Please join us in congratulating the

2022 Research and Scholarship
Excellence Awards Recipients

Undergraduate Student Research and Scholarship Excellence Award
Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities
Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design, College of Business 
Ms. Shelby Kanski’s sustained research during her time at URI demonstrated exceptional leadership capabilities. She excelled during the height of the pandemic as a student, teaching assistant, and President of the Fashion Merchandising Society. Displaying an entrepreneurial spirit, she designed and produced six Rhody facemasks, sold by the URI Bookstore during the pandemic.

As an undergraduate, she enrolled in a graduate class focused on 20th century designer fashions in the Historic Textile and Costume Collection, performing as well as if not better than some graduate students in the course. For her senior honors project, Ms. Kanski researched the Met Costume Institute and its annual exhibition and fundraiser, the Met Gala, receiving a grant for a research trip to the Institute. Her research aims to understand how the Institute’s exhibitions and Gala diverged from the world of historic costume and transformed into the mainstream cultural event it is today. She investigates the interconnected factors that have shaped this phenomenon, such as celebrity culture and the Institute’s connection to Vogue.

Ms. Kanski is a motivated critical thinker with a passion for making a positive difference in society. She is interested in today’s global sustainability challenge and how the fashion industry can evolve to fulfill the needs of tomorrow.

Undergraduate Student Research and Scholarship Excellence Award Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering
Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, College of Health Sciences 
Ms. Maria Cherry is an excellent student with an impressive track record of accomplishment during her undergraduate career at URI. She has been recognized on the Dean’s List every semester. She is a team leader who is undeterred by challenges, always enthusiastic, and willing to mentor new lab members as well as work with graduate students and faculty.

Ms. Cherry’s interest in gaining research experience in URI’s Big Data and Eating Decisions (Byte) lab led to her honors project, which focused on evaluating how well the food environment at URI aligns with national recommendations for health. She conducted comprehensive analyses of the URI dining halls using standards from the Partnership for Healthier America’s Healthier Campus Initiative and developed a survey in Qualtrics to evaluate students’ perceptions of healthy dining options on campus.

She earned a competitive $2,000 College of Health Sciences Research Award, and throughout this process has grown considerably as a researcher. She has learned how to conceptualize research problems, organize her time, and work with staff, faculty, and registered dietitians on campus to conduct her work. Ms. Cherry has been accepted to present at the 2022 American Society for Nutrition conference, one of the primary professional organizations for nutrition professionals.

Graduate Student Research and Scholarship Excellence Award
Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities
Department of Psychology, College of Health Sciences 
Ms. Silvi Goldstein’s research focuses on substance use-related health inequities among marginalized racial groups, with a particular emphasis on harm reduction and alcohol use. She has earned several prestigious grants to support her work, including a Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health, for $81,900, to assess race and sex as moderators of harm reduction pharmacological treatment for alcohol use disorder among people experiencing homelessness. She also received the American Psychological Association Division 50 Society of Addiction Psychology’s Student Research Grant to assess the acceptability and feasibility of harm reduction in one First Nation community.

Ms. Goldstein has published 18 peer-reviewed publications, with another 5 manuscripts under review, as well as delivered 19 research presentations at national and international conferences. She has made substantial contributions to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts, notably receiving the 2020 Stanley Berger Social Justice Award. For instance, she was a founding member of the Psychology Department’s Multicultural Consultation Team, an initiative of graduate students assisting in facilitating the conduct of culturally-informed, inclusive, and equitable research, teaching, service, and practice. She has also developed scholarships for researchers from underrepresented groups and worked to increase recruitment and retention of diverse students in psychology.

Graduate Student Research and Scholarship Excellence Award 
Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering
Department of Biological Sciences, College of the Environment and Life Sciences 
Mr. Kevin H. Wong’s research is focused on the mechanisms of coral acclimatization to climate change within and across generations. He has pioneered multiple techniques and analyses ranging from physiology to metabolomics to epigenomics in corals. His multi-year study published in the prestigious journal Global Change Biology provides a compelling and comprehensive view into both long-term environmental impacts as well as short-term perturbations due to heatwaves on coral reproduction, which is essential for reef persistence under climate change. The body of work Mr. Wong has generated for his Ph.D. is cutting edge, and intellectually and analytically complex, which is exactly the kind of research that will help understand, manage, and restore coral reefs.

As a graduate student Mr. Wong received $72,238 in competitive and prestigious funding across 10 awards, including those from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the National Geographic Society, and the International Coral Reef Society. In addition to his Ph.D. research in Bermuda, he assisted in multiple research expeditions to French Polynesia and Hawai’i. Mr. Wong successfully mentored 17 undergraduate students and taught three laboratory courses at URI. Additionally, he led lab components of three field courses focused on coral reef ecology at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.

Research Staff Research and Scholarship Excellence Award
Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering
Rhode Island Consortium of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, College of Engineering 
Dr. Irene Andreu Blanco, director of the Rhode Island Consortium of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to enhancing the facility, which is vital to URI research and provides advanced scientific instrumentation to academic and industry researchers.

She effectively led the expansion of the facility which houses well over $6 million in equipment for materials characterization beginning at the atomic scale. It also includes a new $2.3 million electron microscope awarded through a National Science Foundation Major Instrumentation Grant, and a $1 million X-Ray microscope awarded through state funds via the Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Dr. Andreu Blanco organized a public webinar series showcasing the available instrumentation. She achieved financial stability of the facility by revamping business operations, preparing detailed and well-conceived annual business plans and reports. Her commitment to training the next generation of scientists and engineers is outstanding. She has personally provided hands-on training to 150 graduate and undergraduate students since 2018, enabling the research programs of over 30 faculty at URI and at least 10 private companies. She embodies interdisciplinary work and has presented more than twenty guest lectures in the colleges of Engineering, Pharmacy and Environment and Life Sciences, and invited seminars in the departments of Chemical Engineering, Physics, and Geosciences.

Early Career Faculty Research and Scholarship Excellence Award
Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities
Department of Marine Affairs, Department of Communication Studies, and the Harrington School of Communication and Media
College of the Environment and Life Sciences and College of Arts and Sciences 
Assistant Professor Emily P. Diamond has joint appointments in the Departments of Communication Studies, Marine Affairs, and the Harrington School of Communication and Media. She investigates how messaging influences environmental decision-making, risk perceptions, and policy preferences.

Her interdisciplinary research draws on the fields of communication science, environmental politics, and political psychology to examine how frames and identities shape environmental attitudes and behaviors. She has successfully partnered with colleagues in the sciences, engineering, film, economics, writing, political science, and public health on various research projects and grants. The quality and scope of her research has impressed colleagues across campus, leading to high-quality publications as well as conference papers and a technical report.

Dr. Diamond has completed a collaborative pilot study among coastal fishers in Rhode Island on identities and environmental perception that reaches marginalized populations. Her scholarship addresses environmental justice concerns when working with indigenous leaders, notably the Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod. Recognizing the need for more inclusive science communication, she has dedicated significant efforts through the STEEP research project to engage traditionally marginalized tribal communities in bidirectional, cutting-edge research. Her work reflects a commitment to rectifying environmental injustices and ensuring all communities benefit from scientific progress.

Early Career Faculty Research and Scholarship Excellence Award
Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering 
Graduate School of Oceanography
Assistant Professor Roxanne A. Beinart is a marine microbial ecologist and physiologist. Her groundbreaking research is in deep-sea biology, high pressure systems, and chemosynthetic and anoxic ecosystems. This fascinating work links microbial ecology and physiology to understand how symbiotic microbes can impact marine ecosystems. She has done extensive work at Pacific hydrothermal vents and studies symbiosis in Narragansett Bay organisms. She sustains an active sea-going program and is serving as Chief-Scientist on oceanographic research cruises.

Dr. Beinart has published in high caliber peer-reviewed journals and encourages her students and postdoctoral fellows to lead on publications. This record and approach reflect her mentorship and leadership in the scientific community. She contributes generously as a guest lecturer in undergraduate and graduate classes across disciplines at URI. She has initiated sustainability efforts, recycling programs and waste reduction at the Bay Campus. And is an outspoken advocate for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, putting remarkable effort into recruitment, retention and mentoring students from formerly minoritized groups. She has excelled at securing competitive funds from federal agencies, as well as local, national, international and philanthropic institutions. She received a Simons Foundation Early Career Investigator in Marine Microbial Ecology and Evolution award, a large National Science Foundation award and an NSF CAREER award.

Advanced Career Faculty Research and Scholarship Excellence Award
Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering 
Department of Natural Resources Science, College of the Environment and Life Sciences 
Professor Scott R. McWilliams ranks among the most prolific faculty members at URI with an exceptional national and international reputation. He is an integrative scientist who studies animals across the full spectrum of biological organization (from genotype to phenotype to populations, communities, and landscapes) with a strong desire to apply results to the conservation of wildlife and their habitats.

Dr. McWilliams has been awarded more than $18 million in funded research from agencies such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, RI Department of Environmental Management, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Netherland Science Foundation, and the U.S. National Science Foundation, including an NSF CAREER Grant.

He has published more than 150 publications in high impact peer-reviewed journals and received more than 4,700 citations. He has presented at over 130 national and international conferences and actively engaged in outreach with the community via hundreds of public presentations. To date, he has formally mentored 8 faculty at URI, 12 postdoctoral fellows, 38 graduate students, and hundreds of undergraduates. He also is actively involved with the URI science writing program, known as SciWrite@URI, that ensures science-focused students learn the fine art and science of writing well.

Advanced Career Faculty Research and Scholarship Excellence Award
Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering
Department of Chemical Engineering, College of Engineering 
Professor Otto J. Gregory has been teaching and conducting research at URI for 44 years. He has established an outstanding record of academic achievement that has helped to advance education and research. He is a world-renown expert in sensors for harsh environments, in particular physical and chemical sensors. During his tenure at URI Dr. Gregory has mentored new faculty, dozens of graduate students, and hundreds of undergraduate students in his laboratory. He has fostered collaboration with academia, government and industry, with colleagues from Brown University, Florida International University, NUWC, Raytheon, Pratt and Whitney, NASA, U.S. Airforce, U.S. Navy, and the Department of Homeland Security. His “Digital Dog Nose” invention received international attention in the media, including The Discovery Channel, CBS Evening News, CBS Morning News, a dozen TV networks in Boston, Providence and New York and in 155 newspapers around the world.

As an innovator, Dr. Gregory has received more than 30 U.S. Patents and published more than 100 peer reviewed journal articles in the best journals in his field. He also served URI as the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies. Other important examples of his research administration responsibilities at URI include director of The RI Center for Thin Film and Interface Research, and the co-founder and director of the highly regarded URI Sensors and Surface Technology Partnership. Within this research center he has built a state-of-the-art laboratory dedicated to designing and testing wired and wireless sensors. He also is the director of the Environmental Electron Microscopy Cost Center and the Thin Film Surface Analysis Cost Center.