4 Named Pegasus Professors, UCF's Top Academic Award

4 Named Pegasus Professors, UCF’s Top Academic Award

Aristide Dogariu, Reed F. Noss, Zhihua Qu and Jeff Rupert.

Four UCF faculty members today were presented the 2014 Pegasus Professor Award, the highest academic honor at the university.

Pegasus Professors are chosen from senior members of the faculty who have been a professor at least five years and have achieved noteworthy research and/or creative activity of national and international impact.

They are presented with a $5,000 stipend and a $5,000 research grant.

This year’s recipients are: Jeff Rupert, Arts and Humanities; Zhihua Qu, Engineering and Computer Science; Aristide Dogariu, Optics and Photonics; and Reed Noss, Sciences.

Jeff Rupert, a music professor and director of jazz studies at UCF, has recruited top musicians as university faculty members, leads The Jazz Professors sextet made up of colleagues, and has won a Grammy for his saxophone skills.

Rupert earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Rutgers University, and came to UCF in 1995, where he has developed a nationally known jazz curriculum. He also founded and is the executive director of Flying Horse Records, the UCF Music Department’s record label that helps prepare students in all aspects of the music professional’s life.

His music contacts have led to performing with Mel Torme, Maynard Ferguson, Sam Rivers, Kevin Mahogany and numerous others. He won his Grammy for performing on Benny Carter’s Harlem Renaissance album, and has played in concerts and jazz festivals in Europe, Japan, South America, Australia and elsewhere.

Rupert teaches the Jazz Workshop, The Evolution of Jazz and serves as a private instructor/mentor to selected jazz saxophone students at the university. He is a frequent clinician for festivals, college, high school, and middle school music-performance assessments and music-education clinics for educators at events such as the Florida Music Educators Association conference in Tampa.

He founded and produces the UCF Orlando Jazz Festival, which has been broadcast on Sirius/XM radio and NPR.

“By all standards, by which faculty are judged, he excels,” said Jose Fernandez, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “Passionate and totally devoted to the subject matter, Jeff is an inspiration to his students and they constantly seek him as a mentor.”

Travis Heath, one of Rupert’s nominators for the award, said that hiring the musician was one of the best acquisitions UCF could have made.

“Because of Professor Rupert and his creation and implementation of the Jazz Studies curriculum, UCF can now lay claim to one of the best jazz degree programs in the country,” Heath said.

Zhihua Qu has been the chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering since 2010, and is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Central South University in China, and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. He came to UCF as an assistant professor in 1990.

Qu is an accomplished researcher and educator in the field of nonlinear systems and control, smart grid, autonomous vehicles, and robotics. He has authored three books, published more than 140 journal articles and 250 conference papers and book chapters, and has supervised to completion 44 master’s, Ph.D. and post-doctoral students.

He is a productive and consistent performer. Over 23 years, for instance, he has received $22 million in research contracts as principal or co-principal investigator.

“What is extraordinary about Dr. Qu is that despite his extensive administrative duties he continues to be a very active researcher — high quality scholarly work and extensive research funding — and student mentor,” said Michael Georgiopoulos, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Qu is an outstanding teacher and educator, said nominator Marwan Simaan, 21st Century Chair and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineer and Computer Science.

“He demands excellence from his students and asks no less from himself,” Simaan said. “He is one of the most effective department chairs in the college.”

Aristide Dogariu came to UCF as a visiting research scientist in 1994, and since 2006 has been a professor in CREOL, the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers. He earned a master’s in physics at the University of Bucharest, Romania, and a Ph.D. in engineering at Hokkaido University in Japan.

He is internationally known for his contributions in optics and photonics, including scattering, coherence, and polarization of light.

Partnering with researchers in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, he has pioneered a noninvasive method for optically regulating the morphology of biological cells and controlling cytoskeletal activity, and in journal articles last year established a revolutionary paradigm showing that lasers can be used to attract small particles.

“This demonstration of the attractive force exerted by light on small particles has generated a strong interest in the community and is regarded as one of the most important advances in the field since the invention of optical tweezers,” said Bahaa Saleh, dean of the College of Optics and Photonics.

Dogariu is a leading figure in a new area of optics, dubbed mesoscale photonics, and was recently asked by the Optical Society of America to organize and chair a new international meeting on this discipline. His work has attracted more than $8 million from federal agencies, private foundations. and industries.

“Dr. Dogariu is an excellent citizen of the college and is a hardworking and productive contributor to the optics and photonics professional community,” Saleh said. “He is a well-known figure in OSA and is sought after worldwide as a conference organizer and terrific invited speaker.”

Dogariu has steered the success of many of his graduate students, said one of his nominators, M.J. Soileau, vice president for Research & Commercialization.

“Professor Dogariu is, without a doubt, one of the most outstanding scholars in UCF’s history,” Soileau said. “He is a complete scholar, excelling in fundamental research and in applied research.”

Reed F. Noss could be considered “one of the founding fathers of modern conservation biology,” said Michael Johnson, dean of the College of Sciences.

Noss, a naturalist, ecologist and conservation biologist, is frequently called upon to advise U.S. and other government agencies, including last year when he was invited to testify before the House Committee on Natural Resources on the topic of species-conservation success.

He earned a bachelor’s in biology and health education at the University of Dayton, master’s in ecology at the University of Tennessee, and Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from the University of Florida. At UCF, his research has increasingly focused on coastal and near-coastal ecosystems.

He came to UCF in 2002 as the Provost’s Distinguished Research Professor and Davis-Shine Professor of Conservation Biology. In addition, he also now is the director of the university’s Science and Planning in Conservation Ecology.

He is a member of a commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, has served on advisory boards for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. National Park Service, and is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His research has been supported by more than $4 million in external funding.

Noss is the past editor of Conservation Biology, and has served in leadership roles in various conservation organizations, including the Society for Conservation Biology and Florida’s Acquisition and Restoration Council.

One of his nominators, Eric Dinerstein, lead scientist and vice-president for Science Conservation Science Program in Washington, D.C., said what he admires most about Noss is his devotion and mastery of natural history.

“Reed is a walking encyclopedia of natural history and in so being, a terrific role model for his students,” Dinerstein said.