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Arnold School of Public Health


Andrew Kaczynski (HPEB) and Susan Steck (EPID/BIOS) among inaugural recipients of Distinguished Research Service Award

March 19, 2018 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

Associate professors Andrew Kaczynski (health promotion, education, and behavior) and Susan Steck (epidemiology and biostatistics) have been selected by the USC Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR) to receive a brand new award. The Distinguished Research Service Award was created to recognize faculty who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to USC’s research community.

Awardees were nominated by a committee of individuals who oversee the various Office of Research internal funding programs. Kaczynski and Steck were chosen as inaugural recipients of the award based on their contributions as reviewers and committee members for these programs, which include numerous new funding opportunities over the past several years aimed at enhancing research at all levels and campuses.

“These highly successful programs have led to securing new research funding and enhancing research publications and scholarly activities,” says Prakash Nagarkatti, vice president for research. “The success of these programs would not have been possible without the dedication of faculty who serve on the review committees. From supporting the most innovative ideas and providing unbiased reviews and constructive feedback to applicants, their research service exceeds expectations.”

Kaczynski joined the Arnold School in 2012, bringing with him an interest in how communities can positively or negatively shape health behaviors, such as physical activity and healthy eating. His educational, research and outreach experiences related to the public benefits of community parks and recreation resources led him to establish the Built Environment and Community Health (BEACH) Laboratory at USC. Through the BEACH Lab, Kaczynski and his undergraduate and graduate research assistants work closely with local and national partners to develop tools and evidence that allow urban planners, public health practitioners, and parks and recreation professionals to build healthy communities.

In support of the Office of Research, Kaczynski has served as a reviewer for Advanced Support for Innovative Research Excellence (ASPIRE) and Support to Promote Advancement or Research and Creativity (SPARC) grant proposals. He and his team have also benefited from receiving their own ASPIRE and SPARC grants—funding support that has enabled the BEACH Lab to procure critical preliminary data that have led to career-launching publications and larger grants to further their research.

“The Office of the Vice President for Research is incredibly supportive of USC’s investigators,” says Kaczynski. “We are very grateful for this support, and I feel it is important to continue to give back to these initiatives through serving on review panels and assisting new faculty and graduate students with their proposals.”

Steck joined the Arnold School in 2005 and has since continued her research examining the role of nutrition in cancer prevention and control. A core faculty member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Steck’s work explores ways to reduce or eliminate health disparities related to common cancers (e.g., breast, prostate, colorectal).

Her research program includes preparing future cancer researchers to make their own contributions to the field. For example, Steck and School of Medicine Associate Professor Angela Murphy secured a grant from Susan G. Komen last year to establish an interdisciplinary doctoral training program in breast cancer disparities

Like Kaczynski, Steck has served as a reviewer for ASPIRE and SPARC awards. She has also volunteered with Magellan Scholars, a program that provides funding opportunities for undergraduate students.

“The research grants offered by the Office of the Vice President for Research are critical for providing support for investigators to collect preliminary data and establish new collaborations, which can lead to substantial scientific advances and increase the likelihood of receiving additional external funding,” says Steck. “The student awards, such as SPARC and Magellan, provide students with experience in developing a research hypothesis and learning how to write a compelling and cohesive grant proposal. These are skills that will set them up for success and help them immensely throughout their careers.”  

The 2018 Distinguished Research Service Award recipients will be recognized by the Office of the Vice President for Research at their annual awards dinner this spring.