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Office of the Vice President for Research

Featured Scholars

The Office of the Vice President for Research is proud to recognize the University of South Carolina's diverse and talented faculty whose creativity and innovation are changing the world around us. Featured Scholars is one program through which we do that.

Each month, the Office of the Vice President for Research puts out a call for nominees to be recognized as Featured Scholars. We gather up USC's the best and brightest talent, and feature them here on a regular basis to get the word out about their innovative work, and provide appreciation for the contributions they make to the Carolina community every day.

November 2015 Featured Scholars

James Ackley

James Ackley, School of Music

James Ackley is an Associate Professor of Music.  James performs all over the world and enjoys connecting with different cultures.  His performances have taken him to more than 25 countries in total.  As a member of the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra, he won a Grammy Award for best Classical Album.  As a soloist, James has been considered for a Grammy on five separate occasions.  Currently, James is working closely with the Department of Theater and Dance at USC, writing a grant to produce several concerts of Ballets with solo trumpet that James has had commissioned.   James has published 11 recordings and a book since he joined the USC in 2007.  He has also premiered over 20 works and commissioned over 40 for trumpet.  James has received Alumni awards from his alma maters: Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory of Music (BM), the Cleveland Institute of Music (MM) and, most recently (2015), Turpin High School.

Tom Bragg

Tom Bragg, USC Salkehatchie

Dr. Tom Bragg graduated in 2009 from the University of Florida with a Ph.D. specializing in the Victorian novel. His primary research interest is the nineteenth-century historical novel. Dr. Bragg’s first book, Space and Narrative in the Nineteenth-Century British Historical Novel, will be published by Ashgate next year, and is a study of the spatial poetics of three representative historical novelists. According to Ashgate’s editorial board, the book “promises to produce fresh readings of well-known novels and also to open up the category itself to fresh novels.” Dr. Bragg is currently researching his second book, a historically contextualized examination of the correspondence of a forgotten Victorian historical novelist; he has won three internal grants to fund this project. His work has also appeared in such journals as Victorian Newsletter and Studies in the Novel, and such books as A Companion to Sensation Fiction (2013) and Upstairs and Downstairs (2014). 

Li Cai

Li Cai, USC Salkehatchie

DDr. Li Cai, assistant professor of chemistry in USC Salkehatchie, is an organic chemist and glyco-scientist. Dr. Cai’s research mainly focuses carbohydrate-active enzymes and their applications. He developed an in-vitro enzymatic system for the synthesis of rare sugars that are monosaccharides rarely existing in nature, in which he transforms the flask reaction into cell-based synthesis. Dr. Cai also collaborates with Dr. Qian Wang at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry on the labeling of breast cancer cells and viruses via metabolic engineering using azido sugars. Dr. Cai is also devoted to enhancing the teaching and learning of chemistry, which includes advising undergraduate researches. He initiated an undergraduate chemical research program centered in the Walterboro campus. He has published more than 19 peer-reviewed papers in chemical research and education journals (among more than 40 publications total) since joining the USC Salkehatchie faculty in 2011. He is a member of the editorial board of 2 journals and has reviewed more than 64 manuscripts for 28 journals.

Robin Estrada

Robin Estrada, College of Nursing

Dr. Robin Estrada is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner.  Her experience with patients in her rural primary care pediatric practice compelled her to study communication issues between patients and health care providers. Her goal is to develop practical strategies and interventions that will make a positive difference for rural and other vulnerable populations. She currently divides her time between two research projects.  Her qualitative project, Experiences of Rural Southeastern Latino Parents of Children with Asthma, focuses on how the process of communication can affect health outcomes for children.  Specifically, she is examining the issues parents have in accessing and communicating with their child’s provider regarding asthma care. The second project, Teacher Perceptions of Students with ADHD, focuses on non-verbal communication (such as eye contact) of a child with ADHD and how it is perceived. Negative perceptions by others may lead to internalized stigma and feelings of worthlessness on the part of the child with ADHD.   

Edie Goldsmith

Edie Goldsmith, School of Medicine

Dr. Edie Goldsmith is a Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy at the School of Medicine. She is graduate director for the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at the School of Medicine and coordinates the Integrated Biomedical Sciences Graduate program involving the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Pharmacy and the School of Public Health. Dr. Goldsmith served on the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee for ten years, five of which as chair. She has been a faculty mentor in the First Year Mentoring program and the USC Women’s Mentor Network. Dr. Goldsmith’s externally funded research program is one of the first to examine the therapeutic potential of metallic nanomaterials to treat cardiovascular disease. Dr. Goldsmith served as the director for the state-wide Postdoctoral Academic Career Development (PACD) program funded through the SC IdeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) and currently serves as the Program Coordinator for the INBRE.

Joshua Grace

Joshua Grace, College of Arts and Sciences

Joshua Grace is a social historian who focuses on the relationship between technology and development in East African history. His current book project, Making Cars African: A Social History of Development in Tanzania, tells the story of mechanics, drivers, passengers, and oil engineers who transformed automobiles from a tool of imperial rule into an everyday African technology. Drawing from sources in ten archives, more than 200 oral histories in Swahili, and on his own apprenticeship in a garage, it argues that both histories and theories of development are incomplete – and sometimes just wrong – because they have ignored Africans’ technical expertise and creativity. Dr. Grace’s next research project examines slums as technological accomplishments that are built and maintained by urban residents against great odds. His research has been funded by Fulbright and by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of History since 2013.

Brooke McKeever

Brooke McKeever, College of Information and Communications

Brooke Weberling McKeever, Ph.D., studies nonprofit public relations and health communication with a focus on advocacy, fundraising, and campaigns that mobilize publics and improve health and social conditions. She has received multiple awards for her teaching and research, including the Most Promising Professor Award in 2015, from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) and the International Communication Association (ICA). Now in her fifth year at the University of South Carolina, Dr. McKeever has more than 20 publications in peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Communication, Health Communication, Science Communication, and the Journal of Public Relations Research. She has professional experience working with organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and is involved with local nonprofits including the Federation of Families of South Carolina. She is also an Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication Legacy Scholar grant recipient for 2015-2016.

Bruce Nims

Bruce Nims, USC Lancaster

Dr. Bruce G. Nims, Distinguished Professor of English at USC Lancaster, has been teaching for over thirty years.  Despite a heavy course load, he balances his commitments to his students with scholarly activity.  His most recent project focuses on Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s career during the immediate post-war period, 1946-1949.  While his first three films of this period promoted the goals of American occupiers, Kurosawa pursued a new course following the great Toho strike of 1948, directing films illustrating legitimate Japanese heroism and innocent suffering (The Quiet Duel and Stray Dog), despite the American occupation’s insistence to the contrary, and demonstrating the genuine moral cost to the graft-ridden environment of occupation (Scandal).  Nims contends that Kurosawa’s project was more than an attempt to “slip by the censors,” and rather was an effort to resurrect a new form of legitimate heroism and social awareness for a defeated and occupied people.

Shaun Owens

  Shaun Owens, College of Social Work

In August 2014, the University of South Carolina (USC) welcomed Dr. Shaun Owens to the College of Social Work as an Assistant Professor to co-lead research and innovation activities related to healthy aging within the University’s SmartHOME Initiative. His lab, the Healthy Aging Research and Technology (HART) Lab, will focus on the community-led development of technology-based solutions such as embodied conversational agents, to help older adults make informed decisions about their health. These agents provide an interactive method to empower adults to make decisions (e.g., medication adherence) that can keep them independent longer. “I am beyond excited to be on faculty in the College of Social Work and a member of the SmartHOME™ leadership team. I believe that through our trans-disciplinary approach to developing innovative solutions, we can overcome many of the challenges that hinder older adults from aging in place.”

Tony Plotner

  Tony Plotner, College of Education

Assistant Professor of Special Education Dr. Tony Plotner’s expertise is community inclusion of individuals with diverse needs -- the transition to college, supported employment, and collaboration across systems promoting positive student outcomes. He is also the program director CarolinaLIFE. In five years, Plotner has secured over $3M in grants: Project POSTS: Preparation of Secondary Transition Specialists Project UNITE: Unifying South Carolina PSE Programs; and SC Vocational Rehabilitation to Enhance Employment Outcomes and Systems of Support. As such, Plotner received the College of Education’s Early Career Research Award. Additionally, Plotner is conducting collaborative research with the USC School of Medicine. In 2015, as a Co-PI, Plotner secured a new U.S. DoE grant for “Focus on Transition.” This five-year program will prepare Ph.D. scholars in special education leadership including the newly-developed SC graduate endorsement in transition practices making the college the first institution in South Carolina to offer the transition practices credential.

Christine Rinehart

  Christine Rinehart, USC Union

Dr. Christine Sixta Rinehart earned her Ph.D. in 2008 from the University of South Carolina. Dr. Sixta Rinehart's research focuses on terrorism and counterterrorism. She is currently working on a book entitled, Targeted Killing in the Middle East: An Appraisal of American Counterterrorism Policies. This book looks at the effects of American targeted killing using drones on 7 Middle Eastern countries and should be published in late 2016. The countries include: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Her first book, Volatile Social Movements and the Origins of Terrorism: The Radicalization of Change most recently came out in paperback in 2014.  This book examines the origins of terrorism in social movements and focuses on 4 case studies.

Kevin So

  Kevin So, College of HRSM

Dr. Kevin Kam Fung So joined USC in 2014 as an Assistant Professor in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and a Research Associate in the SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development. His research interests focus on services marketing and brand management, with a special emphasis on customer engagement, electronic word of mouth, brand loyalty, and internal branding in the tourism industry. His work has appeared in top-tier tourism and hospitality journals including the Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, International Journal of Hospitality Management, Journal of Travel Research, and Tourism Management. Dr. So’s academic achievements include the Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence: Highly Commended Paper Award; the Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing Martin Oppermann Best Article of the Year Award; the Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research Article of the Year Award; and the internationally prestigious Emerald/EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.

Cuizhen Wang

  Cuizhen Wang, College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Cuizhen (Susan) Wang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and serves as the USC Coordinator of the USGIF GeoINT Undergraduate Certificate Program and as the USC Delegate for the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS). Her primary research areas are bio-environmental remote sensing and satellite time-series analysis, in applied areas of prairie conservation, biophysical mapping and environmental stress assessment. Since 2013 she has been funded by the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to study bioenergy-driven agricultural land use change and its environmental implication in the U.S. Midwest. Her research findings have been published in highly ranked journals in Geography and Remote Sensing. Dr. Wang serves as an Editorial Board Member for International Journal of Digital Earth and International Journal of Biometeorology, and plays an active role in Association of American Geographers (AAG) Remote Sensing Specially Group.