The faces of science

Andrew Fountain’s work focuses on glaciers and has taken him to Antarctica’s dry valley glaciers, where he has investigated the glacial response to global climate change.He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1992, and since coming to PSU he has been responsible for 42 refereed publications, four books and 34 presentations at national and international meetings, and has generated $2.4 million in external research funds.
On May 16 the Portland State chapter of Sigma Xi presented five PSU professors with its first annual Outstanding Researcher Awards.
Each of the six science-based departments on campus was invited to submit two researchers for the award in their category. A subcommittee of the chapter board of directors then selected a winner for each category. The six categories included engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, biology, behavioral sciences and earth and environmental sciences.
Although there are six categories, no engineering nominations were submitted, allowing the presentation of only five awards.
“These researchers are incredible,” said Scott Burns, professor of geology at Portland State and Sigma Xi chapter president. “It just highlights that we have some incredible researchers at PSU.”
Projects were judged based on publication and external funding records, presentations at meetings and graduate student support. Each winner received an engraved plaque and a check for $500.
“There are essentially no awards at PSU for research,” Burns said. “Sigma Xi feels that research is important, and this year we started the first annual Outstanding Researcher Awards to support scientific research at PSU.”
Sigma Xi is an international science research society. The interdisciplinary group has 67,000 members – including over 200 Nobel laureates – and supports scientific research around the world.
“We’ll probably add a seventh category next year,” Burns said. “‘Research on a shoestring’ – for those researchers who have a hard time getting external funding but have a great record of publications.”
While the awards were open to the general Portland area, according to Burns, all of this year’s nominations came from PSU. Thirteen PSU faculty members were nominated.
Winners included Karen Marrongelle for mathematics, Anna-Louise Reysenbach for biology, Andrew Fountain for earth and environmental sciences, Erick Sanchez for physical sciences and Eric Mankowski for behavioral sciences.
Sigma Xi supports the Outstanding Research Awards and 90 percent of the local chapter’s members are PSU students or faculty.
“Sigma Xi every year supports thousands of research grants to graduate students to help with their theses,” Burns said. “Our local chapter is one of the most active nationally.”
Membership in Sigma Xi is by invitation. This year, the PSU chapter inducted 17 new members, most of whom are graduate students finishing their theses.
Karen Marrongelle is an assistant professor in the department of mathematics and statistics. Her interests include math education, collaborative learning strategies, differential equations and dynamic systems recognition. Shortly after receiving her Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire, she came to PSU in 2001, where she has been responsible for seven refereed publications and 28 presentations at national and international meetings. She has also served as co-principal investigator for National Science Foundation grants worth some $7 million.
Erick Sanchez, who specializes in field microscopy and nanoscale, earned his Ph.D. from PSU in 1999. Following a post-baccalaureate period at Harvard he became an assistant professor at PSU in 2002. Since his return he has amassed 16 publications and 35 presentations, and has brought in $2.2 million in external research funding.
PSU Sigma Xi sponsors seven speakers per year, with many lectures having over 100 people in the audience.
“We also support our graduate students at PSU each year with the Scientific Research Symposium,” Burns added.
This year’s symposium took place on April 21 in the Smith Ballroom. Some 65 undergraduate and graduate students gave poster presentations of their research, with over $1,100 in awards given to the best posters.
We have received great support from the faculty and administrators for these programs,” Burns said. “It shows faculty that research is important.”
While the publication and grant support totals are large, they are no less impressive than the winners’ record of student support. This year’s Outstanding Researcher Award winners have already supervised student completion of five Ph.D. and 30 M.S. degrees and are currently working with eight Ph.D. and seven M.S. students engaged in active degree programs.

Eric Mankowski, associate professor in psychology, focuses on personality and social ecology, including self-help groups, domestic violence, intervention programs, men’s groups and spirituality-based communities. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1997, came to PSU one year later and has since written 19 publications and 36 presentations and has served as co-principal investigator for research grants worth $1.75 million.
Anna-Louise Reysenbach, who has been at PSU since 1999, has researched various aspects of biology, but looked a great deal into deep-sea vent research that included 17 submersible expeditions to the ocean floor. A full professor, she received her Ph.D. in 1987 from the University of Capetown, has written 69 refereed publications and six books, has given 34 presentations at national and international meetings and has brought in $2.94 million in research funding.