Each year, the Office of the Vice President for Research honors university scholars with Breakthrough awards. The awards honor faculty researchers at different career stages: Breakthrough Leadership in Research for senior faculty and Breakthrough Stars for early career faculty.
A committee of faculty reviewers selects award recipients from a large number of nominees representing the entire USC system. The close competition embodies the spirit of strong, high-level research conducted at the university.
This year, there were two Breakthrough Leadership in Research and 12 Breakthrough Star awards, whose research ranges from next-generation technology and composite materials to health care delivery systems that promise to make life better for the people of our state and our world.
Breakthrough Leadership in Research award recipients take a multifaceted approach to research. Any full-time faculty member currently employed within the USC system can be nominated by colleagues or administrative leadership. The primary criterion for the award is the demonstration of leadership through sustained commitment to the successful mentoring of junior faculty, establishing research centers with universitywide impact and engaging in community outreach through research, among other activities.
Candidates for the Breakthrough Star awards must be tenured or tenure-track assistant or associate professors, relatively early career, who demonstrate considerable contributions to their fields in terms of research and scholarly activity while at USC. This award is open to junior faculty working in all disciplines and campuses.
"With a strong, collaborative community of faculty members and students, abundant research resources and millions in research funding, USC is a hub for revolutionary research opportunities and innovations," says Julius Fridriksson, vice president for research. “This year’s elite group of awardees have proved themselves to be some of the best and most remarkable faculty and students. We are proud of their accomplishments and cannot wait to see how they continue to strive and reach new heights in scholarly excellence.”
Daniela Friedman grew up watching her mother suffer with cancer and struggle to make sense of the complicated information she received about her diagnosis and treatment plan. Today, that experience drives Friedman’s efforts to improve how health information is communicated to older and diverse populations.
Ralf Gothe is part of a group of scientists exploring quantum chromodynamics at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia. His work focuses specifically on the strong interaction between quarks and gluons, two elementary particles essential to quantum field theory.
Cultural anthropologist Monica Barra studies how racial inequalities are shaped by scientific practices, racial histories and climate change in the U.S. South.
Neuroscientist Roozbeh Behroozmand directs the Speech Neuroscience Lab in the Arnold School of Public Health, which examines the neural bases of speech and its disorders in people with neurological conditions.
In her quest to improve HIV prevention and treatment, Sayward Harrison strives to answer two questions: What role do psychosocial factors such as stigma or mistrust play in the virus’ spread and how can evidence-based changes to practice and policy make a positive difference?
Today’s pharmacists are key to fighting the spread of infectious disease, administering vaccines for everything from COVID-19 to shingles. College of Pharmacy assistant professor Tessa Hastings is on a mission to improve how they do that.
Peiyin Hung joined USC’s Arnold School of Public Health in 2018 after a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University. An assistant professor of health services policy and management, Hung explores maternal health and rural health disparities.
Jessica Klusek’s work focuses on communication difficulties associated with the FMR1 premutation — the genetic mutation found in women who are carriers of fragile X syndrome. Fragile X syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability and autism.
Chang Liu entered the field of biomedical engineering as an undergraduate with the long-term goal of improving human health care through engineering solutions. Over the past 15 years, his research has touched on multiple life science disciplines, including biomedical engineering, molecular diagnostics, bio-nanotechnology and proteomics.
In the fall of 2019, newly hired USC Upstate chemistry professor Anita Nag was looking at the virus responsible for a 2002 SARS outbreak in China. Her hope? To understand how virus proteins suppress certain functions in their hosts to make it easier for the virus to reproduce. Within a few short months, her work took on great import as the world battled a slightly different version of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Growing up in a poor area of North Georgia, Melissa Nolan saw the negative effects infectious disease could have on a community – and after working in Latin America, she saw how infectious disease interventions could mitigate these kinds of effects. At USC, the assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics is combining her domestic and foreign research interests for maximum impact.
Mani Sockalingam’s research supports the development of advanced composite material systems that could find application in the production of lightweight structures for the aerospace, automotive and defense sectors. He seeks to address fundamental scientific challenges at the intersection of materials-mechanics-manufacturing while mentoring students to conduct meaningful research.
Sanjib Sur first became interested in millimeter-wave because of its potential to bring low-cost wireless connectivity to underserved populations. Today, Sur is working on designing next-generation wireless network architectures and ubiquitous sensing techniques that make smart objects truly smart.
South Carolina’s economic future depends on a world-class workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That’s why assistant professor Hengtao Tang is studying how to make STEM courses more effective, inclusive and accessible to a wider range of people.