May 7, 2020

Board of Governors honors professors for scholarly achievements

Five Wayne State University professors who have distinguished themselves with significant scholarly achievements were recently honored with 2020 WSU Board of Governors Faculty Recognition Awards.

The awards are offered annually to full-time faculty members who make outstanding contributions to scholarship and learning. Each recipient receives a citation from the board, an engraved wall plaque and a monetary award.

This year's recipients are: 

  • Henry (Hong-Qiang) Heng, professor, Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics in the School of Medicine
  • Yuson Jung, associate professor, Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Elena Past, associate professor, Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Ljiljana Progovac, professor, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Sarah Trimpin, professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Gov. Bryan C. Barnhill II recognized Heng for the publication of Genome Chaos: Rethinking Genetics, Evolution and Molecular Medicine (Academic Press, 2019). Heng introduces new genome-based evolutionary theories that will shape the field of genomic theory for decades to come. He introduces new frameworks of genome-defined system inheritance and genome variation-mediated macroevolution, including his original and creative genome theory, which re-examines existing theories of cancer emergence.

Heng is a pioneer in visualizing how genome reorganization is central to both microcellular and macrocellular evolution and applying it to cancer development. His book will serve as resource for researchers across a number of fields, including cancer biology, molecular medicine, genomics and evolutionary biology.


Gov. Mark Gaffney recognized Jung for the publication of Balkan Blues: Consumer Politics After State Socialism (Indiana University Press, 2019). In Balkan Blues, Jung draws on 16 years of ethnographic fieldwork in Bulgaria to explore the ways that citizens participate in and experience the making of a consumer society during the transition from a production-oriented, centrally planned economy to a consumption-oriented capitalist market economy.

Consumption, she argues, is not merely a question of individual choice or an expression of cultural identity; rather, through the daily consumption practices of shopping and using utilities, citizens define rights and demand responsibilities in a globalized consumer society. Balkan Blues raises important questions about the role of the state and of citizens in 21st century neoliberal economies.


Gov. Sandra Hughes O’Brien recognized Past for the publication of Italian Ecocinema Beyond the Human (Indiana University Press, 2019). The work is an original study of the material dimensions of cinema and its relation to a network of agents that include people and countries, above ground and underground landscapes, living bodies, industry and oil, economic processes, and geopolitical dynamics.

Through an exploration of five films shot in different parts of Italy, Past’s study takes into account what happens to the environment while filming on location and the material traces the film industry leaves behind — as well as the impression the natural environment leaves on film. Italian Ecocinema seeks to uncover cinema’s ecological footprint and demonstrate cinema’s potential to offer alternative outlooks on the human and the nonhuman world. 


Gov. Marilyn Kelly recognized Progovac for the publication of A Critical Introduction to Language Evolution: Current Controversies and Future Prospects (Springer, 2019). Progovac offers criteria to evaluate the myriad competing hypotheses that attempt to account for the course of language evolution throughout history.

This book introduces new foundational goals, concepts and definitions of current approaches to the origin, changes and understanding of the biological basis not only of social interactions, but also and more generally of our human nature and existence. Progovac’s research is a major contribution to the interdisciplinary study of a field that is now recognized as central for scholars in the social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. 



Gov. Dana Thompson recognized Trimpin for receiving the Biemann Medal from the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS). The ASMS recognizes significant achievements made in the early stages of a career in basic or applied mass spectrometry. It is the highest honor a mid-career scientist contributing to the advancements of measurements can receive.

In 2019, the ASMS awarded the medal to Trimpin for her discovery and development of novel ionization processes that the ASMS believes will advance mass spectrometry into new applications, with considerable societal benefits in diagnostics, security, environment, and other areas, by providing real-time, information-rich data. Trimpin’s research accomplishments show levels of creativity that clearly place her among the very best in her field. 

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