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O’Kane receives 2019 Distinguished Research Service Award

By Abe Danaher | March 21, 2019

Jason O’Kane, a professor in the College of Engineering and Computing and the director of the Center for Computational Robotics, received the Office of Research’s 2019 Distinguished Research Service Award for his continued service to UofSC as a reviewer of research.

This award recognizes eight members of the University of South Carolina’s research community who have consistently served as reviewers and committee members for the university’s internal funding and awards programs. Research reviewers, such as O’Kane, read through proposals for university scholarships like ASPIRE, SPARC and the Magellan Scholar Award. They then critique the proposals and decide which are most deserving of the funding.

“This is an essential part of what it takes for us to really be the flagship research university of the state,” O’Kane says. “We don’t want to be a university where there are a bunch of independent researchers doing their own thing. We want to be a community of people working together.”

Like many other faculty reviewers, O’Kane first went through the university’s research scholarship process as an applicant. But after he successfully received funding, he decided to invest himself in helping other researchers in the same way that he had been helped.

“Sometimes you receive from that community and sometimes you give back to it,” he says. “I think that’s a really important part of what it takes for us to be what we want to be.”

O’Kane was honored to receive this award. Service, along with research and teaching, is one of the performance tasks that faculty members at South Carolina are evaluated for. He says that the service portion of his job can be a “thankless task,” but it’s awards like this that show his time spent serving as a reviewer is not going unrecognized.

“There are a lot of people from many different disciplines that deserve this award just as much as me,” he says. “You know, there are probably dozens of people across the university that are involved with this process every year and it’s nice to be recognized. But there’s never enough recognition for the people who are making those contributions to make it work.”