Six faculty members were lauded for being leaders and making impacts in their fields during UCF’s annual Luminary Awards on Tuesday at Leu Gardens in Orlando.
The Luminary Awards are designed to recognize some of UCF’s brightest stars who shine a positive light on UCF and on their respective fields, as well as illuminate a path of discovery for those who will come after them. They were established in 2017.
Winners were selected based on nominations by deans, chairs and directors from across the university. The event was attended by the winners, their close family and friends, as well as previous Luminary winners and special guests from the community.
UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright; Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Johnson; Interim Vice President for Research Winston Schoenfeld; and Vice Provost for Faculty Excellence Jana Jasinski were on hand to recognize each winner.
Mike Chini, Department of Physics, College of Sciences
Mike Chini is making the cutting-edge field of attosecond science more accessible, driving advances in diverse areas such as internet and phone communications, medical diagnostics, solar power harvesting, and detecting chemical and biological weapons.
He has helped establish UCF as an international leader in ultrafast atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics. His research helped originate the world’s first solid-state optical oscilloscope, garnering international attention. This innovation enables the measurement of electromagnetic wave peaks and valleys within an ultrafast (short duration) pulse of light, increasing the speed of oscilloscopes by a factor of 10,000.
Due largely to Chini’s efforts, UCF was invited to join LaserNetUS in 2021. Run by the Department of Energy, this invitation-only consortium features just 11 of the leading laser research institutions. Chini is the principal investigator for UCF’s participation in this elite network. Chini’s achievements in bringing UCF to the forefront of ultrafast AMO physics play a large role in UCF’s No. 12 national ranking this year in Atomic/Molecular Physics programs by U.S. News and World Report. His work is having a broad and deep impact.
Michele Gregoire Gill, Department of Learning Sciences and Educational Research, College of Community Innovation and Education
Michele Gregoire Gill has influenced how teaching and learning happen in public schools, earning acclaim for her work to improve the educational experience for K-12 learners.
A professor of educational psychology, her expertise in research and evidence-based practice for teaching and learning is widely respected and impactful. Gill conceived and founded the award-winning Galileo School for Gifted Learning, a free public K-8 charter school, open to all students in Seminole County. The school is consistently ranked among the best in Central Florida.
Gill is also the recipient of an American Psychological Association award for distinguished contributions of applications of psychology to education and training. Her work has been acknowledged by various media, including Psychology Today, Fox News, NPR, and Florida Today. She actively applies her scholarship in psychology and the shared knowledge of the field to the direct learning experiences of children at the Galileo School. Gill prepares future teachers and researchers so that they may improve the learning and development for all children.
Mindi Anderson, Department of Nursing Practice, College of Nursing
Mindi Anderson is a reason why UCF Knight nurses shine for their clinical preparation, service and excellence. She is internationally known for advancing nursing education and care through leading-edge research and scholarship in simulation technology.
A certified healthcare simulation educator, her novel work has greatly impacted nursing education and clinical practice within the Central Florida region and at national and international levels. Her research includes 3D printers for healthcare procedural training and education, virtual and augmented reality for healthcare education and practice, prototype development of technologies for clinical training, and the use of hologram-assisted interdisciplinary education simulation for understanding social determinants of health.
Anderson’s research and publications demonstrate a multidisciplinary, intra-professional and inter-professional collaboration. Her awards and honors for teaching, research, and service include being inducted as a fellow of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare and being named 2020 Educator of the Year by the organization.
Staci Zavattaro, School of Public Administration, College of Community Innovation and Education
Staci Zavattaro is a leading author, educator and researcher on public administration who promotes best practices in public service at all levels of government. Various organizations have amplified her award-winning and groundbreaking scholarship through awards, recognition and media coverage.
In 2022, Zavattaro was the recipient of two research achievement awards at the American Society for Public Administration conference, including a best article award for her work in public integrity. Zavattaro’s groundbreaking research has created several areas of study within public administration and carved paths for students and scholars alike. She was the first American scholar in public administration to study place branding and introduced the concept of death management from a public service perspective. Her string of recognitions from journals and professional associations boosts the university’s reputation and rewards Zavattaro for her remarkable research.
Yaser Fallah, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science
Yaser Fallah is an expert in the emerging field of connected and autonomous vehicles, a crucial part of intelligent transportation systems for the future. His collaboration with the automotive industry is part of vehicle safety standards expected to be used in all new vehicles produced in the U.S. in the coming years.
He currently leads several projects sponsored by the automotive industry and federal grants on developing autonomous vehicle technologies. In advancing knowledge about autonomous vehicles and cooperative AI (when vehicles start to think together), Fallah has gained international recognition and media attention. His accomplishments in scholarly activities have demonstrated significant impact, with works, projects and publications supported by the auto industry. His work also has led to a pending patent filed by UCF.
Julia Listengarten, School of Performing Arts, College of Arts and Humanities
Julia Listengarten believes in the transformative power of the arts to broaden perspectives, help society confront difficult questions and promote positive change.
She is a Pegasus Professor and a leading scholar in performance studies whose rigorous scholarship and community-building artistic practice have fostered rich multidisciplinary dialogues about socially engaged artistic practice. Through her work as an interdisciplinary scholar and collaborator, she addresses ethics of representation and explores the role of performing arts in facilitating critical interventions to engage with trauma, erasure and marginalization.
Listengarten’s scholarship has been recognized nationally and internationally, and she has published with top-tier academic presses such as Yale and Cambridge University Presses. She has received major grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and her creative work has been noted with many prestigious local and national awards. In her role as the Artistic Director of Theatre UCF, she strengthens local community partnerships and implements innovative academic and creative programs to reach diverse audiences.