Academy of Distinguished Researchers

Academy of Distinguished Researchers


The Academy of Distinguished Researchers was established in 2015 to select and honor outstanding faculty who are accomplished scholars and who share the University’s continuing commitment to research excellence; to foster the highest quality of research and scholarly activity by UTSA faculty; and to promote the University’s vision as a premier public research university. The Bylaws and Executive Committee Membership are available for review.

“High-quality faculty is a key component for eligibility into the National Research University Fund (NRUF). This academy serves as a way to recognize such faculty and the high caliber of research being done at UTSA,” said Bernard Arulanandam, vice president for Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise at UTSA.

The Academy, chaired by Dr. Hamid Beladi, now has 24 members, representing the Colleges of Business; Education and Human Development; Engineering; Liberal and Fine Arts; Health, Community, & Policy; and Sciences.

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College of Engineering | Emeritus & Charter Member

David Akopian is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and most recently, associate dean of research for the College of Engineering (now the College of Engineering and Integrated Design). His research interests are in a broad area of communication and navigation systems, focusing on wireless sensing, communication, location technologies, and mobile applications such as human-machine automated dialog systems and mobile health.

Akopian was inducted as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2016 and has over 30 patents. He is the founder and director of the UTSA Software Communications and Navigation Systems Laboratory. Since 2004, his lab has trained more than 100 students who have gone on to successful careers at a variety of companies, including Apple, Google, Samsung, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Intel, and Verizon.



College of Engineering and Integrated Design | Inducted in 2021

My research focuses on the development of scientific tools applicable to the theory and practice of visual data analytics and security systems. As both an engineering professor and entrepreneur, I am often asked for my views on whether entrepreneurship can even be taught. After all, entrepreneurial experience may be tough to get within the bounds of a full-time educational and research experience. What follows is my research philosophy and vision on what I think it takes to help students develop the core technical and practical skills to change the world for the better.

Over the past 20 years, I have taught and did research under three basic principles: 1) inspire knowledge in students; 2) stress creativity and imagination in their work; 3) offer them the opportunity to do more. These principles have been fundamental to my success as an instructor and researcher. My long-term research agenda is to work with students and faculty to help form a global, interdisciplinary research team, emphasizing the usage of complex digital big-data processing technologies to solve the engineering challenges currently facing the military, biomedical, health, and industrial organizations.



College of Health, Community, & Policy | Inducted in 2019

John Bartkowski is a sociology professor whose appointment at UTSA began in 2008. One strand of his research examines the intersection between religion, family, gender, and child development. Another considers the role of government agencies, faith-based organizations, and secular nonprofits in fostering public health and community development, often with a focus on Mississippi. He has evaluated and collaborated in research projects funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kellogg Foundation, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, among other federal agencies and foundations.

William Faulkner said, “To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.” Bartkowski aims to do both. His current research examines how worldwide forces such as globalization, consumerism, economic restructuring, and political transformations influence local community dynamics and social identities in particular geographical locales as diverse as Mississippi, Hawaii, and various European countries. He uses mixed methods with qualitative and quantitative data collected from individuals, households, organizations, and whole communities to examine these phenomena.



College of Business | Chair, Academy of Distinguished Researchers | Charter Member

Professor Beladi is the Janey S. Briscoe Endowed Chair in Business. He is the co-founder of the International Review of Economics and Finance ( Elsevier) and served as editor from 1992-2018. He is the editor-in-chief of the North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier ( 2010-present), Series editor of Frontiers of Economics and Globalization, Emerald ( 2006-present), and associate editor of Review of International Economics, Wiley (1992-present). He also serves as a member of the editorial boards of several other academic journals. He is a co-founder of the International Economics and Finance Society (IEFS).

Professor Beladi has published extensively in a wide spectrum of high-quality and leading scholarly journals including over 300 papers in peer-reviewed academic journals. He also has published and co-edited 20 research volumes. His research interests include The economics of migration of skilled and unskilled labor, International trade in technology, Global outsourcing, and Fraudulent financial practices.

“Research contributes to the production of knowledge, while teaching is concerned with the distribution of knowledge in society. The process of production and distribution in this context are so intertwined that any effort to disentangle them is simply meaningless. Teaching without research quickly becomes stereotyped, unexciting, and far removed from the ever-growing frontiers of knowledge, while research without teaching becomes unintelligible and uncommunicative. Continuous interaction with fresh minds through teaching makes research more proactive and highly productive”, said Beladi.



College of Engineering | Charter Member

Professor Bizios’ research interests include cellular bioengineering, tissue regeneration, tissue engineering, biomaterials and biocompatibility. Her research has used cultured mammalian cells, various biochemical/biological assays and novel, custom-made laboratory set-ups to address (at the cellular, molecular and gene levels) fundamental questions pertinent to functions of cells from select soft and hard connective tissues.

In vitro studies investigated cell interactions with implant materials (including nanostructured ones), chemical modification of substrate material surfaces, as well as the effects of biochemical cues (e.g., growth factors) and select biophysical stimuli (specifically, sustained and cyclic pressure and electric current) to promote cell (including stem cell) functions pertinent to new tissue formation. In addition to elucidating fundamental scientific aspects relevant to cellular/biomedical engineering, the results of these research endeavors have the potential of applications in tissue engineering and biotechnology and of contributions to the medical milieu.

image of Krystel Castillo


College of Engineering and Integrated Design | Inducted in 2021

Krystel Castillo is the GreenStar Endowed Professor in Energy in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She has led research efforts in energy and sustainability through the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute since 2017, including the strategic alliance and research portfolio of up to $50 million with CPS Energy, the largest municipally-owned electric and gas utility in the country.

Castillo has built a strong research group with expertise in the creation of optimization algorithms to solve large-scale instances of engineering systems, as well as big data analytics methods with applications to the engineering fields of clean energy, defense manufacturing and cybersecurity for manufacturing. As part of the $111 million Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute residing at UTSA, Castillo serves as its vice president for energy efficiency. She is mission-driven in contributing theoretical and pragmatic innovations to secure and sustain American leadership in global manufacturing competitiveness.

image of Catherine Clinton


College of Liberal and Fine Arts | Inducted in 2018

Catherine Clinton is a pioneering historian of American women, the American South and the Civil War. She is the author or editor of over 30 books, including The Plantation Mistress: Woman’s World in the Old South; Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom; Mrs. Lincoln: A LIfe. She has earned a B.A. from Harvard, her M.A. from the University of Sussex, and her Ph.D. from Princeton. She has taught previously at the Citadel, Wesleyan, Brandeis, and she is an emerita professor at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she taught from 2006-2014. She is the co-editor of HISTORY IN THE HEADLINES, a series from the University of Georgia Press, and the former series editor of PERSPECTIVES ON AMERICAN CULTURE, Oxford University Press.

Clinton served as President of the Southern Historical Association in 2016, the same year that she won a Guggenheim Fellowship. She has been a member of the Society of American Historians for over thirty years. She served as a consultant for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012) and to the Department of Treasure during their plan to put a woman on American currency. She is on several scholarly advisory boards including History Studio (Los Angeles) the Museum of the Troubles and Peace (Belfast, Northern Ireland), Ford’s Theatre (Washington, D.C.), The Lincoln Forum, and The Alamo.

image of William Cooke


College of Education and Human Development | Charter Member

My research focuses on autonomic cardiovascular and cerebrovascular control mechanisms in humans. I have studied the influence of long- and short-duration microgravity exposure and exercise training on cardiovagal and sympathetic baroreflex responses. I have studied fundamental associations among arterial pressure, muscle sympathetic nerve activity and heart rate variability under resting conditions, and during challenges such as exercise, orthostatic and simulated orthostatic stress.

I have applied my experience in human cardiovascular control mechanisms to issues of traumatic injury in both civilian and military populations, and I have focused on developing remote triage technologies for mass-casualty situations. My immediate plans involve documenting changes in autonomic neural and cardiovascular control mechanisms in patients recovering from severe burns, and in those suffering from post-traumatic stress.

image of Christopher Ellison


College of Health, Community, & Policy | Charter Member

Christopher G. Ellison has been Professor of Sociology and Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Social Science at UTSA since 2010. Ellison’s research centers on several topics: (1) the implications of religion and spirituality for mental and physical health and mortality risk; (2) religious variations in family life, with particular attention to intimate relationships and child-rearing; (3) the role of religion among racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States; (4) religious influences on attitudes and policy preferences in the United States; and (5) public opinion on issues involving race and ethnicity.

He is especially interested in improving strategies for identifying and measuring the aspects of religiosity that are most germane to health, family life, and other domains of life experience. Ellison has published two books and nearly 200 peer-reviewed articles and chapters in prominent outlets in sociology, public health, religious studies, psychology, gerontology, political science, and allied fields.

image of Bridget Drinka


College of Liberal and Fine Arts | Inducted in 2021

Bridget Drinka has been a professor of linguistics in the Department of English since 1991. She specializes in Indo-European and historical linguistics. Her research has focused on such issues as the sociolinguistic motivations for language change, the role of contact in linguistic innovation, and the importance of geographical contiguity in the diffusion of changes across the Indo-European languages. Drinka was also a faculty research fellow for UTSA Knowledge Enterprise, helping to launch the Academy Fellows Speaker Series.

Her greatest research achievement is her latest book, Language Contact in Europe: The Periphrastic Perfect through History(2017), published by Cambridge University Press. In 2019, the book was awarded the most prestigious book award in the field of linguistics, the Leonard Bloomfield Book Award, by the Linguistic Society of America. The book takes an in-depth and comprehensive look at the malleable construction, the “periphrastic perfect,” as it spread across the map of Europe from its earliest attested usage in Ancient Greek to the modern European languages.

image of Robert Hard


College of Liberal and Fine Arts | Inducted in 2020

I think some of the most important questions in anthropology revolve around the adoption and spread of farming, as the development of a plant producing economy is fundamental to many later cultural changes. I pursue related issues in Northern Mexico, the American Southwest, and Texas, which contain a diversity of ecological settings and archaeological records of past hunter-gatherers and early farming societies.

Our work in northwest Chihuahua, Mexico documented rapid and early adoption of farming in the form of a hilltop defensive settlement known as Cerro Juanaqueña. In contrast, on the Texas Coastal Plain, our stable isotope studies have demonstrated a long record of hunter-gatherer adaptations involving the intensive use of aquatic resources. Currently, we are working in southern Chihuahua attempting to understand the adoption of farming in this little-known region that lies near northern boundary of Mesoamerica.

image of Jenny Hsieh


College of Sciences | Inducted in 2020

The Hsieh laboratory studies the cellular and molecular markers that control neural stem cells in the hippocampus (“adult neurogenesis”) as well as a “disease-in-a dish” approach, which uses patient stem cells to re-create human brain disorders in the lab. They were the first group to use a transgenic mouse to ablate adult-born granule neurons, and they showed this decreased seizure development later in life. The lab also uses optogenetic and chemogenetic tools to define the critical period and circuit mechanism that govern the aberrant properties of adult-born granule neurons in the hippocampus circuitry.

To translate their work to patients, the lab uses human induced pluripotent stem cells to evaluate the role of genetic mutations in epilepsy and neurodegenerative disorders, ultimately for precision medicine. The lab’s goal is to develop novel strategies to treat or prevent neurological disorders, such as acquired and genetic forms of epilepsy. or neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

image of Yufei Huang


College of Engineering | Inducted in 2019

Yufei Huang has been a professor with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (COE) since 2002 with a dual appointment as adjunct professor with the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UT Health SA. He has also been a visiting professor at the Center of Bioinformatics, Harvard Center for Neurodegeneration & Repair.

Huang’s expertise is in the areas of computational biology, computational neuroergonomics, brain computer interface, statistical modeling, and Bayesian methods. He is currently focusing on uncovering the functions of mRNA methylation using high throughput sequencing technologies, developing passive EEG-based brain-machine-interaction, and deep learning algorithms for EEG data analysis.

image of John McCarrey


College of Sciences | Inducted in 2016

Research in Dr. McCarrey’s lab is centered on mammalian germ cells and stem cells. Experimental models include the mouse, the baboon, and the opossum. The lab is interested in the epigenetic regulation of cell functions, including determination of cell fates, maintenance of genetic integrity, regulation of gene expression, genomic imprinting, X-chromosome inactivation and meiotic sex chromosome inactivation, methods of assisted reproduction, the evolution of tissue-specific gene expression in mammalian species, and developing the baboon as a model system for testing stem cell-based therapeutic applications.

image of Aimin Liu


College of Science | Inducted in 2021

Dr. Liu is a biochemist with the scientific nickname Feradical. Originally from Mainland China and graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China, he received a doctorate from Stockholm University. He conducted postdoctoral research as a Royal Society KC Wong Fellow at the University of Newcastle and the University of Minnesota. He was a Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry at Georgia State University before taking the current Lutcher Brown Distinguished Chair in Biochemistry at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is an elected Fellow of AAAS and Royal Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The primary research interest of Dr. Liu (@Dr_Feradical) is determining the chemical basis for the roles of metal ions and protein-based free radicals in biology. His laboratory has well-recognized expertise in mechanistic enzymology and metalloprotein structure-function relationships. His research projects span a broad range of topics involving amino acid oxidation and metabolism, cofactor biogenesis via protein posttranslational modification, biosynthesis of novel antitumor products and antibiotics, and redox sensing and regulations. His interdisciplinary and highly productive research program has resulted in findings of the biological charge resonance concept, new cancer immunotherapy targets, and strategies for combating infectious diseases and drug resistance.

image of Jose Lopez-Ribot


College of Sciences | Inducted in 2017

His laboratory studies fungal infections, with an emphasis on the opportunistic pathogenic fungus Candida albicans, the main causative agent of candidiasis affecting an increasing number of immune- and medically-compromised patients. Work in his laboratory encompasses from the basic biology of the cell wall, biofilm formation, adhesion and morphogenetic conversions, to the use of animal models to better understand virulence and host responses, to the more translational and clinical aspects such as antifungal drug development, drug resistance and vaccines; with the ultimate goal of devising new strategies for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of candidiasis. In 2016, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.



College of Engineering | Inducted in 2017

Joo L. Ong, Ph.D., is the USAA Foundation Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He also serves as the Associate Dean of Administration and Graduate Studies, College of Engineering and the Interim Department Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

His primary research focuses on modifications and characterization of implant biomaterial surfaces for dental and orthopedic applications, tissue-engineered bioceramic scaffolds for bone regeneration, protein-biomaterials interactions, and bone-biomaterials interactions. Dr. Ong is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

image of Gelu Popescu


College of Sciences | Inducted in 2018

Gelu Popescu’s research interests include functional analysis, operator theory and operator algebras; noncommutative multivariable operator theory; and noncommutative harmonic analysis and interpolation. He is extremely productive in terms of his research, highly recognized in his field and produces scholarly works of considerable scope and depth. Since arriving at UTSA 24 years ago, Popescu has published on average about three research papers a year in the area of pure mathematics, which tend to run in the hundreds of pages.

The majority of these papers appears in the top ranked journals in the field – Advances in Mathematics, Memoirs of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), Journal of Functional Analysis, Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, Mathematishe Annalen, Journal fur die Reine unde Angewandte Mathematics, and Comptes Rendus de L’Academie de Science. He has published three monographs through the Memoirs of the AMS, the most prestigious U.S. society of mathematics that have cemented his reputation as one of the world’s top experts in operator theory and the foremost scholar in non-commutative multivariable operatory theory. Popescu’s mathematical research has broken new ground and opened entire new avenues for scholarship. Popescu’s work is frequently cited by world-renowned mathematics including Fields medalists.

image of H. Raghav Rao


College of Business | Inducted in 2019

Dr. H.R. Rao is the AT&T Distinguished Chair in Infrastructure Assurance and Security at The University of Texas at San Antonio Carlos Alvarez College of Business. He also holds a courtesy appointment as full professor in the UTSA Department of Computer Science. Prior to working at UTSA, Professor Rao was the SUNY Distinguished Service Professor at the University at Buffalo. He graduated from Krannert Graduate School of Management at Purdue University. Professor Rao was inducted into the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Researchers in 2019. He is a Fellow of the AIS and a Information Systems Society Distinguished Fellow.

Dr. Rao was the recipient of the AIS fellow award for 2021. Professor Rao was the inaugural recipient of The Bright Internet Award for his contributions to the information systems discipline by KMIS, the Korea Society of Management Information Systems. In 2018 Professor Rao was awarded the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Outstanding Service Award for significant service contributions to the field of information systems and information systems security. In November 2016, Professor Rao received the prestigious Information Systems Society Distinguished Fellow Award (Class of 2016) for outstanding intellectual contributions to the information systems discipline.

image of Jeanne Reesman


College of Liberal and Fine Arts | Charter Member

Jeanne Campbell Reesman is the Jack and Laura Richmond Endowed Faculty Fellow in American Literature and Professor of English at UTSA. She is in her 30th year as a UTSA faculty member. She has been a highly-regarded teacher and teaches a broad range of courses mostly on the fiction of the fin de siecle period. She has served as Graduate Dean and earlier Division Director of English, Classics, Philosophy and Communication. She has an extremely extensive record of publications including approximately 60 books.

These include monographs, edited collections, editions (in French), reference works and textbooks. She has served as a United States Fulbright Professor in Thessaloniki, Greece, and Aix-en-Provence, France. Her most recent publications include Jack London’s Racial Lives and Jack London Photographer. She is presently at work on a collection of reminiscences of Jack London for the University of Iowa Press and on her large project Mark Twain vs. God: The Story of a Relationship.

image of Rogelio Saenz


College of Health, Community, and Policy | Inducted in 2021

Rogelio Sáenz, a sociologist and demographer, is a professor in the Department of Demography. His current research is calling attention to and tracking the impact of COVID-19 on the Latino population. He has been nationally recognized for his contribution to scholarship on Latinos and on social justice with an eye toward driving equity, justice and equal human rights for racially marginalized populations. Most recently, this includes collaborative research on a grant funded by the Department of Health and Human Services for strengthening health literacy and recovery from COVID-19 in San Antonio.

His book Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change was a labor of love, with the goal to increase the visibility of Latinos in this country. It is one of the few written broadly with numerous topics related to Latinos and is popular with undergraduate classes across the country. Along with his former graduate student and now established scholar, Cristina Morales, they are working on the second edition of the book. Sáenz is the recipient of the 2021 American Sociological Association Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award and the 2020 Saber es Poder Academic Excellence Award from the University of Arizona’s Department of Mexican American Studies.

image of Ravi Sandhu


College of Sciences | Charter Member

Ravi Sandhu began his research career in cyber security models and systems with his Ph.D. dissertation in the early 1980s. His seminal work on role-based access control led to the current dominance of this model in commercial systems, including direct incorporation in an influential NIST-ANSI standard. His work on usage control models continues to lay the foundation for future access control systems. More recently, his team has developed models for attribute-based access control, relationship-based access control and provenance-based access control and studied their possible unification.

Applications of these models have been investigated in cloud, mobile and social computing systems. His most recent project is to develop identity and access control models for the emerging Internet of Things. Looking ahead he expects many opportunities for ground breaking research in developing access control and authorization models and systems in future systems.

image of Joachim Singelmann


College of Health, Community, & Policy | Emeritus & Charter Member

Joachim Singelmann is chair of the Department of Demography and the Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at The University of Texas at San Antonio. His previous positions were at Louisiana State University, United Nations Population Division, University of California-San Diego and Vanderbilt University. He obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Singelmann’s research areas include industrial restructuring, transitions from central planning to market economies, development, sociodemographic consequences of disasters and inequality and poverty. His research has been funded by several foundations including NSF and by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, the Interior and Agriculture.

Dr. Singelmann is the author of From Agriculture to Services (Sage); co-author of The End of Class Society? (Transfer); and co-editor of Inequalities in Labor Market Areas (Westview). He is currently editing the International Handbook of Poverty Populations (Springer) and Demographic Challenges for 2020 (Springer). His research has been published in the major social science journals in the United States and Europe, including Demography, American Journal of Sociology, European Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Rural Sociology and Demographic Research. Dr. Singelmann has been the editor of Rural Sociology and president of the Southern Demographic Association and the Rural Sociological Society.

image of John Wald


College of Business | Charter Member

John Wald is a Professor of Finance at The University of Texas at San Antonio. After getting his Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley, John was on the faculty at Rutgers University, Penn State University and then at UTSA. John’s research is primarily in the area of corporate finance, and it includes issues in law and finance, international finance and executive compensation. He has published in the Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of Financial & Quantitative Analysis, Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Business and other journals.

He currently serves on the editorial review board for the Journal of International Business Studies. He teaches classes at the undergraduate, MBA, and Ph.D. levels on corporate finance and international finance topics.

image of Charles Wilson


College of Sciences | Charter Member

Dr. Wilson’s lab studies the circuitry and neurons of the basal ganglia, with the goal of understanding the computational function of these structures at the cellular level, and their dysfunction in diseases, especially Parkinson’s Disease. Their experiments are focused on the ionic mechanisms that endow each cell type with its characteristic responses to synaptic input, the patterns of connectivity that deliver specific inputs to each cell and the dynamics that arise from the combination of these.