Scholarship Impact Award

To recognize outstanding scholars on our campus, the Vice President for Research has designated the Scholarship Impact Award.  This annual award recognizes faculty members whose scholarship has had a major impact nationally and/or internationally but who has not yet been recognized with the university’s highest designations of University Distinguished Professor and University Distinguished Teaching Scholar.  The OVPR has expanded the SIA to provide two tracks for awards each year: 1) the “Recent Achievement” award recognizes more recent impact of a scholar’s career, focusing on the immediate past 10 years of a scholar’s career; and 2) the “Career Achievement” award recognizes the long-term or enduring impact of scholarship across the span of a scholar’s career.  Each award includes a plaque of recognition and $15,000 in funding to support the recipient’s research and/or scholarship program. Awardees will also be recognized through a new event, the Scholarship Impact Award Lecture Series, wherein they will be invited to present a lecture on their scholarship. 

Nominations are due by 5:00 p.m. MT on January 25, 2021 and must be submitted through the CSU InfoReady Review system. The system will not accept nominations after 5:00 p.m. and no late nominations will be accepted.

Debbie C. Crans

Debbie Crans, professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences, has received Colorado State University’s 2021 Scholarship Impact Award for Career Achievement, in recognition of her research accomplishments and professional impacts on the fields of both organic and inorganic chemistry.

The Scholarship Impact Award recognizes distinguished CSU faculty whose scholarship has had a major impact nationally or internationally. This is the first year the Office of the Vice President for Research has named two award recipients: the award for Recent Achievement focuses on the last 10 years of scholarship, and the award for Career Achievement honors an entire career of scholarship.

The Scholarship Impact Award includes $15,000 in funding to support the recipient’s research and/or scholarship program and an invitation to present a lecture on their scholarship.

Over her 34-year career at CSU, Crans has become a world expert in the area of metals in medicine, bioinorganic and biological chemistry. She is best known for her work on the chemistry and biochemistry of vanadium-containing compounds, which has earned her major national and international awards in both organic chemistry (Cope Scholar Award 2015) and inorganic chemistry (Vanadis Award 2004 and American Chemical Society Distinguished Service and Research Award 2019).

Most of this work involves the chemistry of vanadium compounds acting as anti-diabetic agents.

Crans pioneered the characterization of vanadium compounds as active insulin enhancing agents and documented the structural similarity between vanadium and phosphorus, which allows vanadium compounds to bind enzymes. Her work ranges from fundamental chemistry to in vivo clinical studies, designing new compounds, investigating their fundamental properties, and studying their biological activity.

Recently, Crans has worked on the effects of vanadium compounds as anti-cancer agents, taking two approaches to improving treatment of difficult-to-treat cancers that are resistant to cisplatin.

Crans joined CSU in 1987 after completing her Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Harvard. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

At CSU, she has maintained an active research group for the past 34 years with support from NSF, NIH, PRF and other donors, raising over $8 million in research funding. She holds one patent and has two active disclosures, and has presented 263 invited talks (with another dozen postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

Crans has mentored more than 60 graduate and postgraduate students and 200 undergraduates in research over her career, as well as publishing 236 peer-reviewed articles that have been cited more than 10,000 times, and edited 12 books or journal issues.

“The dramatic and broad impact of Professor Debbie Crans’ work brings to CSU prestige, honor and recognition,” wrote George Barisas, professor of chemistry and University Interdisciplinary Scholar at CSU, in nominating Crans for the Scholarship Impact Award. “I have always been impressed by the timeliness of her interests, the creativity of her research, the breadth of her international reputation, her concern for student success and her broad participation in University and professional activities. “

Crans, named the College of Natural Sciences’ Professor Laureate for 2015-17, currently chairs the department’s biological chemistry program and the faculty awards committee.

Her most recent national award, the 2019 ACS distinguished service award in inorganic chemistry, is the highest honor the organization can bestow on any member. Crans is only the third woman to receive this high distinction in the society’s 53-year history.

To celebrate Crans’ achievements, a full issue of the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry published in 2020 was dedicated to her.

John McKay

John McKay, professor in the Department of Agricultural Biology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, has received Colorado State University’s 2021 Scholarship Impact Award for Recent Achievement, in recognition of the research he has undertaken and the significant impacts it has had on the field of plant ecology and evolution.

The Scholarship Impact Award recognizes distinguished CSU faculty whose scholarship has had a major impact nationally or internationally. This is the first year the Office of the Vice President for Research has named two award recipients: the award for Recent Achievement focuses on the last 10 years of scholarship, and the award for Career Achievement honors an entire career of scholarship.

The Scholarship Impact Award includes $15,000 in funding to support the recipient’s research and/or scholarship program and an invitation to present a lecture on their scholarship.

McKay’s recent research focuses on plant biology with an emphasis on linking genetic variation with physiological traits and ultimately performance in the field. For the past several years he has been using his expertise in ecology to understand drought tolerance in plants. He studies all aspects of plant biology “from roots to shoots,” and has done groundbreaking research on the genomic basis of drought response and local adaptation.

Amy Charkowski, head of his department, called work on drought tolerance “one of the most important areas needed to insure the future well-being of humanity” in her letter nominating McKay for the Scholarship Impact Award.

“Dr. McKay has helped put CSU on the map as a place to study and research drought tolerance,” she added.

Since 2010, when he joined CSU, McKay’s work has attracted nearly $10.5 million in external funding, the highest in the department. He has also published over 70 peer-reviewed articles, including papers in PNAS, Plant Cell, New Phytologist, that have generated over 9,500 citations, and presented dozens of guest lectures and papers at conferences and symposia around the world. McKay was named a CSU Monfort Professor in 2012 and elected an AAAS fellow in 2019.

McKay is renowned for translating his ecological and evolutionary findings to an applied context, such as biofuels production and crop breeding. His work in phenomics led to a patent on equipment for root phenotype analysis. This piece of equipment allows plant breeders and agronomists to measure how plant genetics and crop and soil management affect root phenotypes.

McKay was one of the first plant genomics experts to work with hemp after it once again became legal to grow in the United States. Hemp is a challenging plant to study because it lacks the decades of work invested into other crops. He also has worked with others in the College of Agricultural Sciences to teach an international drought workshop at CSU that has served nearly 150 students from at least 40 countries.

McKay holds a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York in Albany and a Ph.D. from the University of Montana in Missoula.