Interdisciplinary Team Excellence Enhancement Grant: Duncan, assistant professor of biological sciences, leads a group of researchers from across many disciplines and colleges to address the growing need for research to better understand the challenges facing hearing and vision loss within the aging population and to develop effective, patient-centered treatments to better meet their needs. He is a developmental neurobiologist with a focus on inner ear neurosensory development and evolution.

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