Symposium to celebrate, honor KSU faculty research

Symposium to celebrate, honor KSU faculty research

Kennesaw State’s Office of Research will host its inaugural John C. Salerno Memorial Research Symposium on Friday, Sept. 28 to celebrate and showcase faculty research.

Jonathan McMurry, associate vice president for research and professor of chemistry, said that the symposium is meant as a way to formally recognize and celebrate the research done by KSU faculty and to give tribute to the research contributions of John C. Salerno, who served as the Neel Distinguished Chair in Biotechnology at KSU before his death in 2015.

In July, faculty members from across the university were able to submit their research abstracts to the Office of Research to determine if they could showcase their research at the symposium. The final selections of presenters were chosen by McMurry and a panel of other faculty members.

During the symposium, attendees will be able to choose their favorite presenter in the form of a “People’s Choice Award,” according to KSU’s website. The participant who wins the award will also receive a $500 cash prize, and the top presenter will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

McMurry explained that the idea for the symposium came about after he had been seeking ways to honor Salerno’s memory at KSU while Natasha Williams, assistant director of pre-award services in the Office of Research, was trying to find a way to celebrate faculty research. After realizing they had a common goal, Williams and McMurry worked to put together the idea for the symposium.

“John gave so much to so many people, and he’s still giving even after he’s gone,” said Susan M.E. Smith, Salerno’s wife, professor of biology and a foundation fellow. “The family is pleased to see his legacy of research and teaching honored by the university.”

According to a news release on KSU’s website, Salerno began working at KSU as a professor of biology and chemistry in 2006. Before coming to KSU, he served as a professor and chair of the biology department at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

Salerno’s work has been published in more than 200 scientific journals, his research focusing mainly on enzymology and the properties and activity of nitric oxide synthases, a family of enzymes that produce nitric oxide. According to KSU’s website, the molecule benefits cardiovascular health because it regulates blood vessel expansion.

McMurry and Salerno also co-founded New Echota Biotechnology, KSU’s first incubator company. Through the company, they patented several potential uses of compounds that may help advance drug development and disease management, the website states.

“John’s legacy at KSU is to be found not only in the discoveries he made and his contributions to building the research environment but also to the mentoring of young faculty who have now come into their own as independent researchers,” McMurry said.

Salerno was recognized by KSU in 2015 with its “Distinguished Professor” award. Presented by the KSU Foundation, the award was given to Salerno because of his integration of teaching, research and professional service, according to KSU’s website.

“John’s contribution towards elevating the research environment in KSU’s College of Science and Mathematics cannot be overstated,” said Donald McGarey, interim vice president for research. “John was not only a highly respected researcher, he had a passion for teaching and was a mentor to many students who worked on various research projects in his lab. This memorial symposium is yet one more way to celebrate John’s life, his influence and important contributions.”

A schedule of presenters for the symposium can be found on the Office of Research’s website.

Presenters will speak about their research in a 15-minute segment before answering questions from the audience. The symposium is open to the public and will take place 1-5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, in the KSU Center in room 400.

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