1885 Society Distinguished Scholars Selected
At age 12, Joellen Russell saw famed astronaut Sally Ride on the cover of Time magazine and decided to become an explorer, too. But rather than travel to space, she determined to plumb the ocean's depths.
Russell grew to love oceanography even more during her first research trip to the Southern Ocean near the Antarctic – a remote, hostile location with 100-foot waves that can make a 300-foot-tall ship lurch and shudder. The focus of her inquiry: to study the Southern Ocean's critical role in slowing the warming of the world's atmosphere.
"How hot it's going to get in the next 100 years is dependent on how much heat the Southern Ocean absorbs," said Russell, now an associate professor in the UA Department of Geosciences. "Overall, more than 90 percent of the extra heat from global warming is absorbed in the ocean, and more than 70 percent of that goes into the Southern Ocean."
In recognition of her research and contributions to the UA, Russell is one of three faculty members honored this year with the 1885 Society Distinguished Scholars Award. Selected annually, 1885 Distinguished Scholars are recognized for demonstrating leadership and innovation in their respective fields. Honorees each receive a $10,000 award to continue their scholarly work.
The award is supported by and named after the 1885 Society, a donor leadership group dedicated to furthering excellence at the UA by providing an annual, consistent source of funding to the UA Office of the President. Support for the 1885 Society also furthers the mission of the UA's largest-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, Arizona Now.
"These esteemed scholars bring distinction to the University of Arizona," UA President Ann Weaver Hart said of this year's honorees. "Through their research and commitment to student engagement, this year's 1885 Society Distinguished Scholars model the vision set forth in our Never Settle strategic plan."
Never Settle's priorities include expanding the student experience through 100 percent engagement and advancing knowledge and creative inquiry.
Russell's colleagues say she teaches more than almost anyone else in geosciences. In one oceanography class, which includes an honors section and a field trip to the Gulf of California, she averages more than 350 students per year.
"I care about my students because they are so bright, and I get an opportunity to help shape their future," Russell said. "I find their energy intoxicating and I never want to turn anyone away who wants to learn."
A committee of University Distinguished Professors and Regents' Professors from across campus selects the 1885 Society Distinguished Scholars. Candidates are evaluated on national and international achievements, groundbreaking innovation, and their contributions to teaching and community impact.
"This award is an amazing and humbling continuation of the UA's generous commitment to my development as a scientist and as a professor," Russell said. "I am determined to make sure that this investment in me pays off."
The other 1885 Distinguished Scholars named this year are Celeste González de Bustamante, an associate professor in the School of Journalism, and Ivan Djordjevic, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
González de Bustamante is recognized for her research and student engagement. She leads an interdisciplinary collaboration between the School of Journalism, the School of Art and the UA Libraries that will establish an open-access digital archive featuring oral histories of "silenced" journalists to demonstrate how violence impacts the self-expression of individuals in emerging democratic societies. An inspiring teacher, she also has led international research projects in which students traveled to Arizona-Sonora border towns, Mexico City and New York City to report on border issues.
"My teaching and research on journalism and freedom of expression has been truly a labor of love, and for it to be recognized is an incredible honor," González de Bustamante said.
Djordjevic, who develops communications technologies, has made important breakthroughs in transforming the way large amounts of data get transmitted via the Internet and optical networks at high speeds. Recently, he was among six other researchers from four universities to be awarded a multimillion dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for the development of a highly secure communication method based on quantum mechanics. The method would allow for the secure transfer of secret information at speeds necessary for real-time exchanges.
"I am honored to be selected by the 1885 Society," Djordjevic said. "It assures me that I am on the right track with my research and the UA appreciates the work I do in my field."
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Discover the priorities of Arizona NOW online at arizonanow.org.