March 22, 2023

Inaugural event celebrates 46 Purdue professors as early career awards winners


Purdue University honored 46 of its rising young faculty members on Monday (March 20) at the inaugural Early Career Awards celebration, acknowledging their success as recipients of awards from federal agencies that recognize outstanding early career researchers.

President Mung Chiang, Provost Patrick Wolfe and Executive Vice President for Research Karen Plaut hosted the 90-minute event for the award winners from 2022 and so far in 2023 at Purdue Memorial Union’s East and West Faculty Lounges. The event also featured a panel discussion moderated by Provost Wolfe with six of Purdue’s early career award winners who offered tips, best practices and their personal successes with grant proposals.

The 46 honorees came from the Purdue colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, Health and Human Sciences, Pharmacy, Purdue Polytechnic and Science. The full list of professors honored can be found here. The deans of several of the colleges recognized the awardees along with the heads of schools or departments where the faculty have appointments.

Early career awards celebration Purdue University honored 46 of its rising young faculty members on Monday (March 20) at the inaugural Early Career Awards celebration. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood) Download image

“We selected you to be a part of the Purdue community because we saw your great potential, and these results demonstrate that others saw that potential, too,” said Mark Lundstrom, interim dean of the College of Engineering and the Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Each year, major federal agencies make funding available in support of early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research. 

A main part of the event was the panel discussion featuring professors from each of the Purdue colleges represented in the past year’s list of awardees. Highlighting lessons learned from their grant-writing experiences, the six faculty members wrote multiple early career research award proposals that were funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies.

On the panel were Ephrem Abebe, assistant professor of pharmacy practice; Christopher Brinton, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Somali Chaterji, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering; Monica Kasting, assistant professor of public health; Christina Li, assistant professor of inorganic chemistry; and Paul Parsons, associate professor of computer graphics technology.

Panel discussion Provost Patrick Wolfe, at the podium, moderated a panel discussion with six young faculty members at Purdue during the inaugural Early Career Research Awards event. On the panel, from left, are Purdue professors Ephrem Abebe, Christopher Brinton, Somali Chaterji, Monica Kasting, Christina Li and Paul Parsons. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood) Download image

“I think I learned as much and perhaps even more from the unsuccessful proposals than I did from the successful ones,” Parsons said.

Professor Li shared that her third try was the charm for winning a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, after one proposal that played it too safe while the second swung too far in the other direction. “Finding that happy medium was the key,” Li said.

Provost Wolfe amplified several discussion points based on his own experience as the former  dean of the College of Science and a professor of statistics and computer science. Other key takeaways expressed by the group included:

  • Being persistent in seeking updates from program managers in the funding agencies.
  • Taking to heart the feedback from rejected grants to incorporate into the next proposal.
  • Realizing self-promotion at the right place and time can be a good thing.
  • Understanding the rhythm of deadlines and holidays, and remembering that a proposal finished on time is better than a perfect proposal that’s late.
  • Developing a deep network of colleagues, particularly senior Purdue faculty, who can mentor and support your academic pursuits.

“Building up that network may not yield a result in three, six or 12 months, but by being patient and persistent and drawing on our institution’s strengths and support, you can grow on the success that we are seeing from all of you here,” Wolfe said.

In closing, Plaut reminded the early career faculty of Purdue’s vast resources in the support of writing successful grant proposals.

“Mentors. Networks. Relationships. Stay true to your passion but adjust to what program managers in the funding agencies are saying – that’s what makes a successful proposal,” Plaut told her colleagues. “Your research is the innovation engine of Purdue. You define the future of this great university.”

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