Category Archives: awards

GUILI ZHANG: Bringing better results


Five-year Achievement Award Winner Dr. Guili Zhang

As educators in many settings face budget cuts and reductions in force, it’s important to know what academic programs and tactics are most effective. East Carolina University associate professor Guili Zhang is at the forefront at assembling the nuts and bolts of how to measure that in an accurate way.

Since joining the faculty in 2006, Zhang has become a leading researcher in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Her work centers on designing and conducting statistical analyses used in measuring academic program success. Zhang has examined the existing statistical standards, identified inadequacies and developed new tools – including a Robust Root Mean Square Standardized Effect Size and the Bayesian Coefficient Alpha – to better evaluate the effectiveness of programs or treatments.

She also has a focused interest in engineering education. Zhang developed a database of information on engineering students at colleges and universities across the southeast from 1987 to 2007. It identifies tactics to help improve students’ chances of success and offers a model for how schools and colleges of engineering establish curricula, develop retention models and set student-centered strategies for success.

“It’s critically important for the U.S. to continue to excel in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields in order to remain its global competitiveness,” Zhang said. “The quality of engineering education determines the caliber of future engineers who will play vital roles in the development of the nation.

“My research and evaluation work aimed at assisting colleges and schools of engineering improve women and minority student recruitment and success, improve the quality of engineering graduates and graduate engineers with more real-world experience and help institutions focus limited funding on activities and endeavors that are statistically shown to bring about better results.”

Over the last five years, Zhang participated in 11 grant projects, said Carolyn Ledford, Curriculum and Instruction interim department chair. Zhang was selected as primary investigator and awarded three new national grant projects funded by the National Science Foundation and Learn and Serve America, one internal grant project from East Carolina University, and continues working on two additional projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation. She has taught online classes on research design and data analysis each semester and co-taught classes on action research.

“Dr. Zhang is a remarkable faculty member,” Ledford wrote in her nomination of Zhang for the Five-Year Achievement Award. “Her contributions to the fields of statistical/quantitative research, program evaluation, engineering education and teacher education are extraordinary and profound. Her work has uniquely impacted the quality of graduate teacher education…and the ability of thousands of U.S. teachers to be critical consumers of research which informs their practice in U.S. public schools and classrooms.”

Zhang, a native of China, holds a doctorate in applied statistics, quantitative research, evaluation, assessment and measurement from the University of Florida.

“My parents never had the privilege to go to school,” she said, “But they taught me to be a good person, to work hard and always do my best.

“I am thankful to the excellent leadership at ECU and our college and department, which provided a fertile environment for faculty research. My sincere thank you goes to my wonderful colleagues in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and College of Education. In August 2006, they welcomed me, someone who is somewhat different from them, and someone who is originally from the other side of the planet, and treated me like family ever since.”

—- Kathryn Kennedy


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CRAIG LANDRY: Gaining a better understanding


Five-year Achievement Award Winner Dr. Craig Landry

A faculty member at ECU since 2004, Dr. Craig Landry’s research focuses primarily on environmental and natural resource economics, non-market valuation, experimental economics, and coastal resource management.

He is associate professor of economics in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, assistant scientist for the Institute for Coastal Science & Policy, and assistant director for the Center for Natural Hazards Research. He is also an affiliate faculty member for the Center for Sustainable Tourism.

Landry has secured nine external grants in the past eight years, including funding from the National Science Foundation, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the North Carolina Energy Center, and N.C. Sea Grant.

External grant projects have focused on determinants of disaster migration and preference for rebuilding New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the impact of coastal wind farms on recreation and tourism, economic impact and value of the North Carolina for-hire recreational fishing fleet, individual risk perceptions and behavior in the context of tropical storms, and economic values for coastal erosion management, while bringing in over $650,000 in funding directly to ECU.

He has published more than 25 peer-reviewed publications on varying topics, including individual decision-making in the context of natural hazards risk, recreation demand, econometrics of non-market valuation, property price models, community hazard mitigation and experimental analysis of individual charitable giving.

He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in environmental economics and natural resource management from the University of Georgia in 1996 and 1998. While at UGA, he became interested in economic analysis of coastal erosion management and worked as research assistant on a FEMA-funded project to examine the impact of coastal erosion on the National Flood Insurance Program. He earned his doctorate in natural resource economics from the University of Maryland in 2004.

Landry spoke with ECU News Services about his research.

Q: How would you describe your area of research? What are environmental and natural resources economics?

Environmental and natural resource economics applies principles of economics to aspects of environmental quality and natural resource management. The use of tradable pollution permits and taxes to improve environmental quality at lower monetary costs is a major contribution of environmental economics, while natural resource economics has proposed similar approaches to the management of resources like fisheries.

My areas of expertise include non-market valuation, experimental economics, individual and community decision-making under risk and uncertainty and applied econometrics. Non-market valuation is an area of research that attempts to estimate the economic value of goods and services (such as water quality, air quality, proximity to amenities and presence of risks) that are not traded in conventional markets; these values are used prominently in cost-benefit analysis of resource management projects.

Experimental economics involves systematic generation of data on decision making with greater control over decision parameters and salient (usually monetary) incentives. Decision-making under risk and uncertainty is theoretically based empirical analysis of behavior under risk, with my focus on risk of flooding, storm, and erosion; this type of analysis helps us understand the determinants of self-protecting behavior and assess the efficacy of existing and potential protective institutions and programs (like insurance, information, mitigation funding, technical assistance, etc.)

Q: A lot of your work has been about coastal housing and flooding. North Carolina would appear to be a great place to be based for that.

North Carolina’s coast is an excellent laboratory for exploring the relationship between development, housing values, coastal amenities and risk. I have shared some of the results with local governments on the Outer Banks.

Q: What research are you conducting now?

I just received two grants, one from Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that will focus on economic values of beach replenishment. This project will fund a Coastal Resources Management PhD student for two years. (US Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: “Welfare Economics of Beach Nourishment Projects Using OCS Sand Resources;” Landry, principal investigator; $215,000, $150,000 to ECU).

I also received an N.C. Sea Grant project to examine economic values of coastal erosion management focusing on not only beach replenishment, but also shoreline armoring and coastal retreat. (North Carolina Sea Grant: “Economic Values of Coastal Erosion Management;” Landry, principal investigator with John Whitehead; $129,035, $77,448 from sponsor, $59,778 to ECU).

Q: What drew you to this type of economics? What interested you as a graduate student and keeps you still interested today in the area?

I was initially interested in ecology, but I realized that you have to understand people and their behavior if you want to affect the quality of the environment or how natural resources are managed. I am passionate about the economic approach to analyzing individual behavior, but enthusiastic about incorporating information from other disciplines (psychology, sociology, recreation and leisure studies, planning, management and natural sciences) to gain a better understanding of the ramifications of individual and group behavior in the context of social, economic, and political institutions for environmental and natural resource quality and sustainability.

Jeannine Manning Hutson
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JAMIE KRUSE: Advancing the science


Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Dr. Jamie Kruse

Dr. Jamie Kruse is recognized for her research in economics and decision- making under uncertainty especially as it relates to natural hazards. Kruse is founding director of the Center for Natural Hazards Research at ECU, and she served as director of the RENCI Center for Coastal Systems Informatics and Modeling for its first two years of operation.

Her funded research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Niagara Mohawk, State of Texas and the State of North Carolina. She has been principal investigator or co-investigator of research projects totaling almost $20 million.

Kruse recently spoke about her career with ECU News Services.

Q: How did you begin studying the economics of natural disasters?

Before coming to ECU in 2004, I had the opportunity to work with the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University. This was my first experience with a truly multidiscliplinary research center.

Q: What are you working on now?

Two research projects are in process. One is a joint project with the University of Delaware looking at a stakeholder approach to hurricane mitigation and insurance. I’m working with engineers to look at how people approach self-protection measures when it comes to hurricanes. The study is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The second project is a National Science Foundation-funded study with Texas Tech University on the economic determinants of resiliency to hurricanes and other severe storms. Resiliency is the “it” word now when it comes to hazards. Over time, ecological, societal, structural and economic definitions of resiliency have developed. We don’t know a lot about how they are interrelated. I think one of the big questions is when something bad happens, something that creates a shock to the system, how well does the system withstand the shock and how does it continue to operate or improve?

Much of my time in the last year has been devoted to working on approval for a Ph.D. in economics with an emphasis on risk as it relates to natural hazards and public health. It will go to General Administration soon for final approval to establish the program. The first students would start in fall 2014 if approved.

We are also working on an Integrative Graduate Education Research Training (IGERT) proposal to NSF to fund graduate students in economics and coastal hazards. The proposal is for $3.3 million over five years and would be used for stipends and research support for doctoral students. We will find out early next year if we were successful for this highly competitive federal grant.

We’re planning the third annual ECU/N.C. Emergency Management Hurricane Workshop that will be held at the Murphy Center on May 23.

Q. What have been or are some of the most rewarding aspects of your work?

High level work that makes you feel like you’re advancing the science appeals to me. Pushing yourself as far as you can is very empowering. Thankfully, academics allows us to do that. The work I’m doing now provides the opportunity to identify better solutions that can have a direct impact on people’s lives, and that part is pretty cool.

Whatever you do, it needs to be of the highest quality. That’s the hallmark of good academic research. To be able to help the people of North Carolina and coastal areas is a real bonus.

In 2010, I spent a year as chief economist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (The senior executive service position serves as senior advisor for all aspects of NOAA’s economics and social science efforts in support of a climate responsive nation, sustainable coastal communities and ecosystems, a weather-ready nation, and sustainable and resilient fisheries.)

In April 2010 we had Deepwater Horizon so it was a very busy summer. I did not go to the explosion site, but I was on the science team that had twice weekly meetings from June until the fall. We determined what kind of scientific information needed to be collected and what kind of scientific work needed to be done.

We were able to initiate a new project looking at community health and resiliency and an oral history project.  It was difficult to get new economic projects going even though NOAA and BP were cooperating on collecting geological and biological samples. With the expectation of future litigation, there was a close hold on any information pertaining to economic research at NOAA, the Department of Commerce and the interagency level.

Q. How do you measure the impact of your research?      

That’s the challenge of academics in general. Hopefully we’re advancing the science to lead to good solutions, better financial instruments, and a better understanding of how people make decisions that lead to more effective policy. The introduction to every proposal for externally funded research includes a motivation of why it is important to advance the science and the broader beneficial impacts that are expected. When faculty do high quality work that is important to the region and publish the work in outlets including well-regarded academic journals, this enhances the reputation of the university nationally and internationally and benefits the region.

Q. What will you showcase at the open presentation during research week?

I’ll talk about the economics of natural hazards and define the measurable effects of natural disasters. When a disaster occurs, it’s a hardship, but certain economic measures improve afterwards. History indicates that some regions come back stronger than ever. The challenge is to identify the kinds of public investment that spur faster recovery or reduce the adverse impact of a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Q. What are your thoughts on receiving a lifetime achievement award?  

It’s thrilling. Looking at the others who have been honored – it’s humbling.

I’ve been very appreciative of the collegiality of the research community at ECU, especially the coastal community. There are a lot of good people here.

Crystal Baity


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WALTER J. PORIES: Career of discovery


Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Dr. Walter J. Pories

Dr. Walter J. Pories, a surgeon and researcher, has received the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for Research and Creative Activity from East Carolina University.

Pories, 82, is a professor of surgery, biochemistry and sport and exercise science at ECU.

He joined ECU in 1977 as chair of the Department of Surgery at the university’s medical school, which had just begun its four-year program. While here, he modified a type of weight-loss surgery into the “Greenville Gastric Bypass” and showed conclusively that not only does it result in durable weight loss but also causes a long-term remission of type 2 diabetes in patients who have diabetes and undergo the surgery.

Among other honors, Pories is the 2001 recipient of O. Max Gardner Award, the highest honor given by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

In addition to being a scientist and physician, he’s also a painter.

Pories recently answered some questions about his career and what’s next for him.

Q: As a medical student, you conducted research showing that zinc was a vital nutrient in livestock and people. How important is it to not only be a physician but also a researcher?

A:  Everybody is a scientist. If you tried two spoonfuls of sugar in your cup of coffee instead of one, you’re a scientist. Children bouncing a ball, damming a creek, building, catching fish are all budding scientists. We need to reward that joy. And if they do mess up, instead of getting angry, ask, “What did you learn?” All really good physicians are scientists as well.

Dr. Walter Pories

Born in Munich, Germany.

Family: Mary Ann Rose, professor and interim associate dean, ECU College of Nursing

Five daughters, one son

College: Wesleyan University, Middleton, Conn.

Medical school, residency and fellowship: University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y.

Military service: U.S. Air Force (ret.)

Q: What have been the top two or three highlights of your career?

Seeing a patient get better. That’s an incredible reward. You operate on a baby with a congenital defect, and you come back three or four hours later and the baby is hungry and wants something to drink. That’s amazing.

Making a difference with students. There is great joy in restoring a student’s confidence, in broadening his outlook, in validating her capabilities to manage difficult concepts. Teaching is such a privilege.

Making a difference in society. You get a whole lot more back than you give. When my mentor, Dr. (William) Strain (at the University of Rochester) and I discovered that zinc was an essential element for animals and man, we showed that two cents worth of zinc added to a ton of feed increased feed efficiency by 20 percent, brought broilers to market in six rather than 10 weeks and accelerated first egg laying by 45 days, we made a difference in food production around the world. That’s very rewarding and made the effort of testing that thesis very worthwhile.

Q: What are the main things you stress to students and residents?

A: I think the word “care.” It’s one thing to render care. It’s another thing to really care. (Pories’ daughter Dr. Susan Pories is a surgeon and editor of “The Soul of a Doctor:  Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death.”) She tells students every patient has a story. If you don’t know the story, you don’t know the patient. It’s getting that story that makes you a physician. The real surgeon is a family physician who knows how to operate.

Pories retired from operating at age 70 but still follows up with former patients and has continued with research related to his Greenville Gastric Bypass and diabetes. He did not want to speak on the record about his latest research until it is published, but he and longtime collaborator Dr. Lynis Dohm, a research professor in the Department of Physiology at the medical school, have been studying ways to create a medicine that will mimic the remission of diabetes that follows gastric bypass surgery.

“I can barely go to sleep at night,” Pories said of his current research. “Wouldn’t you be excited?”

The wonders of nature and discovery aren’t limited to Pories’ lab. Recently, one of his cows gave birth.

“The calf got up and was attached to the mother still with the umbilical cord,” he said. “Can you imagine? Eventually, it fixed itself. We have a lot to learn from nature.”

Doug Boyd


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