The annual Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Awards for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement were awarded to four promising faculty members who exemplify groundbreaking and innovative research and promise for future careers.
The late Phillip Hettleman, a member of Caroline’s Class of 1921, and his wife Ruth established their prestigious named award in 1986 to recognize the achievements of outstanding junior teachers. Recipients of the $5,000 award will be recognized at an upcoming Faculty Council meeting and will present on their research during Academic Research Week.
This year’s Hettleman Prize winners are: Danielle Christmas, associate professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, College of Arts and Sciences; Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta, associate professor in the Department of Genetics at the School of Medicine; Seth A. Berkowitz, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the School of Medicine; and Frank Leibfarth, assistant professor in the College’s Department of Chemistry.
Danielle Christmas studies 20th and 21st century American literature and is the author of the forthcoming book, Plantation Predators & Nazi Monsters in American Fiction and Film, and an ongoing book titled, The Literature of Blood and Soil: White nationalism and a new American canon.
“Danielle’s contributions to these literary studies are innovative and groundbreaking,” says Jeanne Moskal, a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. “His research appeals decisively not only to specialists in his field, but also to non-specialists and the general public.”
In his nomination letter for Christmas, Moskal goes on to say that his comparative approach to this subject is revolutionary. Christmas retrieves and analyzes historical black experiences and texts on their own terms, but also places these experiences and texts in a comparative framework to understand their later ramifications.
In addition to his two books, Christmas has published eight peer-reviewed substantive scientific articles, an entry for a reference book, and an article in The New Republic.
She received her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her BA in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis.
Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta’s research focuses on pancreatic cancer, particularly pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which is one of the deadliest and most difficult to treat cancers. She is a member of the UNC Lineberger Cancer Comprehensive Center (LCCC) and is internationally recognized in her field.
Pylayeva-Gupta’s research aims to reverse the immunosuppressive microenvironment of cancerous tumors of the pancreas. She is making progress in understanding how the immune system is subverted to promote pancreatic cancer growth, metastasis and insensitivity to immunotherapy.
In a joint appointment letter for Pylayeva-Gupta, LCCC Director Shelton Earp said, “She has done an outstanding job laying the foundation for success in all aspects of her role as a faculty member. She has distinguished herself scientifically by designing important and timely research directions on a deadly disease that is increasing in incidence. She built her laboratory team with talented trainees whom she supervised effectively, paying attention to their personal and professional development. She is an effective educator and caring mentor.
Pylayeva-Gupta has published seven peer-reviewed research articles on work done in her lab at UNC-Chapel Hill, along with two reviews and a guest editorial. She also has two research articles in press at Cell Reports Medicine and Nature.
She received her doctorate in cell biology and genetics from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and her bachelor’s degree in biological chemistry and Russian language and literature from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Seth A. Berkowitz
Seth A. Berkowitz’s research examining and addressing social health-related needs is impacting social medicine and inspiring UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and students to consider that in many cases the root causes the most important aspects of health are social and economic. .
Through more than 50 peer-reviewed original research publications, Berkowitz has moved from epidemiological studies of food insecurity to designing and testing innovative interventions to address it. His work has been published in high-impact journals and has had a real impact on nutrition and health policy.
“At the end of the day, medicine in America is political, and Seth represents UNC in highly visible places and does it effectively,” says Janet Rubin, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine. “We are very proud of his work, especially as it contributes to improving the health of our citizens.”
Berkowitz earned his MD from UNC School of Medicine, his BS in Public Policy Analysis and Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill, and his MPH in Clinical Effectiveness from Harvard School of Public Health.
Frank Leibfarth studies the stereochemistry and functionalization of polymers – areas he has advanced by using the fundamental principles of reactivity to overturn decades-old beliefs and broaden the definition of what is possible in the design of sustainable materials. and functional next generation.
Leibfarth has launched three innovative research programs in his group, one of which focuses on remediating toxic PFAS chemicals from water in North Carolina, for which he recently received a $10 million grant in the state budget 2021-2022.
He is listed as co-author of over 42 peer-reviewed manuscripts and regularly collaborates with organic chemists, computer scientists, environmental engineers, materials scientists, and mechanical engineers.
“Quite simply, Professor Leibfarth is one of the most creative, fearless and talented young scientists of his generation,” says Wei You, professor and head of the Department of Chemistry. “I strongly support that he is and will continue to be one of the most important chemists of his generation.”
Leibfarth received his doctorate in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics from the University of South Dakota.