MU Professor Receives President’s Award for Early Career Excellence
University of Missouri System Interim Chief of Staff David Russell today awarded the third of ten UM System President’s Awards to be presented to faculty in 2017 to Justin Walensky, associate professor of chemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Russell—accompanied by MU Provost Garnett Stokes and MU Interim Vice Chancellor for Research, Graduate Studies and Economic Development Mark McIntosh—surprised Walensky with the President’s Award for Early Career Excellence while he was teaching a course. The award, which includes a $5,000 prize, recognizes faculty who exhibit exceptional promise within their first seven years with the university as demonstrated through scholarship, research or creativity.
Walensky joined MU’s faculty in 2011 and has already been granted early tenure for his accomplishments. In addition to teaching introductory and advanced chemistry classes, he has revived a dormant line of research at the MU Research Reactor using actinides, studying how electrons are bonded between two atoms. The research may lead to new breakthroughs in how to recycle spent nuclear fuel.
“Justin has helped revive Missouri’s long tradition in actinide chemistry that goes back to at least the early 1960s,” Professor Thomas Albrecht-Schmitt of Florida State University wrote. “His program significantly strengthens Missouri’s world-recognized program in radiochemistry and nuclear medicine. It is clear that Justin’s productivity in the research laboratory is difficult to match.”
In his area of expertise, he is known for a strong publication record with more than 30 publications in high-impact journals, constant recognition for his research with more than $3 million in external funding, a commitment to teaching and mentoring and a solid service record serving on several campus committees and as associate chair for undergraduate studies.
“Justin brings a unique combination of synthetic and computational tools to bear on important problems in his field, and does both with equal rigor. His methods are very creative and allow him to solve problems with actinides in ways that no one else in his field can,” wrote Professor and Department of Chemistry Chair Timothy Glass in a nomination letter. “Based on his many accomplishments in such a short period of time, his significant funding and his novel ongoing work, we expect that Justin will continue to have great impact on his field.”
The UM System President’s Awards are presented annually to faculty members across the four campuses of the UM System who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the university. Walensky will be formally recognized by UM System President Mun Choi during an awards celebration to be held in June.