The Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering Distinguished Researcher Award is an annual award that carries a one-time stipend of $2,000 and is given on a competitive basis to a member within the college according to the following criteria:

  1. The faculty member must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering.
  2. The faculty member must be active in research. The award will be given to the most distinguished researcher in the College with emphasis on accomplishments during the previous year and cumulative research work during the previous five years. Consideration will be given based on consistency and productivity.
  3. Faculty member should not have received this award in the last five years.
  4. Research accomplishments that will be considered include but are not limited to:
    • Reviewed journal publications
    • Reviewed conference proceedings
    • Citations of published work
    • Proposals and funded research
    • Graduate students graduated
    • Unfunded research

The award is given based on the recommendations of a selection committee composed of engineering faculty from other institutions.

Year Winner Quote from the External Committee
2021 Dr. Jaci Batista Dr. Batista designs biological and chemical processes to remove contaminants from water and wastewater systems. Dr. Batista has achieved a record of funding from various sources: industry, national agencies, state agencies, foundations, and state funds. During the last five years, Dr. Batista has published 22 peer-reviewed publications, 26 conferences, and has 20 funded projects. Her total funding per year for the last five years is approximately 1.07 million dollars since 2015. She has also been awarded patents for her work on removing water contaminants. The total research expenditure in 5 years was about $3.6 million dollars. She has graduated numerous Ph.D. and MS students and provided financial and professional support. It is important to note her dedication to teaching and research and her involvement of many graduate and undergraduate students in her research. She has earned the Outstanding faculty awards multiple years. Dr. Batista is a very good researcher, teacher, and mentor.
2020 Dr. Alexander Barzov

Dr. Alexander Barzilov’s research is in the broad areas of nuclear radiation detection and safeguarding, as well as remote sensing and associated applications of robotics. Dr. Barzilov has secured about $ 3M of grant funding as PI or co-PI from national funding agencies such as DOE and NRC. His research expenditure is approximately $993K during the review period, or an average of about $199K per year.
During the CY15 through CY 2019 period, Dr. Barzilov has published 18 journal articles in Physical Review Letters (IF 9.227), Sensors & Transducers (IF 3.031), and Applied Radiation and Isotopes (IF 1.343) among others. He has also contributed 2 book chapters and 31 peer-reviewed conference papers during the 5-year review period. Google Scholar lists 150 citations of Dr. Barzilov’s publications since 2015. He has graduated with 3 Ph.D. and one MS student since 2015. In addition, he has received a patent on a neutron detector and has disclosed another invention on discrimination of photon signals. Dr. Barzilov is clearly a very productive and prolific academic with an eye toward practical applications, and he is able to garner sufficient funding for his various projects. Integration of recent UAV developments with nuclear detectors is certainly quite useful.

2019 Dr. Daniel Gerrity Dr. Daniel Gerrity has demonstrated a consistent ability to secure research funding during the past five years, with over $850K in research expenditures during that period. His work in the field of water quality and the re-use of potable water is highly relevant nationally and internationally, particularly as it relates to emerging programs for sustainable development. He has secured funding from a variety of national and local agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Over the past five years he has published 17 peer-reviewed articles in 10 professional journals and his work has generated over 1380 citations, demonstrating the impact and relevance of his research to this field. Dr. Gerrity’s research program in water quality appears to be focused and carefully developed, and its results are highly impactful at the national and local levels. He has also demonstrated the ability to work across departments and disciplines.
2018 Sajjad Ahmad The research interests of Professor Ahmad include water resources planning and management, climate variability and change and water-energy nexus. Since 2013, Prof. Ahmad and his research group published 38 peer reviewed journal papers and 53 conference proceedings. His scholarly publications are in very high quality national and international journals. His Google Citation index is 3766; h-index 39; and i10-index 61. His work quality is excellent and has been cited by other researchers and considered by national and international funding agencies He was keynote speaker in China, Canada, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Australia. His research portfolio spans federal and state governments with a very high level of funding. In the last 5 years Prof. Ahmad was the PI on $2.1M research grants including the NSF and USAID. He graduated six MS and 2 PhD students in the last five years.
2017 Justin Zhan The focus of the research of Dr. Justin Zhan is on the general area of big data analytics, precision medicine, healthcare informatics, biomedical computing, information privacy and security, network science and social computing. Most of his research is funded by DoD, DoE, NIH, State of Nevada, ORNL etc. This research is likely to have significant impact both on research and education in the area of big data analytics, healthcare informatics etc. Dr. Justin Zhan’s research has resulted into $6 million dollars of funding as PI and Co-PI in last five years.
2016 Hui Zhao Dr. Zhao is an energetic faculty and a potentially rising star. His research on micro and nano-scale technology to support energy applications and lab-on-a-chip devices is an interesting and growing topic area. He has recently received and NIH R15 award which is extremely competitive and prestigious. This award indicates that he is at the forefront of his field, poised to make major contributions and advance the boundary of knowledge. His other federal grants include NSF and NIH R03 that are also extremely competitive nationally. Dr. Zhao has published in 14 journal articles in the past 5 years, one of with was awarded "Top 20 most downloaded articles in Feb. 2011". He has funded grants that total over $1,000,000 in the period of the past five years.
2015 Alexander Paz-Cruz Dr. Paz has a very solid and well-rounded research record. Paz also serves as the director of the Transportation Research Center. Paz clearly has a strong background in sustainability, transportation systems and algorithm development for modelling traffic networks, and the real-time impact of disturbances to the traffic network. His strength is not only in traffic system and sustainability, but also in applying concepts of computer science to a domain specific area. His expertise in both of these fields allowed him to contribute as a committee member and author to the Transportation Research Board’s publication “A Primer for Dynamic Traffic Assignment.” Dr. Paz is clearly in an area of high importance to the nation, and his ability to contribute significantly both as a computer modeler and a traffic engineer will continue to make his work valuable. This contribution is evidenced by his proposal generation and funding level that is probably due to his own level of productivity, but also to the productivity of the other members of the Transportation Research Center. As a relatively new faculty member (PhD 2007), Paz has already developed an impressive research record, and is likely to continue to grow this record in the future.
2014 Pushkin Kachroo Dr. Kachroo is professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering. His research interest is in the area of transportation. Since 2009, Prof. Kachroo published three books, three book chapters, 22 journal papers and 10 full refereed conference papers. He was the PI/Co-PI on $7.4 million. He graduated two PhD students and 13 MS students. His h-index is 10 an i10-index is 14 since 2009. The five candidates are at different stages in their career which makes the selection process harder. However among the five candidates Professor Kachroo rises to be the best candidates for this award. It was difficult to select one winner because each application has unique strengths that are not matched by others. After revisiting the application material several times, however, I conclude that Dr. Kachroo is my choice for the Distinguished Research Award.
2013 Nader Ghafoori Nader Ghafoori is an experienced professor of civil engineering. He has maintained an impressive research record despite serving until recently as Department Chair. His research interest is in Portland cement concrete materials and structures. He averaged 2 journal articles per year, and advised an impressive 9 graduate students in the past 5 years. He is a well-recognized expert in his field, and has been involved with organizing several conferences in his field.
2012 Sajjad Ahmad

Sajjad Ahmad joined UNLV in 2006 and is currently an Associate professor working in the field of water resources and climate change. Since 2007 he has 25 papers in peer reviewed journals and 30 conference papers. His h-index is quite high 13 with a total of 522 citations. He has been able to attract $1.4 M in research funding over the last 5 years. He also has received several research awards at UNLV. His research has found a lot of applications in projecting climate change and estimating soil moisture using remote sensing data. He also has received an Outstanding mentor award.

2011 Darrell Pepper Dr. Pepper’s contribution to the College, his profession, and the field of Finite Element Analysis is well rounded and substantial at all levels. This is reflected by him being able to publish in forms of books, book chapters, journals, conferences, serving as editor to major journals, develop platforms to conduct research not just for himself but also for others, and staying active in guiding graduate students. Many of his peer reviewed publication in journals and conferences are with him being the first author. In addition to publications, he has been successful in attracting research funding. Dr. Pepper has stayed active in mentoring graduate students.