The University of Texas at Tyler awarded notable faculty members the inaugural Crystal Talon Award, sponsored by the Robert R. Muntz Library, provost and vice president for academic affairs Amir Mirmiran announced.

The library’s Crystal Talon Award recognizes outstanding scholarship and creativity of faculty from each college as determined by their dean. Award recipients are listed by college.

BEN AND MAYTEE FISCH COLLEGE OF PHARMACY Dr. Jonathan Cho, clinical assistant professor of clinical sciences and Dr. Simi Gunaseelan, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences

Cho has a strong passion for research and received travel grants to present his research related to rapid diagnostics and Clostridium difficile infections at national meetings. He is a board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist and plans to continue his active involvement in professional pharmacy organizations and research.

Gunaseelan has extensive research experience, and her work has resulted in several patents. She was honored with a Certificate of Recognition for her presentation on “Novel Intravaginal Delivery of Antiretroviral-based Microbicides for HIV Prevention” at the 2015 World Drug Delivery Summit in Houston.

COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES – Alexis Hughes, professor of painting and Dr. Joshua Banta, assistant professor of biology

Hughes serves as art editor for The Wallace Stevens Journal, an international scholarly publication by the Johns Hopkins University Press. She has an extensive national exhibition record and participated in an international group exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Japan.

As an evolutionary biologist, Banta’s work with the Army Research Lab has been recognized by UT System Chancellor William McRaven. Banta also organized an invited, funded symposium at evolution meetings in Brazil entitled, “Epigenetics and Evolutionary Processes.”



COLLEGE OF BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY – Dr. John James Cater III, associate professor of management and marketing and Dr. A.J. Burns, assistant professor of computer science

Director of the Center for Family and Small Enterprises, Cater’s major research interests are in family business studies, small business and social entrepreneurship. He was awarded Family Firm Institute Fellow status, which is given to a select few scholars within the field of family business studies internationally.

Burns has been a part of a large interdisciplinary National Science Foundation-funded effort studying trustworthy health and wellness, His research interests include cyber security, health information security and privacy, behavioral information security/behavioral cyber security and complex adaptive systems.

COLLEGE OF EDUCATION AND PSYCHOLOGY Dr. Yanira Oliveras-Ortiz and Dr. Jennifer Jones, assistant professors of educational leadership and policy studies

Oliveras-Ortiz and Jones have established the first peer-reviewed online journal at The University of Texas at Tyler entitled, Diversity, Social Justice & the Educational Leader. The journal is a scholarly, double-blind, peer-reviewed open access publication that seeks to explore relevant issues impacting educational leaders and teachers who serve linguistically and culturally diverse students.

COLLEGE OF ENGINEERINGDr. Chung Goh, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and Dr. Mena Souliman, assistant professor of civil engineering

Goh is developing an Artificial Intelligence-based Intelligent Cost Prediction Model for mechanical systems. The project is funded by SIMNET, Inc.

Souliman is working on a project regarding ‘Hub-and-Spoke model’ Tyler bicycle lanes. This project is funded by the East Texas Communities Foundation and the City of Tyler.

COLLEGE OF NURSING AND HEALTH SCIENCES Dr. X. Neil Dong, associate professor of health and kinesiology and Dr. Sandra Petersen, associate professor of nursing

Dong’s research interests include osteoporosis, biomechanics and sports medicine. He has received a federal grant of nearly $400,000 from the National Institutes of Health to study how to improve the prediction of spine fracture risks using stochastically-enhanced DXA images.


Petersen is a certified nurse practitioner in family, geriatric and psychiatric-mental health who completed a privately-funded study utilizing the PARO robotic pet seal as a non-pharmacological intervention in symptom management in elderly clients with dementia. She was also named a 2016 Fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

One of the 14 campuses of the UT System, The University of Texas at Tyler features excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 80 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at The University of Texas at Tyler, which has an enrollment of almost 10,000 high-ability students. The University of Texas at Tyler offers courses at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine as well as a location in Houston.