While she examines sexuality as well as technology's impact on couples and families, his primary research investigates the genetic and structural variants contributing to human health and disease.
At first blush, these two professors in the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine appear to have little in common. But the more you come to know about them, the more you understand that what they do have in common — a passion for their work — has played a major role in both recently receiving the Barrick Distinguished Scholar Award.
The awards recognize faculty with an established record of distinguished research or who have demonstrated excellence in creative activity.
“You ask the reason why I produce so much research and I think the simple answer is I just love it,” said Hertlein, a professor who’s written 12 books, published 100 articles, and written more than 40 book chapters. “There’s always a home for every paper and just because I haven’t found the home doesn’t mean that I won’t find it, even if it takes a few years. That keeps me motivated and also keeps me publishing.”
Her two textbooks on sex therapy are the most widely used textbooks in the field. Her two books on technology and relationships are the only ones of their kind, sharing ways to diagnose and treat couples and families dealing with challenges in a digital world.
“I can’t imagine a better job than getting paid to answer questions that I have about the world and people around me,” she said. “I think it’s important we give back to the society in which we live, and part of the way I give back is by trying to find ways to produce better techniques for therapists, to look at the environment in which we are living and to try to address the problems developed in our contemporary world.
"Research and writing gave me a way to say all the things I wanted to say. I learned data speaks. Publishing was a megaphone, and I learned I loved to shout into it.”
A Rock Star Geneticist
“I have the best job that one could ask for in a lifetime," said Oh, an associate professor with a dual appointment in the medical school and the Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine. "I am not an NFL star. I don’t fly rockets. And I don’t sing very well. Rather, I am a human geneticist. I have pushed myself to develop research projects that could lead to a better understanding of disease and to also provide a service.
His research has been published in myriad journals, including Blood, Human Molecular Genetics, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"When the COVID-19 pandemic started, my research group and I started to ask questions about how we could use our tools to provide answers about an unknown virus. Fast forward two years, and working with the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and global partners, we have developed new protocols to identify emerging variants faster than most labs in the world.
“We recently discovered a new recombinant coronavirus (SAS-CoV-2) hybrid genome in wastewater and clinical samples and we are now tracking the newest Omicron sub-variants. We are also publishing 10 papers on viral variants and sharing our knowledge with the world on how to identify COVID-19 mutations and how to prepare for the next pandemic.”
Hertlein and Oh received their Barrick Distinguished Scholar Awards, which are presented to faculty members with 10 years of service or more in an academic environment after their terminal degree, during UNLV's Academic Achievement Awards Ceremony in April. Nominations for the award must come from an NSHE peer, chair, or dean. The awards, which carry a $5,000 stipend, were made possible by the late philanthropist and longtime UNLV supporter Marjorie Barrick.
Given their passionate penchant for research, it is not surprising that Hertlein and Oh, both of whom are sought out regularly by the media for their expertise, are no strangers to award ceremonies.
Hertlein is a former winner of the Barrick Scholar Award, which honors researchers for excellence early in their careers. And she is the first member of the School of Medicine to win the prized academic distinction of Fulbright Scholar. As a result of that 2018 honor, she used her Fulbright Scholarship to teach two courses at the University of Salzburg in Austria and to do research on how people use cell phones in their couples and family relationships. Her book, A Clinician’s Guide to Systemic Sex Therapy, was honored with the 2017 Book Award from the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.
Oh’s COVID-19 wastewater research work with the SNWA, the SNHD, and the Clark County School District also earned him the UNLV office of community engagement’s Community-Based Research Award. For his efforts in training students — 12 high school students, 35 undergraduates, 10 laboratory technicians, and six postdoctoral fellows work in his lab — Oh was awarded the office of undergraduate research’s 2021 Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award in the Health and Natural Sciences and Engineering category.
While understandably proud of the honors that have come their way, both Hertlein and Oh believe their best work is yet to come.
“I am competitive with myself,” said Hertlein. “It’s important to me to keep looking at what I’ve done this year and trying to figure out how to improve for next year. I have taken that approach every year.”
Said Oh, “I wake up every day smiling because I know our lab will be making a new discovery that may keep us a few steps ahead of a disease. This is why I do research.”