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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

First group of researchers receives award created by former UA president Sander

Three UA associate professors were the first to receive the new 1885 Distinguished Scholar Award, created by former President Eugene Sander.

Shelly Cooper in the School of Music, Donna Wolk in the department of pathology and Nathan Cherrington in the department of pharmacology and toxicology were the first recipients of the new award for their advancements in research and involvement in the community.

Out of 45 nominees submitted from various university departments, the three associate professors were each selected to win a $10,000 award to further their research. The money comes from the 1885 Society, a non-profit organization within the UA Foundation that provides funding assistance to areas in need at the university.

Each college submitted applicants for review and one from each college was selected for consideration, Wolk said. The nominees were then narrowed down to 45 people. For the final selection, a board including the university president and regents scholars reviewed the applicants in the spring 2012 semester.

Wolk was recognized by the society for identifying the cause of blood stream infections more quickly than ever before, contributing to a decline in mortality rates by 30 percent.

According to Wolk, a test that used to take three to four days to identify the cause of infection now takes less than 24 hours.

Despite receiving the award herself, Wolk said that the recognition extends to her colleagues as well.

“The biggest thing for me is that everyone on my team worked so hard,” she added. “And to have them recognized is so great, even if it is through me.”

Wolk plans to put the award money toward data research, to help categorize staph infections in Arizona and identify deadly strains more quickly.

Cooper was chosen because of her leading developments in understanding how immersing children in music and language can improve their cognitive ability. Cooper said she was in shock when she received the letter, because music education is not typically recognized and awarded on such a competetive level.

“Music can serve as a creative tool for self confidence, self success,” she said.

Through her research, Cooper has discovered that teaching music to preschool-aged children boosts brain development and increases vocabulary.

Cooper has created songs from classic children’s literature, which she gives to teachers and children to aid in the developmental process. She plans to use her award money to fund a preschool program that is on the UA campus, called Musical Play at the UA. According to Cooper, the program was not able to run last year because of budget cuts, but with the help of the award money, the program will be offered to children ages 2 to 5.

“I’m very appreciative to have been chosen,” Cooper said.

Cherrington said he was “honored” to receive the award for his research on how the human liver metabolizes and eliminates drugs and toxins.

He added that his lab’s recent emphasis on the role of fatty liver disease in altering the metabolism and disposition of drugs was a result of a group discussion. Fatty liver disease makes people metabolize drugs slower, according to Cherrington, who has developed a test to determine how the liver metabolizes different drugs.

Cherrington said that the clinical research is very expensive and the award money will go toward furthering his knowledge of the subject.

The three award winners will be publicly recognized at an awards ceremony on Sept. 14, followed by a reception and dinner.

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