University of Delaware
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faculty and student honors

Join us in celebrating these recent winners of major national honors.

World PowerPoint Champ

Jacob Blacksten

Jacob Blacksten, a UD freshman and a state 4-H member, won the 2012 world championship in Microsoft PowerPoint at a competition held in Las Vegas this past summer.

Blacksten is the first American to win the event, which attracted more than 285,000 candidates from 53 countries who competed to demonstrate their mastery of Microsoft Office products. He won a $5,000 scholarship from Certiport Inc., for his accomplishment.

A graduate of Caesar Rodney High School, Blacksten is a freshman in UD’s Associate in Arts Program at the Delaware Technical Community College campus in Dover through the state’s SEED (Student Excellence Equals Degree) scholarship program.

“My experiences in 4-H over the years have helped me achieve in other areas of my life, including at this competition. I’ve participated in 4-H public speaking competitions that have increased my ability to stay cool under pressure,” he says.

“Out in Las Vegas I wasn’t really sure I had done that well. When they announced my name as the winner I sat in shock for maybe 30 seconds. I couldn’t believe I had won.”

Blacksten is unsure of his career plans but is leaning toward majoring in engineering with a minor in business.

L. Pamela Cook-Ioannidis

L. Pamela Cook-Ioannidis

AAAS Fellows announced

L. Pamela Cook-Ioannidis and Blake Meyers have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific society. The AAAS Fellow honor is bestowed upon members by their peers for scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

Cook-Ioannidis is recognized “for significant contributions to the mathematics of fluids (compressible and viscoelastic), and to the profession particularly in proactive service and leadership within SIAM” (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics).

Currently, she is the associate dean for faculty development in the College of Engineering and professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, where she served as chair from 1992 to 2000. She is also SIAM’s vice president for publications. Earlier this year, she was named The Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) 2012 University Change Agent for efforts to improve the representation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Blake Meyers

Blake Meyers

Meyers is cited “for distinguished contributions to the fields of bioinformatics and plant functional genomics, especially in the area of small RNA biology, in model and crop plants.”

The Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor and chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Meyers uses advanced DNA sequencing technologies to understand the biological functions and genomic impact of small RNAs, DNA methylation and gene expression in rice, maize and other plants. His lab pioneered the applications to mRNA and small RNA analyses of the first of the now-popular “next-generation” DNA sequencing technologies.


Epps named Gutshall Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Thomas H. Epps, III

Thomas H. Epps, III

Thomas H. Epps, III, has been named the Thomas and Kipp Gutshall Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The endowed position, funded through a generous gift from UD alumnus Thomas Gutshall and his wife, Kipp, is designed to reward exceptional young faculty talent.

The professorship is the University’s first “career development” faculty chair, a term synonymous with young faculty chair. It is intended for a teacher/scholar at the assistant or associate professor level. Unlike senior endowed chairs, it may rotate among young faculty periodically, depending upon need.

Epps conducts innovative research focused primarily on designing, building and characterizing new polymers. His multi-faceted research program generates nanoscale structures in soft (plastic) materials, work crucial to creating conducting membranes for energy generation and storage devices. The work is also useful in developing nanoscale capsules for drug delivery and self-cleaning and templating applications.

In 2010, Epps received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from the U.S. Department of Defense, an elite distinction bestowed by President Barack Obama. He is also the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Award, the DuPont Young Professor Award, an Air Force Young Investigator Award and the Lloyd Ferguson Young Scientist Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. In 2011, Epps won the Gerard J. Mangone Young Scholars Award, bestowed by the University’s Francis Alison Society. Epps recently was named a 2012–2013 MLK visiting professor and scholar at MIT.


Marianna Safronova

Marianna Safronova

Safronova named Physicist of the Month

Marianna Safronova, associate professor of physics and astronomy, received the American Physical Society’s (APS) Woman Physicist of the Month award in August in recognition of her accomplishments as a researcher and mentor.

The APS website announcing Safronova’s award called her “a dynamic researcher who, since 2010, has been publishing one paper every five weeks.” It noted that, “In addition to her spectacularly productive scientific work, she has been an effective mentor of women students,” with her first four graduate students all earning doctoral degrees and going on to hold research positions.

Last December, Safronova was selected as an APS fellow, an honor awarded to the top one-half of1 percent of its members. The society cited her innovative development of high-accuracy first-principles methods of computational atomic structure and dynamics and their application to optical atomic clocks, quantum computing with neutral atoms and tests of fundamental symmetries.