Four of the University of Utah’s faculty members have been recognized as Presidential Scholars, an award made possible by the contributions of an anonymous donor. This award honors the extraordinary research and academic efforts of early- to mid-career faculty members and provides them with financial backing to support their scholarly, teaching or research initiatives.

“Attracting and retaining faculty members who are leading scholars and educators in their fields is essential to the long-term vibrancy pf our institution,” said Ruth Watkins, senior vice president of Academic Affairs at the U. “This year’s four recipients of the Presidential Scholar award are incredibly deserving of this recognition, and we look forward to honoring and funding more faculty in future years.”

Each year, new presidential scholars are recognized, and recipients receive funding for three years. The 2016 cohort of faculty scholars includes:


Amy Barrios
Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry
Department of Medicinal Chemistry

Amy Barrios is an expert in bioinorganic, bioorganic and medicinal chemistry with a strong track record of developing tools and technologies that enable drug discovery. Her research currently investigates the roles of the human gut microbiota in colon cancer development and the involvement of the protein tyrosine phosphatase family of enzymes in the development of autoimmunity. Barrios collaborates with a diverse group of world-class scientists, including a renowned team at the Swiss National Research Institute (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, and biotech companies in the San Francisco Bay area and Texas. Barrios is an enthusiastic and effective educator and mentor of students and scientists at all levels, from undergraduate to postdoctorate. As an integral faculty member central to the success of her department, funding from the Presidential Scholar award will be used to help support Barrios’s research endeavors in developing new approaches to treat autoimmunity and microbiota-associated diseases.

bryanc_photoCraig Bryan
Associate Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Craig Bryan has devoted his career to developing effective and scalable interventions for suicide risk reduction in military veterans. Bryan’s research focuses on the early detection of veterans at risk of suicide through screenings in primary care settings and warnings on social media platforms. Having authored more than 100 journal publications, Bryan’s research is not only influential in suicide prevention with military personnel, but in illustrating the progression from suicide ideation to suicide attempts on a larger scale. Funding from the Presidential Scholar award will help support Bryan’s mission to bring together experts in psychology and cutting-edge technology to create a more effective way of preventing suicide, and delivering that method to military personnel unwilling or unable to access traditional mental health treatment.


Michael Shapiro
Associate Professor of Biology
Department of Biology

Michael Shapiro is internationally recognized for his original and innovative research in the field of evolutionary development biology. A true master in evolutionary sciences, Shapiro’s work spans the evolution of morphological diversity in stickleback fishes to the genetic changes responsible for morphological variation in domesticated pigeons. Because several of the genes he’s discovered in pigeons are similar to those linked to diseases in humans, Shapiro’s findings have expanded scientific understanding of the genetic factors of significant human conditions, like blindness and limb abnormalities. Funding from the Presidential Scholar award will enable Shapiro to continue learning about these genes in order to understand more about how they generate diversity among different species and their connection to diseases in humans.


Mollie Cummins
Associate Professor of Nursing
Adjunct Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics

Mollie Cummins is a nationally recognized nursing and biomedical informaticist known for her work advancing the management of data and information for poison control. Cummins uses novel technologies and analytic approaches to manage clinical information and transforms data into meaningful decision support for clinicians. Her research efforts have created an information exchange process and software that allows poison control centers and emergency departments to share critical patient information during emergencies. The funding from the Presidential Scholar award will help Cummins in her current work aimed at improving the interoperability and integration of novel data sources to support the science and delivery of health care.

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