Four faculty members win first University Scholarly Achievement Awards

Blagg, Darby, Hawley, Purnaprajna noted for contributions to their respective disciplines

Four faculty members have been chosen for the inaugural University Scholarly Achievement Awards. The awards recognize mid-career scholars who have made significant scholarly or research contributions to their respective fields. They will be honored at an awards ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, in the Commons at Spooner Hall.

The recipients — Brian Blagg, professor of medicinal chemistry; Derrick Darby, associate professor of philosophy; Patricia Hawley, associate professor of psychology; and Bangere Purnaprajna, professor of mathematics — were chosen by a panel of their peers from arts and humanities; science, technology and mathematics; clinical science; and social science and professional programs.

“As a research university, KU is responsible for the discoveries and innovations that improve lives, create jobs and enable us to better understand our world,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “KU faculty members contribute to our world every day through their teaching and through their scholarly achievements. This award recognizes the value of those achievements to the state, nation and world and honors some of the world-class professors we have here at KU.”

The award winners were chosen for contributions that advance the field of scholarship, exhibit novelty and originality, promote scholarly and research activity at KU and enhance the university’s national and international reputation. Recipients were nominated by their colleagues from KU and from across the nation.

More information about the recipients:

Brian Blagg

Brian Blagg

Blagg is being honored for developing inhibitors of heat shock protein 90. Known as Hsp90, it is a “molecular chaperone” essential for the function of all cells that assists in the maturation of numerous proteins. Molecules that inhibit Hsp90 are highly sought as possible treatments of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Blagg and his colleagues have found new ways of modulating Hsp90 function that have led to compounds that lack the toxicity of those in many medications. Blagg and fellow researchers have also developed compounds capable of reducing neuropathies associated with diabetes. He has previously been recognized with the Robertson Award from the American Chemical Society for his achievements.

Derrick Darby

Derrick Darby

Darby is receiving the award for his book “Rights, Race and Recognition,” published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. In the book, Darby examines theories of rights as related to the experience of African-Americans, before the Civil War and during segregation. He also defends a theory that states social recognition of rights is necessary for a society to claim that it upholds those rights. The book’s insight into the struggles of multiracial societies and their struggles to extend rights to all citizens has brought it wide acclaim in the United States, Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Darby currently is conducting research on racial disparities in education, based on his theory of rights.

Patricia Hawley

Patricia Hawley

Hawley was selected for her development of "resource control theory." A theory on social dominance, RCT was spawned from her efforts to bridge literatures on social development and peer relationships and evolutionary basis of behavior. Since its inception, RCT has generated numerous novel predictions that have changed how scientists think about human social relationships, individual differences and evolution. RCT and the research that has grown from it has challenged the prevailing view in psychology about aggression and led to documentation of new patterns through questions that were never previously asked. Hawley’s work is widely received and is featured in most widely used textbooks on child and adolescent development.

Bangere Purnaprajna

Bangere Purnaprajna

Purnaprajna is being recognized for his contributions to algebraic geometry and the classification of algebraic surfaces. Classification surfaces has been an area of study in algebraic geometry for more than a century, but the work is notoriously difficult and progress has been slow. Purnaprajna and his colleagues have developed a new framework of techniques and methodologies to solve problems in classification and its related applications. He was a pioneer in bringing forth the study of deformations of surfaces of general type. The idea has led to the discovery of a considerable amount of information about the geography of a large class of surfaces of a general type. His work has been published in the top journals in the field of mathematics.

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