December 10, 2021

Showalter Trust honors three new scholars, funds 11 early career faculty

Three Purdue faculty members – Mingji Dai, Haley Oliver and Yuan Yao – have been appointed as Showalter Faculty Scholars. As of July, they joined 11 additional Showalter Scholars appointed in prior years at Purdue West Lafayette.

The Showalter Trust programs at Purdue also have named 11 early career faculty members for 2021 grants to support their research projects.

The Ralph W. and Grace M. Showalter Research Trust Fund annually provides funding to Purdue in support of scientific and medical research. In addition to selecting midcareer professionals as Showalter Faculty Scholars and providing one-year funding for early career professionals, the trust also supports two Showalter Distinguished Professors at Purdue, Charles Bouman and Kinam Park.

Mingji Dai Mingji Dai

2021 Showalter Faculty Scholars

Mingji Dai is a professor of chemistry, Organic Division chair in the Department of Chemistry and co-leader of the Targets, Structures, and Drugs Program of the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. His lab focuses on developing new strategies and methodologies for the synthesis and biological study of complex natural products and medicinally important molecules. His work includes a focus on both natural and unnatural molecules with particular potential for the treatment of cancer, central nervous system disorders, and infectious diseases.

Haley Oliver Haley Oliver

Haley Oliver, professor of food science in the College of Agriculture and director of the USAID Feed the Future Food Safety Innovation Lab, studies the prevalence, persistence, and transmission of L. monocytogenes and salmonella in retail food systems as well as development of practical and feasible control strategies aimed to reduce cross-contamination. As director of the Food Safety Innovation Lab, she develops and oversees USAID’s food safety research portfolio, which is currently implemented in Senegal, Kenya, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Tanzania and Nepal.

Yuan Yao Yuan Yao

Yuan Yao, professor of food science in the College of Agriculture, studies carbohydrates and functional nano-biomaterials, as well as the study of interactions among food ingredients and the development of value-added materials for the food and non-food industries. His focus on technology development and commercialization of his research has led to the formation of two startup companies. 

Purdue faculty members were nominated in partnership with the provost’s University Faculty Scholars program and approved by an external selection committee of distinguished scientists representing the Showalter Research Trust. Funding from the trust, $5,000 annually, complements equivalent funding from the Office of the Provost.

2021 Showalter Early Career Awards

The Ralph W. and Grace M. Showalter Research Trust has supported Purdue researchers for more than 40 years in priority research areas of environmental science; biochemistry and molecular biology; disease prevention, diagnosis, progression, treatment and control; new technologies for food production, preservation, distribution and safety; and medical and biophysical instrumentation.

As the centerpiece of Showalter Trust support at Purdue, the program provides early career faculty members with one-year grants. This year, 11 faculty members received up to $75,000 each in funding for the projects named:

Kajal Gulati, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics: “Strategies for Increasing Food Safety Practices Among Smallholder Farmers: The Case of Aflatoxins Reduction in Senegal.”

Jason Hanna, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences: “CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Engineering to Identify Drivers of Angiosarcoma.”

Brock Harpur, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology: “How Does a Honey Bee Reverse Cognitive Decline: Characterizing the Roles of Taxonomically Novel Proteins in Regulating Senescence.”

Greg Henderson, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Science: “Altering Lipid Metabolism to Improve Insulin Sensitivity: Impaired Exercise Capacity as a Potential Side Effect.”

Krishna Jayant, assistant professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering: “Role of Fibrillar Alpha‐Synuclein Strains in Motor Learning Deficits in Parkinson’s Disease.”

Robert Nawrocki, assistant professor in the School of Engineering Technology: “Stretchable and Breathable Nanomesh Electrode Array for Transdermal Stimulation of Deep Nerves in Human Subjects.”

Jonathan Pasternak, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Sciences: “Understanding Hormonal Regulation of Systemic and Reproductive Immunity.”

Carlos Perez-Torres, assistant professor in the School of Health Sciences: “Protective Effect of Genetic Inhibition of Neuroinflammation in Radiation-induced Brain Injury.”

Scott Pluta, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences: “Neural Mechanisms Underlying Selective Attention.”

Allison Schaser, assistant professor in the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences: “A New Approach Toward the Development of Cranial Sensorimotor Assays to Diagnose and Treat Synuclein-specific Neurodegeneration.”

Luis Solorio, assistant professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering: “Determining the Role of Mechanotransduction in Metastatic Breast Cancer.”

Selected projects were chosen by the external Showalter Selection Committee after review by an internal Purdue committee. 

More information about the current competition for the Showalter Trust early career grants program is available online.

Faculty-Staff News

More News

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2015-22 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Office of Strategic Communications

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact News Service at