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Distinguished Faculty Awards 2016-17

Published: July 10, 2017

Prashanth Jaikumar

Prashanth Jaikumar
Physics and Astronomy
Distinguished Faculty Scholarly and Creative Activity Award

With 15 years of post-Ph.D. experience in theoretical astrophysics, Prashanth Jaikumar has produced central and highly cited research results that have given new insights into the properties of neutron stars. His most recent efforts in this area earned him the Distinguished Faculty Scholarly and Creative Activity Award for 2017.

Since his appointment as an assistant professor at CSULB in 2009, Jaikumar has published 18 papers and conference proceedings in leading peer-reviewed journals in physics and astronomy and has garnered more than 500 citations for these publications.

His most significant research contributions have been made in the areas of the “Nature of Matter at Extreme Densities,” “Gravitational Waves” and the “Nucleosynthesis of Heavy Elements,” the latter topic which he has made his most influential achievements. There, he helped develop a computer simulation to model the creation of heavy elements from light ones, addressing a central problem termed “nucleosynthesis” in physics. Along with his collaborators, Jaikumar leveraged large-scale computing resources and graphical user-interfaces to design a software module called “r-Java,” which has been picked up by research groups from around the world in a common effort to solve the challenges of nucleosynthesis.

His impressive efforts within the field have earned him a handful of grants. He recently obtained a very competitive National Science Foundation-Research at an Undergraduate Institution grant that supports fundamental research at the highest levels and provides support for undergraduate and graduate students to be trained in astrophysics. This comes on the heels of previous grants from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, NASA and the U.S. Army High-Performance Computing and Research Center, making up a continuous stream of federal and private funding in excess of $550,000 since 2010.

Additionally, Jaikumar has an impressive number of CSULB students who have finished their master’s degrees with a research thesis under his guidance. Out of nine students, five are now in Ph.D. programs in the United States and Japan.

Jennifer Ostergren

Jennifer Ostergren
Speech-Language Pathology
Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award

As one graduate student wrote on her behalf, “Dr. Ostergren has an inspiring gift when she teaches as she engages her students and challenges them.” Still, one alumna described her as “extremely caring,” noting how “she truly wants her students to succeed.”

Obviously, Jennifer Ostergren has a gift that keeps on giving.

This year’s recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award, Ostergren has been a faculty member at the campus since 2003, and during her tenure, she has helped prepare her students for success in a variety of ways, both inside and outside the classroom.

In 2009, she created a course in response to a change in state legislation, regarding licensure as a speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA). This specialized course paved the way for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology and 70 hours of clinical experience to become SLPAs. As a result, CSULB became the first university in California to offer this type of clinical education to bachelor’s-level students. Additionally, according to a 2012 survey, 75-80 percent of students completing the course were successful in obtaining both licensure and employment as SLPAs.

However, Ostergren’s curriculum development didn’t end there. She co-created and co-directed a special graduate program designed to offer evening and summer courses for individuals who work full time, giving non-traditional students a path to degree. She also developed a required graduate course on traumatic brain injury (TBI) that allows master’s degree graduates better able to provide clinical services to individuals, including military personnel, with TBIs.

Since 2010, Ostergren has supervised 17 independent graduate student projects and chaired committees of eight master’s theses, two of which received the department’s Outstanding Thesis Award. She also has co-authored 10 articles with her students and alumni, and in 2014, she published a book to educate SLPAs on important topics related to their service in the discipline. Three of her former students authored chapters in the text.

Amy Cabrera Rasmussen

Amy Cabrera Rasmussen
Political Science
Distinguished Faculty Advising Award

For Amy Cabrera Rasmussen, advising students is one of the most rewarding aspects of her work as a professor, something that allows her to give back. Perhaps it is her professional and personal approach that has made her so successful and earned her this year’s Distinguished Faculty Advising Award.

A CSULB alumna, Rasmussen vividly recalls university faculty and staff who helped guide her through the unfamiliar terrain she found herself in as a first-generation college student.

“I consider it my honor,” she wrote in her nomination statement, “to return to this campus and have the opportunity to begin to repay this sizeable debt through my teaching, advising, mentoring and other campus activities.”

Since 2009, Rasmussen has an undergraduate advisor in the political science department, which has more than 600 majors, pre-majors and minors. Working collaboratively with her colleagues, she uses experiences as a student and educator as well as her problem-solving skills to proactively make improvements. She seeks to show students that she, her department and the university have a stake in their success as they earn their degrees, and beyond graduation.

Rasmussen took a lead role in enhancing student communication and outreach, revamping aspects of the department website and list-serv. She also improved and built up advising documents, including the major requirements worksheet and a series of one-page infographics, POSC Advising Shortcuts, which provide basic information and a straightforward set of action steps for students. In addition, she spearheaded the creation of a series of workshops to better respond to student advising needs.

Seeking to improve post-graduation guidance, Rasmussen created a department career resource library, crafted stronger links to the campus’ career development center, and built a series of online profiles of successful alumni, all aimed at helping students think more broadly about their future prospects.

Rasmussen has also sought out complementary roles to incorporate into her advising efforts, including serving as a Partners for Success mentor, working with the CSULB Graduate Studies Resource Center, and as a member of the College of Liberal Arts’ 2025 Graduation Initiative career readiness team.

Thomas Alex Washington

Thomas Alex Washington
Social Work
Distinguished Faculty Scholarly and Creative Activity Award

The HIV/AIDS research and public health communities have made major strides in reducing the wide-spread impact of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Still, there continues to be a ways to go to eradicate the virus and its accompanying disease.

Contributing to this effort, Thomas Alex Washington has been engaged in HIV prevention and intervention research for more than 18 years, and his work during that time has earned him a number of accolades, including CSULB’s 2017 Distinguished Faculty Scholarly and Creative Activity Award.

One area of Washington’s HIV/AIDS research is marginalized populations such as young Black and Latino sexual-minority males, for whom the rates of new infections continues to be disproportionately high. His work with young Black men who have sex with men (BMSM), aged 18 to 30, is significant for addressing an existing health disparity. The number of new infections among young BMSM is nearly twice that of young white MSM and more than twice that of young Hispanic/Latino MSM.

Given the high risk and prevalence of HIV among young BMSM, Washington has aimed his research on developing prevention intervention that would motivate HIV testing and linkage to treatment. With the broad use of social media among this population, he has focused on developing and evaluating community-based HIV/AIDS web-based intervention projects and examining the use of social media to deliver HIV intervention.

Since joining the faculty at CSULB, Washington has actively presented refereed papers and published manuscripts in refereed journals, including two co-edited special issue journal volumes. Additionally, he has secured nearly $3 million in external funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service to conduct HIV research. Further, his research has involved collaborations with Drs. Laura D’Anna and Kevin Malotte, from the CSULB Center for Health Equity Research, and CSULB students.

Among the honors Washington has received, perhaps none is greater than the national Gerald A. Ludd Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received for his research and service to the fight against HIV in the Black community.