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Sooby receives President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Research Achievement

July 22, 2021
Sooby receives President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Research Achievement

Profile photo of Elizabeth Sooby

Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Elizabeth Sooby, has received the President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Research Achievement for her development of an internationally recognized research program that successfully combines research excellence with student development. 

"I am very honored to receive the award for Research Achievement," says Sooby. "The credit is due to the great research team I get to lead and work with every day, and I am very grateful for the recognition and support of all we have accomplished over the last few years."

Despite Sooby’s short time at UTSA, she has already accomplished her goal to build a thriving research program in nuclear fuel fabrication and testing. In less than ten months, Sooby converted her allotted 570 square feet into a full-fledged nuclear materials laboratory approved by the UTSA Radiation and Laser Safety Committee. The lab, which is part of the Consortium on Nuclear Security Technologies (CONNECT) program, has now expanded its capacities and grown to over 1,400 square feet of space, helping UTSA achieve national recognition in nuclear science. 

Sooby’s research aims to improve the viability and cost-effectiveness of civilian nuclear power generation. This research directly addresses global climate change by reducing future carbon emissions. Sooby is establishing herself as a leader in her field. Sooby has published 15 peer-reviewed journal articles, 17 conference proceedings, and two book chapters in her 3.5 years with UTSA. 

Through extensive grant writing, Sooby has amassed over $5 million in external federal grants and industry contacts. Her research is currently supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) Nuclear Energy University Programs, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Westinghouse Electric Company.

This funding has allowed Sooby to further another goal — to support and prepare her students to succeed in material science careers. She currently supports the research efforts of one postdoctoral fellow, one postbaccalaureate fellow, six graduate students and four undergraduate researchers, as well as two guest researchers. 

Sooby ensures her research students fully understand the publishing process by encouraging student authorship. Recent student-led publications under her mentorship will appear in the renown Journal of Nuclear Materials. She has also leveraged her research funding and collaborative network to provide research opportunities for several students at the U.S. National Laboratories, aligning with UTSA’s goal of career-readiness. 

Additionally, Sooby serves as a co-faculty advisor of the UTSA Rowdy Women in Physics (Rowdy WiP). What began as a small group of students looking to create a strong network in the field of physics is now an American Physical Society funded organization. With the support of her mentorship, the Rowdy WiP received the Council of Student Organization’s Outstanding Educational Program Award in 2019. 

Outside of her research and student development efforts, Sooby is a member of UTSA’s Radiation and Laser Safety Committee, the Department of Physics and Astronomy’s Student Success Committee, and a Peer Mentoring Team on Experiential Learning. Sooby serves the scientific community as a reviewer for five research journals. She is also a member to the following organizations and committees:  

  • The American Nuclear Society
  • The American Nuclear Society’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee
  • The Technical Minerals, Metals and Materials (TMS) Society
  • The TMS Nuclear Materials Programming Committee
  • The American Physical Society
  • The American Ceramics Society
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science

“[Dr. Sooby’s] research addresses key societal challenges, specifically growing the STEM workforce from non-traditional student populations and transitioning to a lower carbon intensity power generation system, while forwarding her own career, advancing the UTSA material sciences program, and enhancing the UTSA objective to be a model for student success as well as a great public research university,” says Angela Speck, professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The Research Achievement Award for tenure-track faculty recognizes individuals who have conducted high quality, high impact research that shows distinct promise for national and international recognition and substantial contribution to the faculty member’s field.