The Catholic University of America

May 1, 2009

Three CUA Professors Awarded for Excellence in Research

  At the Celebration of Research and Scholarship reception, from left: James Brennan, provost; Kurt Martens, assistant professor of canon law; Gary Sloan, associate professor of drama; and Venigalla Rao, professor and chair of biology.

Three professors received Catholic University's awards for excellence in research at the Celebration of Research and Scholarship reception held at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center on April 30.

The research of the following winners runs the gamut from creating vaccines to save millions of lives, to writing a one-man play about the brother of John Wilkes Booth, to explicating the Catholic Church's body of canon law:

  • Venigalla Rao, professor and chair of biology, received the 2009 Award for Achievement in Research.
  • Gary Sloan, associate professor of drama, received the 2009 Award for Achievement in the Creative Arts.
  • Kurt Martens, assistant professor of canon law, received the 2009 Young Faculty Research Award. (This award honors the research achievements of a faculty member who has been at the university for fewer than four years.)

Each of these professors received a cash prize of $2,500 as a crowd of 100 faculty members applauded their accomplishments.

"Today's event underscores the fundamental justification for our calling ourselves a university, and it is in this sense of accomplishment and culmination that we close out the academic year," said Provost James Brennan, who bestowed these awards.

As he called the awardees to the podium, the provost described their work.

Professor Rao has gained an international reputation for his cutting-edge work on vaccines and on cellular nano-motors, which are the tiny microscopic "vehicles" supporting the movement of viruses. He has recently received a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to produce a vaccine that will simultaneously immunize people against two of the most deadly diseases that could be employed by bioterrorists: anthrax and pneumonic plague. 

Faculty members applaud at the reception.

Rao's 2008 research was funded by the NIH, the National Science Foundation and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine. He has published his findings in such prestigious journals as Virology, the Journal of Molecular Biology and Cell.

An actor of the stage and screen, Professor Sloan last year performed in Arthur Miller's The Price at Theater J in Washington, D.C., and at the English Theatre in Vienna, Austria, in collaboration with the late actor Robert Prosky of TV's "Hill Street Blues" and movie fame. In September 2008, Sloan brought Prosky to CUA to rehearse the play in front of the university's drama students and to have Prosky talk with the students about the theater as a profession.

Sloan has also written a one-person play on the life of 19th-century actor Edwin Booth and he performed the play at the National Portrait Gallery two years ago; Sloan is now rewriting the play in preparation for making a film version of it next spring.

A native of Belgium and fluent in six languages, Professor Martens is the author of five books and 57 scholarly articles, an associate editor of three canon law-related journals and the co-founder and co-editor of a Belgian journal concerning law, religion and society. He was recently appointed a consultant to the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.