Distinguished Researcher Award

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
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.