President Dale Whittaker honored new women faculty in a welcome reception Wednesday, and three women faculty members were presented with the Women of Distinction award by Faculty Excellence.

Applicants were required to show how they took an idea and turned it into a success. This year’s recipients are:

Barbara Sharanowski

Sharanowski is an associate professor of biology. She is an insect systematist with research in taxonomy, biodiversity, phylogenetics and evolution. She is also the director of the UCF Collection of Arthropods – known on campus as the Bug Closet. Sharanowski’s idea for sustainability was to develop a mobile app to allow farmers to identify crop pests in their fields. The app, called Mobile-IPM, was launched in May and with it farmers can implement proper pest tactics and only spray pesticides when necessary. She is also seeking to expand on this app to track native pollinators such as bees, which are in decline. She and her team are launching a nationwide citizen science project to encourage people to convert part of their lawns into wildflower gardens for bee habitat. Her innovative ideas have led her to secure $2.8 million in research funding.

Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz

Raimundi-Ortiz is an associate professor of studio art in the School of Visual Arts and Design. Her idea centered on creating a safe space for communities of color to grieve. This idea began as The Pieta Project, a performance in which Raimundi-Ortiz cradles 33 people of color for three minutes and 33 seconds each, reflecting the age of Jesus at his death. The Pieta Project was awarded a 2016 Franklin Furnace grant, and was selected and produced by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery for the Identify: Performance as Portraiture series. Raimundi-Ortiz has created caring spaces for people, families and communities of color through her performance art.

Damla Turgut

Turgut is a professor of computer science and a Charles Millican Eminent Scholar Faculty Fellow in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Turgut has won two awards from the National Science Foundation to share her knowledge and passion for computer science with future generations. Through her 10-week summer programs, she focuses on underrepresented minorities to engage them in the field of computer science and allow them to see how a STEM career is possible. Fifty percent of the positions are allocated to women.

Whittaker gave each winner $1,000 to use for professional development.

“It’s wonderful to see so many faculty and faculty leaders here today,” says Jana Jasinski, vice provost for Faculty Excellence. “My job is to learn from you about what you need to be successful and then advocate for those needs. And today we celebrate our fellow faculty’s great success.”