Founders’ Day: Seven Faculty Members Named Pegasus Professors

Founders’ Day: Seven Faculty Members Named Pegasus Professors

James D. Wright, Deborah C. Beidel, Lisa Dieker, Humberto Campins, Robin W. Roberts, Demetrios Christodoulides and Kien A. Hua (not pictured) were named Pegasus Professors, the most prestigious recognition a faculty member can receive.

A psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders, an international expert who first discovered water and organic molecules on an asteroid, and an engineer who created the technological backbone that makes video streaming possible on the Internet were among seven faculty members honored as Pegasus Professors during UCF’s annual Founders’ Day ceremony today.

The award recognizes extraordinary contributions to the UCF community in the areas of research, teaching and service. Recipients receive a UCF Pegasus statue, a gold Pegasus Professor medallion and a $5,000 check. The award is the most prestigious a faculty member can receive at UCF.

This year’s winners are: Robin W. Roberts from the College of Business Administration; Lisa Dieker from the College of Education; Kien A. Hua from the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Demetrios Christodoulides from the College of Optics and Photonics; and Deborah Beidel, Humberto Campins and James D. Wright of the College of Sciences.

Robin W. Roberts is a professor in the College of Business Administration and is the Al and Nancy Burnett Eminent Scholar Chair in the Kenneth G. Dixon School of Accounting. Roberts is an internationally recognized leader in accounting ethics and public-policy research. Roberts sits on several academic journal boards and has tirelessly worked to make UCF’s accounting Ph.D. program one of the top 10 in the nation.

Roberts’ work in social and environmental accounting and in professional regulation has been cited in top journals, referenced in U.S. congressional testimony and included in Ph.D. seminars in several countries.

He consistently receives excellent ratings from students and has earned the respect of the faculty, colleagues said. He enjoys mentoring students and junior faculty, who benefit from his experience.

“It is clear from a long list of research, teaching and service accomplishments and activities that Professor Roberts has made a significant contribution to UCF and is a role model for faculty,” said Paul Jarley, dean of the college.

Lisa Dieker, a professor in the College of Education, is a leader in educational research. From her work in helping creating TLE TeachLivE, a virtual classroom simulation system, to leading the Lockheed Martin/UCF Academy, which is responsible for helping scientists become classroom teachers, Dieker is a change agent who leads by example.

Dieker’s work has drawn international attention and funding from diverse sources such as the Department of Education and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for her vision and execution. She is constantly invited to give talks or lend her expertise to professional and influential groups, including the 2012 NBC Education Nation Summit.

She’s a prolific author who has written about everything from special education – her specialty – to the use of technology to enhance teaching. Her ability to collaborate with others within and outside of education has enriched her research and made a significant impact in training future teachers.

“Dr. Lisa Dieker is a richly talented, remarkably hard-working and highly accomplished professional who thrives with challenge and revels in serving the greater good,” said Al Harms, UCF’s vice president for Strategy, Marketing, Communications and Admissions. “In my adult life, I have had the privilege of working with many exceptionally talented people from around the world . . . I am proud to say that Lisa singularly stands out among all those professionals; and in my view, ranks not near, but at the very top of our nation’s most dedicated, most talented, most dependable, most committed and most impactful professionals.”

Kien Hua is a computer science professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Hua’s contributions have not only propelled computer science research forward, but they have also revolutionized the way people communicate.

His research helped make video streaming over the Internet a reality, and his outside- the-box thinking created a reproducible model for on-demand movies and news that people use everyday. Hua’s “Chaining” technique also made video over the Internet possible for consumers. His computer work has also helped in medical imaging of tumors and in automatic traffic management on highways. Hua’s strength is his ability to keep pushing the boundaries of technology.

For example, he is developing a first-of-its-kind airborne communication network capable of following user groups to ensure communication connectivity while flying.

“Dr. Hua’s research work has had a profound impact on society,” said Mubarak Shah, nominator and director of UCF’s Center for Research in Computer Vision. “The extent of Hua’s first-rate contributions and recognitions for his work in so many fields have had a very broad impact on the international visibility of UCF. Few people have made this level of contributions to our university.”

Demetrios Christodoulides is a professor in the College of Optics and Photonics. He is a researcher whose insight has spanned three new areas of research within the optics and photonics world. He was the first scientist to discover and show that light can travel around curves, not just in straight lines as previously accepted. He also is considered the “father” of discrete optics. His research has produced breakthroughs that impact the world of telecommunication and optical computing.

Christodoulides has received international recognition for his work and has earned the R.W. Wood Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in his field of study. He has published more than 250 articles and given more than 210 conference presentations. His work also has attracted international media from the Sunday Times-London to MSNBC.

UCF graduates described him as brilliant and a humanitarian, who always goes out of his way to help his students be ready to excel at their next post. Several of his former students sent letters of support for his nomination. Their success speaks to his ability to pass on knowledge and passion for optics. The graduates are at impressive institutions such as the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, Germany, the Israel Institute of Technology, and the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique at the University of Quebec, among others.

Fellow faculty say he is a leader in optics and photonics who not only keeps everyone on the cutting edge, but also has the gift of passing on his knowledge and passion to a new generation of scientists.

“We at CREOL also rely on Demetri to teach the truly rigorous courses that give our students the advantage in the workplace,” said Eric Van Stryland, a Pegasus Professor, Trustee Chair and past dean of the college.

Deborah Beidel is a professor of clinical psychology in the College of Sciences. She is a national expert in the area of anxiety, specifically anxiety disorders among children. She also has developed a novel approach using virtual reality and distinct smells to help veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan who may be experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Her research has earned more than $7 million of grant funding in just six years. She continues to find ways to help people cope with anxiety disorder. Her reputation has led multiple law enforcement agencies to ask her to provide their officers with training in dealing with hostage negotiations and hostile individuals with anxiety issues.

Aside from running exceptional research projects that have drawn international attention, Beidel also runs several clinics at UCF that help her students learn and give community residents the opportunity to get mental help. She is the director of the UCF PTSD Clinic and UCF’s Anxiety Disorders Clinic, and she served as director of the UCF Psychology Clinic from 2007 to 2010.

When she is not teaching, conducting research and running the various clinics, Beidel directs the clinical-training component of the clinical psychology doctoral program at UCF. Several of her former students wrote letters of recommendation for Beidel, noting her teaching excellence and no-nonsense approach as reasons why they are thriving in their own careers.

“Dr. Beidel’s contributions to the university community in her six years at UCF far exceed what most professors in any university in the country can ever hope to achieve in a life time,” said Wendy Silverman, a fellow scholar and the director of Yale Child Study Center Program for Anxiety Disorder at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Humberto Campins is a physics professor in the College of Sciences. Campins is not only a leader in his planetary science, but he has the ability to communicate his finding to the general public and get people excited about space science.

For example, on Feb. 15 he worked with astronomers in Spain and NASA to give the community a chance to watch an asteroid fly by Earth in the closest encounter on record. More than 800 people jammed into the Pegasus Ballroom to watch and cheer when the asteroid passed the planet. His enthusiasm may be a reason why in 11 years he has been able to create a planetary-sciences group at UCF, which is now one of the top 10 in the nation in terms of external funding and research publications. He mentors students and publishes more than double the national average in academic research.

He also gives of his time to the community. He set up the ambassador program at the Orlando Science Center, makes free public presentations about his research and mentors his students in large and small classes.

Campins is regularly quoted in the national and international press regarding space events and he is currently part of two space missions that plan to launch vehicles to recover samples from an asteroid flying in space. He’s also frequently asked to run workshops in Europe about asteroids and space exploration.

“Dr. Campins has the record of first-rate scholarship, teaching and contributions to the university community,” said Michael Johnson, dean of the college.

James D. Wright is a professor of sociology in the College of Sciences.  Wright has made significant contributions to the university, the discipline of sociology and the Central Florida community.

Wright’s work in the area of poverty and homelessness is regarded as required reading for anyone studying sociology, and his research has gained the attention of local and national institutions.

UCF’s Institute for Social and Behavioral Sciences, which Wright directs, has produced 45 technical and consulting reports for 1l local governments and nonprofit organizations. He is considered a leading expert on homelessness, and he’s testified about his research before the U.S. Senate and House and has acted as an expert witness in several legal cases. Much of his earlier work is still referred to in publications, and he continues to be asked to give talks and presentations at national and international venues.

His work extends beyond academics. He served for nine years on the board of directors for the Coalition of the Homeless and is a member of the board of directors for the Grand Avenue “Safe Haven” program, the Kiwanis Club of East Orange County, the Orlando Area Trust for the Homeless, and the Homeless Services Network of Florida. In addition, he serves as an advisory board member for the Second Harvest Food Bank and the HOPE foundation.

Students praise him for making sure they are well prepared for their careers.

“I have tried to model my own teaching after my experiences in Dr. Wright’s classes over the years,” said former student Rae Taylor, now an assistant professor of criminal justice at Loyola University in New Orleans. “He pushes students to reach their potential and inspires a desire to work harder.”