2014 Edith and Peter O'Donnell Awards Recipients

View the 2014 O'Donnell Awards Tribute Video.

View the 2014 O'Donnell Awards Video Trailer.

Click on each recipient's name to view his portion of the tribute video.

Medicine - Richard Bruick, Ph.D.

Richard Bruick, Ph.D.Dr. Richard Bruick is associate professor of biochemistry and a Michael L. Rosenberg Scholar in Medical Research at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern) in Dallas. Dr. Bruick received his bachelor of science degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his doctorate in macromolecular and cellular structure and chemistry from The Scripps Research Institute. He came to UT Southwestern in 1998 to pursue his postdoctoral training with Dr. Steven McKnight. During this time, he made several key discoveries concerning the mechanisms underlying cellular responses to oxygen deprivation. In 2002, Dr. Bruick received a Burroughs Wellcome Foundation Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences and joined the faculty at UT Southwestern.

Dr. Bruick's laboratory employs a variety of chemical, biological, and structural approaches to identify and characterize the mechanisms cells use to respond to environmental and metabolic cues. Notably, the group has identified several mammalian iron and oxygen “sensors” that assist cells in maintaining a proper balance of these critical factors. These studies have laid the foundation for the development of small molecule therapeutics to replace erythropoietin as a treatment for anemia, to treat cancer, and to combat iron overload disorders.

Engineering - Thomas M. Truskett, Ph.D.

Thomas M. Truskett, Ph.D.Dr. Thomas Truskett is Department Chair, Les and Sherri Stuewer Endowed Professor, and Bill L. Stanley Leadership Chair in Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). He earned bachelor of science and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from UT Austin (1996) and Princeton University (2001), respectively. His doctoral studies focused on molecular-scale modeling of liquid and glassy states of matter. In post-doctoral research at the University of California, San Francisco, he investigated the role of water and hydrophobic interactions in the behavior of biomolecular systems.

Dr. Truskett’s research group at UT Austin studies how interfaces and confinement impact the properties of molecular liquids and crystals, colloidal and nanoparticle suspensions, protein solutions, and glassy solids. He is recognized for his fundamental contributions in three areas—self-assembly at the nanoscale, dynamics of confined liquids, and structural arrest of complex fluids—that are important for applications ranging from biomedical imaging to the delivery of therapeutic proteins.

Dr. Truskett was the 2007 Van Ness Award Lecturer of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the 2008 Thiele Lecturer of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Notre Dame, and the inaugural Dudley A. Saville Lecturer of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Princeton University. He is an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, a David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellow, a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award, and the 2007 recipient of the Allan P. Colburn Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Science - Zhifeng Ren, Ph.D.

Zhifeng Ren, Ph.D.Dr. Zhifeng Ren became the M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of Physics and principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston in 2012. He formerly served as professor of physics and associate professor at Boston College, and as research associate professor, research assistant professor, and research scientist/lecturer at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (SUNY). He was a postdoctoral fellow at SUNY-Buffalo from 1990 to 1992. He obtained his doctorate degree from the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1990, master of science degree from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in 1987, and bachelor of science degree from Sichuan Institute of Technology in 1984.

Dr. Ren has made seminal contributions to high temperature superconductivity, carbon nanotubes, hierarchical zinc oxide nanowires, thermoelectric materials, and nano biophysics. Early in his career, he succeeded in achieving high quality thin films of thallium barium copper oxides on tricrystals and tetracrystals, successfully proving pure d-wave pairing symmetry in high temperature superconductors observed by Dr. Tsuei and Dr. Kirtley at IBM. This work helped them win the 1998 Buckley Condensed Matter Prize from the American Physical Society. In 1998, Dr. Ren unexpectedly discovered that plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition can make large arrays of aligned carbon nanotubes on substrates of glass, metal, and semiconductors which opened a new field attracting many researchers worldwide. In 2002, his group for the first time reported the success of growing hierarchical zinc oxide nanowires, which have potential for many applications. This breakthrough stimulated many others to carry out extensive research in this field. While working on solid-state related research, his group also actively studied potential applications of nano materials in biological systems and in 2005 developed an efficient drug delivery method using carbon nanotubes as spears that can be driven into the nuclei of cells under external magnet field. In 2008, his group made another outstanding discovery in raising the performance of thermoelectric materials by creating nanostructured bulk thermoelectric materials using an economical technique, which had not been possible for over 50 years. In 2010, his group also achieved very high-resolution detection of protein molecules by drastically improving the nano-imprint technique. His group is currently focused on high-performance nano materials and structures for a variety of promising applications.

Dr. Ren has published over 300 peer-reviewed papers in Science, Nature, Physical Review Letters, NanoLetters, and Advanced Materials that have attracted more than 17,000 citations with an H-index of 62. He is ranked 49th among the top 100 material scientists worldwide by Thomson Reuters based on the impact of published papers from 2000–2010. He holds 28 U.S. and international patents and has co-founded three high-tech companies that attracted venture capital of more than $30 million. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is the recipient of R&D Magazine’s 2008 R&D 100 Award for the development of high-performance thermoelectric materials.

Technology Innovation - James Walker, Ph.D.

James Walker, Ph.D.Dr. James Walker is an institute scientist at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), a nonprofit engineering research and development center based in San Antonio. Dr. Walker has worked in the Engineering Dynamics Department of SwRI’s Mechanical Engineering Division since receiving his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Utah in 1988. His research focuses on impact physics, including the development of models for the impact of metals, ceramics, fabrics, and composites. He has worked on protection systems ranging from vests worn by soldiers and police to vehicle armor designs, from the survivable magazines of the new U.S.S. Zumwalt (DDG-1000)-class guided missile destroyer to the shielding on the International Space Station used to protect it from micrometeoroid and orbital debris impacts. He is particularly interested in understanding and quantitatively modeling the deformation and failure of materials, since weight-constrained protection systems utilize a material all the way through large deformation and ultimate failure.

In 2003, Dr. Walker supported the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in the investigation of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia. He developed impact models for strikes on the thermal tiles and the reinforced carbon-carbon composite wing leading edges that were used to understand the effect of the foam strike on Columbia during ascent. He authored the chapter “Impact Modeling” contained in the Report of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (Volume 2, Appendix D.12). In recognition of this work, he received the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 2005 Holley Medal, awarded in “recognition of a great or unique act of an engineering nature, which accomplishes a great and timely public benefit.” Dr. Walker also supported the space shuttle return-to-flight program. Also for the space program, he worked on third-stage safety issues for the New Horizons spacecraft, which successfully launched in January 2006 and which will reach Pluto and the Kuiper Belt in July 2015. He received three NASA Group Achievement Awards for these efforts.

Dr. Walker has broad interest in the mechanical response of systems and materials. He has researched wave propagation, plasticity, fracture and failure of metals, composites, and ceramics. His work typically includes large-scale numerical simulations, analytical techniques, and experiments. He has served as principal investigator in two large DARPA programs: the Topologically Controlled Lightweight Armor program and the Adaptive Vehicle Make program—both seek to improve the survivability of crew in ground vehicles subject to ballistic and blast threats.


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