Western announces 2022 class of Presidential Innovation Professors

Contact: Deanne Puca

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Office of Research and Innovation is recognizing three faculty members for their advanced and creative study.

Dr. Martha Councell-Vargas, associate professor of music; Dr. Tianshu Liu, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; and Dr. Alisa Perkins, associate professor of comparative religion and an affiliate scholar with the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, have been awarded three-year Presidential Innovation Professorships.

“The members of the Presidential Innovation Professorship class of 2022 are demonstrating the value of creative and innovative work in serving our students and society,” says WMU President Edward Montgomery. “We fully support their endeavors and look forward to seeing the results of their work in the years to come.”

The awards were determined by a selection committee and announced at Spring Convocation on April 15. 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.

“This year’s class of professorships is a testament to the breadth and depth of research and creative scholarship at WMU,” says Dr. Steve Carr, interim vice president for research and innovation. “It is truly exciting to see innovation that occurs in so many different areas.”

This is the third class of Presidential Innovation Professors. Learn more about the research proposed by the newest class:

Dr. Martha Councell-Vargas

Research: Integrative Performance of Flute Music by Historically Under-represented Composers and the Power of Art as a Catalyst for Change

Dr. Marth Councell-Vargas

Dr. Martha Councell-Vargas

The field of integrative performance is a new frontier in classical music, incorporating interdisciplinary presentation—the performance of music connected to an unrelated field of study—and multimedia production—musical performance illustrated by visual artistic elements. Visit marthacouncell.com for examples of live and recorded integrative performances.

With the Presidential Innovation Professorship, Councell-Vargas will:

  • Create Visible Voices 2025, the live and recorded performance of a multimedia production featuring newly commissioned flute works by historically under-represented composers.

  • Facilitate student integrative performances of historically under-represented composers, both on and off-campus.

  • Initiate new and strengthen existing partnerships by connecting the music to the community, matching performances to relevant Kalamazoo organizations with the purpose of supporting their missions with impactful artistic contributions, harnessing the power of art as a catalyst for change.

Dr. Tianshu Liu

Dr. Tianshu Liu

Research: Unified Image-based Measurements of Complex Flows

We live in the world of fluids, particularly in water and air. Therefore, our understanding of the physics of fluid flows are vitally important to sustainable civilizations. Global flow measurements are of fundamental importance in various fields including aerospace and mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, biomedical sciences, atmosphere sciences, oceanology and more.

With the Presidential Innovation Professorship, Liu will develop unified image-based measurement methods to determine the important physical quantities of complex flows in engineering and natural systems, including pressure, temperature, heat transfer, skin friction and velocity. These quantities are important in various topics ranging from aerodynamics to planetary sciences. From a technical standpoint, this research explores an uncharted domain interfacing between fluid mechanics, image processing, measurement science, optical physics, computer vision and applied mathematics.

Dr. Alisa Perkins

Dr. Alisa Perkins

Research: Race, Religion and Revitalization: Black Muslim Community Leadership in Detroit

This is a public humanities and ethnographic project about Black Muslim community-building in Metro Detroit historically and today. Perkins is working collaboratively with a team of community-based media experts, activists, students and scholars to gather 100 oral history interviews with Detroit-based Black Muslim leaders and members of the communities they serve to collect audio-visual footage documenting their activism.

Supported by grants from the Pillars Fund, Whiting Foundation and Henry Luce Foundation and now the Presidential Innovation Professorship, the team is producing a ScholarWorks public archive of video-recorded interviews, multimedia interactive website, 60-minute documentary film, general readership publications and study guide to these materials. In tandem with this public humanities work, Perkins is also engaged in related ethnographic research about Black Muslim community-building in Detroit historically and today.

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