Four U of U Faculty Recognized With Governor’s Medal of Science and Technology

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Adam Beehler, winner of the Governor's Medal for Science and Technology, was recognized for his contributions in Higher Education. Pictured here with his family. (Photo courtesy of Adam Beehler)

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox awarded the Governor’s Medals for Science and Technology to eleven Utahans and one Utah company. Among the eleven esteemed academics, four University of Utah professors, each working on their own diverse and exciting projects, received an award.

The four professors include Cynthia Burrows, Ph.D., of the Chemistry Department, Dr. Cynthia Furse, Ph.D., of the Engineering Department, Adam Beehler of the Physics Department, and Dr. Vivian Lee of the School of Medicine.  Each professor demonstrating innovation in their field.

“The medal recipients are true leaders in innovation, serving as educators, mentors and influencers statewide,” Governor Herbert said in a recent press release. “Innovation drives Utah’s thriving economy and unmatched quality of life.”

Beginning in 1987, the medals have generally been given to companies and residents who have made large contributions to the educational, industrial, and advanced scientific and technological fields.  Awardees from the University of Utah shone in these categories.

Cynthia Burrows is a distinguished professor and Thatcher Presidential Endowed Chair in biological chemistry at the University of Utah.  Her research largely centers on DNA and focuses on the effect on it by free radical stress, as well as molecular changes.

Minor changes in DNA sequences can lead to huge problems in the body and can cause the genesis of cancer and affect infections like the Zika Virus, Burrows said.

Specifically, about her research, Burrows said, “We study the chemical changes that occur on the bases (A,T,C and G) of DNA, and how these changes affect the read-out of genes in the cell.”

These DNA changes emphasize cancer and aging, as well as other medical implications.

“Others affect the way cells respond to stimuli like oxidative stress,” Burrows said. “DNA gives the instructions for how all the biochemical processes of the cell are choreographed —we like to see the full dance.”

Associate V.P. for Research at the U, Cynthia Furse, is an expert in electromagnetics.

Furse, also a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, said research has been applied to a plethora of topics — from the human body to aircraft wiring.  She co-founded LiveWire Innovation and has developed technology that detects intermittent electrical faults on aging aircraft wiring.

“I chose physics as my career because I like it,” Adam Beehler, Lecture Demonstrations Specialist for the U Department of Physics and Astronomy, said. “But I have stayed in physics because I can share it with others.”

After twenty years of teaching in Physics, Beehler is focused on outreach and community engagement.  His outreach has included nearly 70,000 people and he has been involved with many different types of organizations from K-12 schools to church groups and the county jail.

“For me, education extends into all of life,” Beehler  said. “I will continue to do this as long as I am able.”

“I have been heavily involved with community engagement and outreach since 1999,” Beehler said about his work. “I manage all kinds of demonstrations relating to science principles and concepts — I acquire, make, and develop them.”

The fourth professor to be recognized for their achievements was Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.  The Dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine, Senior Vice President of Health Sciences and CEO of University of Utah Health Care, Lee serves on NIH Council of Councils and on two boards of publicly traded companies.  She has authored over 160 papers and a well-known textbook: Cardiovascular MRI: Physical Principles to Practical Protocols. Lee also received an award from the Governor in the category of special recognition, for her outstanding accomplishments.

“The Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology are really a way to honor those who receive the awards,” Lt. Governor Cox said. “The winners are often in the later stages of their careers and have made a great impact on their fields of study.  They are nominated by their peers and the review committee is made up of the individuals who are also in the science and technology fields. The committee is made up of researchers, business leaders and past winners. These awards are designed to honor their research rather than influence it.”

The medals awarded to four U professors on the evening of Wednesday, Jan 18th by Lt. Governor Cox will provide recognition and encourage further exciting research, outreach and involvement.

c.macdonald@dailyutahchronicle.com

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