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UW Professors Named Wyoming Excellence Chairs

June 21, 2021
Mohamed Ahmed, Dario Grana, Scott Henkel and Kevin Monteith

The University of Wyoming has recognized the exceptional scholarship and teaching of four UW professors by naming them Wyoming Excellence Chairs.

They are:

-- Mohamed Ahmed, the Williams and Person Professor/Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, and Construction Management, and also the director of the Driving Simulation and Human Factors Lab.

-- Dario Grana, an associate professor in the School of Energy Resources and the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

-- Scott Henkel, director of the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research and an associate professor in the departments of English, and African American and Diaspora Studies.

-- Kevin Monteith, an associate professor in the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, and Department of Zoology and Physiology, with affiliation with the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

The 2006 Wyoming State Legislature established the Excellence in Higher Education Endowment, which included a $70 million endowment to create senior faculty positions for highly distinguished scholars and educators at UW. The legislation states that the endowed positions must expand university instruction and research in disciplines related to economic and social challenges facing Wyoming.

The UW Wyoming Excellence chairs are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in their fields.

Ahmed is recognized for scholarship in advanced road safety management. Through the integration of statistical inference, complex computing techniques and machine learning, he extracts information from large datasets to address safety trends and patterns; estimate collision risk; assess the performance of emerging technologies; and make evidence-based safety decisions.

Since joining the university, Ahmed has developed a creative and innovative road safety research program that is unique within North America. Ahmed has fostered partnerships with industry and all levels of government, and he has helped raise close to $10 million in research funding during his tenure at UW. He and his research group at UW have published 57 peer-reviewed journal articles, 108 refereed conference publications and 42 technical reports.

“Dr. Ahmed’s connected vehicle research is truly cutting edge and is highly valued by the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the state and the U.S. Department of Transportation,” says Cameron Wright, acting dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. “His extremely positive professional recognition and notoriety enhance the reputation of UW, bring in considerable research funding and attract high-quality students. Dr. Ahmed is one of our stars.”

Grana is recognized for his work in advancing the development of innovative quantitative methods to improve the characterization of subsurface reservoirs. In 2014, he was honored with the Eni Award for developing an innovative method to obtain information about oil and gas reservoirs using seismic techniques.

Grana has been a champion for diversity and inclusion on the UW campus in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Tackling issues of implicit bias and systemic racism, Grana developed a course in the fall of 2020 examining those topics called “Diversity and Inclusion in Geoscience.” In conjunction with his course, Grana has started a discussion group for first-generation students in geology, geophysics and energy resources to help them combat feelings of isolation -- and to better integrate and network with upperclassmen and professionals.

“Dr. Grana regularly demonstrates research excellence, an aptitude for initiative and service activities, and a proactive approach to all he does,” says Holly Krutka, executive director of UW’s School of Energy Resources. “My team and I are continuously grateful for Dr. Grana’s collaboration with us. I extended my gratitude to Academic Affairs for recognizing Dr. Grana’s unique contributions and recognizing him with this much-deserved Wyoming Excellence Chair.”

Henkel is recognized for his outstanding leadership and scholarship in the humanities. He is the author of “Direct Democracy: Collective Power, the Swarm, and the Literatures of the Americas,” which won a C.L.R. James Award for Best Published Book for Academic or General Audiences from the Working-Class Studies Association in 2018. Henkel’s research expertise is on the relationship among democracy, labor and slavery in the Americas during the 19th century; he has published about the literatures of the Caribbean, Latin America and the multiethnic literatures of the United States, as well as the history and future of the land-grant university mission.

Henkel is the principal investigator for the team of UW faculty and Wyoming public servants affiliated with the Democracy Laboratory, a project of the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research, which addresses Wyoming’s and the nation’s grandest challenges: making liberty and justice for all a fact of life rather than a distant dream. The Democracy Lab is an intergenerational enterprise, bringing together undergraduates, graduate students, UW faculty, visiting researchers and the community, and builds a pipeline for rising leaders.

“Dr. Henkel’s trenchant scholarship on democracy, public service, free speech and political movements, along with his work in leading the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research, clearly demonstrates his outstanding contributions to the humanities in Wyoming,” says Anne Alexander, vice provost for strategic planning and initiatives. “He exemplifies the spirit and intention of the Wyoming Excellence Chairs.”

Monteith is recognized for his scholarship and teaching in natural resource science. His research focuses on integrating nutrition, population and quantitative ecology to understand behavior, resource allocation and life history to reveal the mechanisms underpinning fitness and population dynamics of large mammals from mule deer and elk to bighorn sheep, pronghorn and moose.

Monteith actively mentors a robust and diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students in his research, and he works to prepare them for impactful careers. His research program is grounded within a strong conceptual framework that builds on ecological theory and, importantly, informs on-the-ground management efforts of wildlife and habitat.

Monteith employs intensive field studies with longitudinal monitoring of individual animals. Many of his current efforts are centered on establishing a protocol for habitat-based, sustainable management of ungulate populations, while investigating the effects of predation, habitat alteration, climate change, migration strategies, disease, growth and novel disturbance through the lens of nutrition. His research has impact around the state and the globe, and it has resulted in more than 80 publications in leading scientific journals.

“Dr. Monteith’s efforts to have impact on the management of our wild and working lands are exemplary,” says John Koprowski, dean of the Haub School. “From the classroom to the field, he demonstrates the passion and productivity that one expects from a leading scientist committed to stewardship and sustainability of our wildlife and other natural resources.”

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