Booker, Cook, Sundar, Terrones receive Faculty Scholar Medals

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Four University faculty members have received the 2016 Faculty Scholar Medals for Outstanding Achievement.

They are Squire J. Booker, professor of chemistry in the Eberly College of Science; Kim Cook, professor of music in cello in the College of Arts and Architecture; S. Shyam Sundar, distinguished professor in the College of Communications; and Mauricio Terrones, professor of chemistry in the Eberly College of Science.

Established in 1980, the award recognizes scholarly or creative excellence represented by a single contribution or a series of contributions around a coherent theme. A committee of peers reviews nominations and selects candidates.

Squire J. Booker

Colleagues say Booker has made remarkable breakthroughs on multiple levels working with iron-sulfur radical S-adenosylmethionine enzymes. His lab has developed innovative techniques to work with these enzymes within an oxygen-free atmosphere. Most recently, his lab solved a series of structures capturing intermediates in the reaction pathway, characterizing them with a spectroscope and solving their co-crystal structures.

His work is of great importance because these key findings could strengthen antibiotics.

He could equally be considered for his previous work on cyclopropyl fatty acid synthase, said a colleague, because of its potential applications in renewable energy.

Booker has been published in the most prestigious scientific journals including Science, National Journal of Chemistry and the Journal of American Chemistry.

Colleagues say Booker’s productivity in terms of publications, talks and grant funding make him worthy of the award, adding that his research is “exceptional on every level.”

Kim Cook

Hailed by critics as a “superb American cellist” and a “world class” and “definitive” performer of classical works, Cook continues to enhance her reputation with international, widely acclaimed performances and recordings of world renowned composers.

Cook has performed in 28 countries with acclaimed ensembles and conductors, her colleagues said, premiering several new concerti and dozens of other works for the cello.

“From her classics of the concerto repertory to premises of new works by notable composers, her legacy of recordings is noteworthy for its breadth as well as for the quality of her contributions,” said a nominator. “Her work in the realm has reached a peak during the last five years, with particular notable critical reviews of her culminating interpretations of concerti by Lalo (2014), Saint-Saens (2014), Tchaikovsky (2009) and Shostakovich (2009).”

James Forrest, a critic from Fanfare, called Cook’s interpretation of a Lalo piece “his favorite.” Phil Muse, from Audio Society of Atlanta, added that Cook “handles the virtuosic demands of the music, culminating in a fast scale passage and the sensational C-sharp trill at the very end, with an ease that belies all the difficulties. She cultivates one of the most beautiful singing tones I have ever heard coaxed from a cello.”

S. Shyam Sundar

Sundar is a pioneering researcher on the effects of digital media interfaces, having built original theoretical models on the social and psychological consequences of communication technology.

As founding director of Penn State’s Media Effects Research Laboratory, Sundar researches a wide range of topics including the effectiveness of interactive news and advertising, persuasion in online health communications, role of social media in empowering individuals and the effects of smartphones and robots on consumer attitudes. Last year, nearly 1000 scholarly publications referenced Sundar’s research.

“Over the last two decades, in keeping up with the dizzying changes in communication technology, Shyam (Sundar) has been prescient in spotting trends, asking the right questions, developing new study designs that are sensitive to changes in the media landscape, and advancing research at the nexus of new communication technologies,” said a colleague. “From the Internet to social media to mobile media, at every transition, Shyam’s contributions have been innovative, path-breaking and instrumental in shaping key aspects of communication research.”

What makes Sundar’s work so powerful, his colleagues said, is its applicability in a variety of research questions in communications, computer sciences, human-computer interaction and psychology and its ability to result in breakthroughs on the behaviors of users.

A former editor of one of the field’s top journals said Sundar is “perhaps our field’s leading theorist” who has “revolutionized our thinking.”

“One can’t help but be stunned by the range of research productivity and influence, service, contributions, awards and advertising,” said a nominator. “Very few people in the communication discipline have such an extraordinary record.”

Mauricio Terrones

Colleagues say in five years Terrones has transformed the University into an “internationally recognized mecca for research on two-dimensional materials.”

His extensive chemistry background and his ability to “seamlessly” meld disciplines of condensed matter physics, materials science, chemistry and biology has established Terrones as a “quintessentially interdisciplinary scientist,” his colleagues said.

In 2010, Terrones led the charge to create Penn State’s Center for 2-Dimensional and Layered Materials, which has made the University a forefront player in the field, according to researchers at Harvard, MIT, Columbia and Cambridge. Since 2013, he’s been the center’s director.

Terrones’ work on the synthesis of triangular monolayers and the discovery of enhanced edge photoluminescence in these systems was of particular importance and has since been highly cited in the field.

Terrones has published 142 papers in the past five years, of which 18 were deemed “hot papers” because of such heavy citations.

A nominator said Terrones has “outstanding productivity in terms of publication rate, invited talks and grant funding,” adding that he is uniformly praised “as a leader in his field, one with excellent vision of problems, an extremely creative mind and an outstanding scientist and teacher.”

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Last Updated April 26, 2016