Arun Ross has co-authored the first and only textbook on biometrics.

Jianbo Yao is in the front lines of a national project to study the genome of rainbow trout.

Mary Ann Samyn is being hailed as one of the finest young poets in the country.

All three research, create and teach at West Virginia University. And for their efforts, they are being recognized with the Claude Worthington Benedum Distinguished Scholar Awards, which honor excellent faculty in creative research at the University.

“The Benedum Award recognizes distinction in research, scholarship or creative activity, said Provost Michele Wheatly. “The truly wonderful thing about these three Benedum professors is that they exemplify not only the excellence of our faculty but the diversity of that excellence across disciplines and departments.”

The award, handed out this year in three categories – physical sciences and technology, biosciences and health sciences, and humanities and the arts – recognizes distinction in research, scholarship or creative activity. Each recipient will receive $5,000 in professional support, provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Past winners of the Benedum award include:

David Lederman; physics
Alvin Moss; medicine

Mark Brazaitis; English

Charles Jaffe; chemistry
Yon Rojanasakul; pharmacy

Elizabeth Fones-Wolf; history

Jorge Flores; biology
Nancy Giles; physics

Tracy Morris; psychology
Christopher Wilkinson; music

Robert Dailey; animal and veterinary sciences
Earl Scime; physics

James McCroskey; communication studies
Timothy Sweet; English

Richard Brisbin Jr.; political science

Ismail Celik; mechanical and aerospace engineering
John Cuthbert; curator, West Virginia and Regional History Collections
William Stauber; physiology and pharmacology

Peter Lightfoot; music
Linda Butler; plant and soil sciences
Mark Koepke; physics

James Harms; English
Ali AbuRhama; surgery
Ronald Balvers; economics
Harry Gingold; mathematics

Kenneth St. Louis; speech-language pathology
William Hoover; animal and veterinary science
Krysztof Ciesielski; mathematics

Cun-Quan Zhang; mathematics
Richard Walls; educational psychology
Nyles Charon; microbiology
William MacDonald; plant pathology

Kung Wang; chemistry
Robert Blobaum; history
Philip Chase; psychology
Christine Baylis; physiology

Larry Halliburton; physics
Timothy Adams; English
Mark Wicclair; philosophy
Keith Inskeep; animal science
Joe Hagan; political science

Kathleen McNerney; Spanish
James Elkins; law
Thomas Kammer; geology
Roger Lohmann; social work
Leroy Lapp; pulmonary and critical care medicine

Robert Maxon; history
Ali Feliachi; electrical and computer engineering
Dale Colyer; agricultural economics
Kenneth Landreth; microbiology and immunology

Robert Goodman; physiology
Arthur Weldon; physics
Michael Reed; instructional computing and English education
Patrick Conner; English

Each will give a lecture in the spring as part of the award. Ross will present on “Faces and Fingerprints: Human Recognition Using Biometrics” on March 14 at 4 p.m. in Room 101A of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

Yao will present on “Functional Characterization of Oocyte-specific Maternal Effect Genes in Cattle” on April 11 at 4 p.m. in Room 101A of the NRCCE. Samyn’s presentation will be ”’You Don’t Know the Beauty That Could Happen’: Poetry, Presence, Weather, Grace & Deer” on April 10 at 4 p.m. in the Rhododendron Room of the Mountainlair.

When Ross came to WVU, he had already worked on fingerprint matching methods for his Ph.D. dissertation. At WVU, he and a student developed methods for reconstructing fingerprints from minutiae points – a task that was previously thought impossible. This work gained widespread attention since it challenged previously held beliefs about fingerprints.

Ross is an internationally known expert in the field of biometrics and has helped elevate WVU as one of the leading universities in biometrics research. His publications are heavily cited in research on the subject.

Patrick Flynn, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, said of Ross: “I believe his record of accomplishments bolsters my assertion that Dr. Ross is the leading biometrics researcher of his academic generation in the United States today.

“Relatively few researchers have opened up new problem domains in this area (which has been studied for decades), but Professor Ross has been responsible for defining and conducting the first significant work in areas such as fingerprint mixing, fingerprint distortion and sensor interoperability.”

His work goes beyond fingerprint identification and includes several other aspects of recognizing humans, including iris, face, ear and gait recognition.

“Biometrics is a fascinating area of research,” Ross said. “Using machines to recognize humans is important in many applications ranging from personal laptop access to border security systems. My students and I are fortunate to be conducting research in a field that has tremendous societal benefits.”

Ross has previously been recognized with the WVU Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching and the Robert C. Byrd Professorship Award. He is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and was designated a Kavil Frontiers Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.

Yao has contributed significant research into the fields of molecular genetics of rainbow trout and physiology and genetics in bovine reproduction. He heads the Rainbow Trout Genome Project in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and his work has been widely noticed and cited by fish and aquaculture scientists.

His work in developing genomic resources for rainbow trout has paved the way for further genetic improvements in the trout cultivation industry and his work has identified what contributes to muscle growth and fillet quality in trout.

In addition to his lauded work in trout, Yao has studied female reproduction in cattle, specifically the importance of oocyte-specific genes in early development of bovine embryos.

Aside from contributing important research to his fields, Yao has published prolifically in high-profile journals. He’s also garnered five USDA grants since 2004, an uncommon feat.

George Smith, professor of animal sciences at Michigan State University, said Yao’s research can improve the in vitro embryo production in cattle and possibly the efficiency of reproductive technology in women.

“Such discoveries are likely to attract significant recognition in the future and open additional opportunities for extramural funding,” Smith said.

Wansheng Liu, associate professor of animal genomics at Pennsylvania State University, said of Yao, “He is the first researcher in North America to address the potential merit of using functional genomic and molecular approaches to identify gene markers for muscle atrophy and fillet quality selection.”

Yao has previously been named outstanding researcher in the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences and the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

Samyn has been an incredibly prolific writer since she was accepted to fill one of five slots in the Master of Fine Arts poetry program at the University of Virginia, now ranked the No. 2 poetry program in the country by Poets and Writers Magazine.

She has published four full-length poetry books, Captivity Narrative, Inside the Yellow Dress, Purr and Beauty Breaks In, and two chapbooks, Rooms by the Sea and The Boom of a Small Cannon.

More than 200 of her individual poems appear in the more competitive literary journals in the nation, including The Kenyon Review, Field, Virginia Quarterly Review and The Georgia Review as well as more cutting-edge publications such as Center, Electronic Poetry Review, the tiny, Colorado Review and Pank.

Her work has won The Emily Dickinson Prize from the Poetry Society of America, The James Wright Poetry Award from Mid-American Review, the Adrienne Kee Award from Hubbub, the Vachel Lindsay Prize from Willow Springs, and a Pushcart Prize.

She has received the WVU Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award, the Russell and Ruth Bolton Eberly College Professorship for Teaching and Mentoring, and the WVU Caperton Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing.

“I write poetry as a way of accessing and noticing and appreciating the beauty and complexity of daily life, and, in doing so, I hope I remain an attentive presence in the world – for my own sake and, just maybe, in a way that might benefit others, too,” Samyn said.

James Harms, himself a notable poet at WVU, believes Samyn has brought a “breadth and vitality to WVU that is helping establish us as a national center for the literary arts.”

“When we hired Mary Ann Samyn we knew we were getting one of the best young poets in the country: her work is as exciting as any being written, and it reflects in its range and concerns the vivacity of American poetry at this historical moment,” Harms said.

“Mary Ann Samyn is the real thing, and we’re lucky to have her.”



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