The University of Virginia honored faculty members for their outstanding research and scholarship at the fifth annual Research Achievement Awards event, held Thursday at The Pavilion at Boar’s Head Resort.

“2023 was an incredible year for UVA research, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to gather and celebrate our faculty’s impressive accomplishments,” said Fred Epstein, Interim Vice President for Research and Mac Wade Professor of Biomedical Engineering.

“I’m a great admirer of these talented and dedicated researchers and the impressive breadth of research represented by this year’s award winners,” said President Jim Ryan. “Their work stretches from quantum physics to the Arctic, from cardiology to contemplative sciences. They ask important questions about our health, our well-being and our cultural world. They also mentor and inspire others, which multiplies their impact across Grounds and in their fields.”

The School of Engineering and Applied Science faculty honorees are featured below. Get details about all the UVA honorees here.


Distinguished Research Award

research_awards_nikos.jpgFrom left to From left to right: Professor Nikos Sidiropoulos, President Jim Ryan and Interim Vice President for Research Fred Epstein. Photo by Amanda Maglione. 

Nikos Sidiropoulos, Louis T. Rader Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science

Nikos Sidiropoulos has made ground-breaking contributions to tensor theory, wireless communications, and signal processing. He has four patents and has published over 165 journal papers in his field. He is a world-leading authority on tensor decomposition which has proven to be indispensable for analyzing big data.

Sidiropoulos is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and received the IEEE SPS Claude Shannon–Harry Nyquist Technical Achievement Award.

“Beyond his unquestionable breadth and depth, his research maintains a fruitful balance between theory and practice, building natural bridges that are critical for interdisciplinary projects,” said Georgios B. Giannakis, McKnight Presidential Chair in ECE, University of Minnesota.


From left to right: President Jim Ryan, Senior Associate Dean Don Brown and Interim Vice President for Research Fred Epstein. Photo by Amanda Maglione. 

Donald E. Brown, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Quantitative Foundation Distinguished Professor of Data Science, School of Data Science

Don Brown’s research focuses on data fusion, knowledge discovery, using data to improve health, and predictive modeling with applications to security and safety. In his 40-year career at UVA, he has been a principal investigator or co-principal investigator for more than 100 research contracts with federal, state, and private organizations totaling over $35 million. He has published two books and over 120 papers. He was also the founding director of the Data Science Institute at UVA that later became the School of Data Science.

Brown’s “passion for serving others through research and teaching is obvious and contagious, and research and education are intertwined in all his pursuits,” said Phil Bourne, Stephenson Founding Dean, School for Data Science, Professor of Data Science and Biomedical Engineering.

Research Excellence Award

research_awards_cai.jpgFrom left to right: Assistant professor Liheng Cai and President Jim Ryan. Photo by Amanda Maglione. 

Liheng Cai, Assistant Professor, Materials Science and Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science

Liheng Cai’s research focuses on bottlebrush polymers, associative polymer networks, and voxelated bioprinting. He studies the interactions between adaptive soft materials, like responsive polymers or biological gels, and living systems, like bacteria or cells and tissues in the human body.

“Because of his excellence in research, Cai has received $2.33 million funding to his lab, graduate students have won departmental and SEAS fellowships, and two postdocs have secured faculty positions,” said David L. Green, Associate Professor, Depts of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Research Collaboration Award

From left to right: President Jim Ryan, associate professor Leena Cho, professor Howard Epstein, associate professor Caitlin Wylie and Interim Vice President for Research Fred Epstein. Photo by Amanda Maglione. 

Caitlin D. Wylie, Associate Professor, Department of Engineering and Society, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (with courtesy appt. in the School of Data Science)

Leena S. Cho, Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director, Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Architecture

Howard E. Epstein, Sidman P. Poole Professor of Environmental Sciences and Dept. Chair, Department of Environmental Sciences, College of Arts & Sciences

Matthew G. Jull, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, School of Architecture

For nearly a decade, this team of researchers have dedicated individual and collective efforts towards focused research on the Arctic region and its flora, fauna, buildings, landscapes, infrastructure, and communities, examining the complexities of natural and built environments in relationship to climate adaptation. Their important insights and actions include building datasets, resources, and partnerships directly with Arctic communities.

“With the more recently defined Grand Challenge focus at UVA on Environmental Resiliency and Sustainability, the nominated team exemplifies the University’s commitment to a collaborative, high-impact approach to climate change,” said Malo A. Hutson, Dean and Edward E. Elson Professor, School of Architecture.