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Mezyk, Strybel, Sinchak Named 2010 Provost’s Award Recipients

Published: August 2, 2010

Provost’s Awards for Impact Accomplishment of the Year in Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity

Stephen Mezyk

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Awardee portrait
Stephen Mezyk

A physical chemist with interests in energy and the environment, Stephen Mezyk has published, or had accepted for publication, 22 peer-reviewed journal articles with 14 student co-authors over the past 18 months. Among them is an article that appeared in the prestigious American Chemical Society journal Chemical Reviews, summarizing his research on the study of free-radical reactions with drinking water contaminants.

Mezyk’s other journal papers span his wide range of research interests – removal of biotoxins from the ocean, treatment of endocrine disrupting chemicals in wastewaters before their release into the environment, atmospheric smog chemistry and nitration chemistry of organics under various conditions relevant to the nuclear industry – all of which have significant health and environmental relevance.

Mezyk has given six invited talks nationally and internationally since 2009. He was the first technical expert outside of Europe invited to a meeting of ACSEPT, a European Union nuclear waste remediation-working group. He has also given 35 additional presentations at national and international conferences with student co-authors.

Mezyk has developed an impressive group of graduate and undergraduate research students from multiple disciplines within the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He has assisted them in obtaining more than $38,000 in scholarship funding for their research-related activities, as well as $338,000 of his own external funding, over this 18 month period.

Mezyk was also recognized by CSULB for his significant research contributions in 2008, when he received the Distinguished Faculty Scholarly and Creative Achievement Award.

Thomas Strybel


Awardee portrait
Thomas Strybel

Thomas Strybel’s research contributions over the past 18 months are shaping the future of the National Airspace System and are creating human factors’ research and career opportunities for CSULB students.

Strybel secured $8 million in funding from NASA in recent years, including a five-year, $5 million grant awarded last October to create a NASA University Research Center, the Center for Human Factors in Advanced Aeronautics Technologies (CHAAT), at CSULB. The center conducts “human-in-the-loop” simulations that evaluate new air-traffic-management automation tools for their impact on pilots and air traffic controllers. These automation tools are a critical component of the Next Generation Airspace Transportation System (“NextGen,”) a federal program for increasing the capacity of our National Airspace System.

CHAAT is also a training venue for students, particularly those from underrepresented groups in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. These students

are being trained in human factors, airspace simulation techniques and research methods, and they participate fully in simulation work in CHAAT and at NASA. The immediate impact of NASA CHAAT on student development can be seen by the fact that 18 students are participating in CHAAT research and training activities this summer, compared with only five students in Summer 2009. Strybel is also principal investigator of a $3 million, four-year NASA award to establish and manage a consortium of universities and private industry focused on developing situation awareness measurement methods that can be used to evaluate NextGen automation tools and air traffic management concepts.

Strybel developed the curriculum for, and was instrumental in creating, the master’s in human factors program in 2004. He has developed and taught curriculum for human factors and has directed many student research projects and theses. He also co-founded CSULB’s Center for Usability in Design and Accessibility, and serves as student advisor to this center.

Strybel’s work has been recognized professionally. In the past two years, he presented several papers at aerospace and human factors’ conferences, and regularly serves as a reviewer for journals in perception and human factors.

Provost’s Award for Outstanding Faculty Mentor for Students Engagement in Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity

Kevin Sinchak

Biological Sciences

Awardee portrait
Kevin Sinchak

In Kevin Sinchak’s lab, undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to get involved in every aspect of the research process – from the experimental design stage to data collection and analysis and presentation of findings.

About 30 undergraduate students have worked in Sinchak’s lab since he arrived at CSULB in 2006. This spring he mentored 11 undergraduates in Biology 496 and two master’s students, giving them research experience that would normally be reserved for postdoctoral fellows, Ph.D. students and technicians. Together, they are working on two major lines of research with highly competitive funding sources. One area of research looks at the mechanisms through which estradiol and progesterone turn on and off reproductive behavior circuits in the brain. Sinchak and his students are also studying how the brain makes its own progesterone and what role this neuroprogesterone plays in female reproduction. Sinchak’s research findings may aid in discovering new drug treatments to regulate fertility and treat infertility.

Sinchak is dedicated to providing students the opportunity to present their results in posters, in talks at scientific meetings and ultimately in peer reviewed journals. At least 11 students have presented posters at Society for Neuroscience national meetings, among the most cutting-edge science meetings in the country. Both of Sinchak’s graduate students have successfully obtained competitive awards in support of their research and education, including a Loomis Research Award and a Sally Casanova Predoctoral Scholarship.

In addition to mentoring students in his lab, Sinchak has created the Biological Sciences research forum, From the Bench…, offering students and faculty an opportunity to gather, express ideas and present research for feedback.

–Richard Manly
Photos by Robert Freligh