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U Researchers Dominates Governor’s Science Medals

November 22, 2006 — Four of the seven winners of the 2006 Utah Governor’s Medal in Science and Technology belong to the University of Utah faculty.

They are: medicinal chemist Glenn Prestwich, materials scientist and engineer Anil Virkar, physicist Pierre Sokolsky and metallurgical engineer Jan Miller.

“This is a great tribute,” says David Pershing, the University of Utah’s senior vice president for academic affairs. “It speaks to the caliber of the research conducted by our faculty. I am thrilled with all four of these winners.”

Below is a media advisory about the annual awards issued by the Utah Governor’s Office of Community and Economic Development and Utah State Science Advisor Greg Jones. Biographical sketches are included.



State Advisory Council for Science and Technology
Announces Governor’s Science Medals for 2006

Seven Recipients to be Honored at Gala for their Contributions and Achievements

Who: The State Science Advisor and the State Advisory Council on Science and Technology

What: Seven outstanding leaders from four professional sectors:
— Academia: Dr. Anil Virkar, Dr. Pierre Sokolsky, Dr. Merrill Beckstead, Dr. Jan Miller
— Science Education: Ms. Gina Sauzenbacher
— Industry: Dr. Glenn D. Prestwich
— Government: Dr. Theron Miller

When: Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007
Reception — 5:30 p.m.
Dinner — 6 p.m.
Awards Ceremony — 7 p.m.
Close — 8 p.m.

Where: University of Utah Museum of Natural History, 1390 East Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112

Utah Relevance:

The State of Utah has chosen the Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology as a symbol of recognition to those individuals who have provided distinguished service to the State of Utah in the fields of science and technology. Future venues will rotate among various institutions that provide a science/public interface.

The State Advisory Council for Science and Technology announced seven medal winners for the 2006 Governor’s Science and Technology Medals today. Medals were awarded to individuals from industry, government, education, and academic research. This year recipients are Dr. Glenn Prestwich (University of Utah), Dr. Theron Miller (Utah DEQ/DWQ), Ms. Gina Sauzenbacher (Jordan Applied Technology Center), Dr. Anil Virkar (University of Utah), Dr. Pierre Sokolsky (University of Utah), Dr. Merrill Beckstead (Brigham Young University), and Dr. Jan Miller (University of Utah).

Requests for information about the recipients and the possibility of interviews can be directed to:

Dr. Greg Jones
State Science Advisor

Michael Sullivan, Director of Communications
Governor’s Office of Economic Development
Office: 801-538-8811 Cell: 801-244-2975

2006 Medal Recipient biographies


Dr. Glenn D. Prestwich
Chief Scientific Officer for Carbylan BioSurgery Inc., Sentrx Animal Care, Inc., and Glycosan Biosystems Inc.
Presidential Professor, Medicinal Chemistry, University of Utah

Nominated by Dr. Chris Ireland of the University of Utah and Mr. W.T. Miller, president of Echelon Biosciences, Inc., Dr. Prestwich is the only Utah faculty member awarded two centers of excellences by the state of Utah. With these center awards, Dr. Prestwich created several Utah companies including the currently operating companies: Sentrx Animal Care, Inc.; Echelon Biosciences, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aeterna Zentaris of Canada); and Glycosan Biosystems, Inc. Additionally, Dr. Prestwich’s technical advances also fueled start-up companies Salus Therapeutics Inc. (acquired by Genta, Inc. in 2004) and Sentrx Surgical, Inc. (renamed and moved to California in 2005). The various mergers, investments, and acquisitions of the companies totaled more than $44M and over 25 high-level industrial positions in Utah. All the companies are in their first five-years of operation and most are in their initial two-years of operation. In addition his technology commercialization efforts in industry, Dr. Prestwich is also a highly qualified academician with over 500 publications, 20 patent applications, and an academic progeny numbered over 140 students and post-doctoral fellows.


Dr. Theron Miller
Environmental Scientist, Utah Department of Environmental Quality/Division of Water Quality

Nominated by Walter Baker, the director of the Utah Division of Water Quality, Dr. Miller has led numerous studies supported by national, state, and local agencies. For instance, Dr. Miller carried out a study at a cost of over a $1M funded by the combination of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Central Davis Sewer System. Dr. Miller’s ability to bring multiple agencies together for the study and protection of the Farmington Bay and associated wetlands is remarkable. This ability is further illustrated by Dr. Miller’s effort in the creation of a technical advisory committee consisting of scientists, technicians, and other stakeholders from groups as diverse as Kennecott Utah Copper, conservation groups, community representatives and academics. Most recently, Dr. Miller has made significant progress in measurements that underlay the health of the habitat required to support migratory waterfowl and shorebirds that use the Great Salt Lake as a nesting and “refueling” area during migrations.


Ms. Gina Sauzenbacher
Biotechnology Instructor, Jordan Applied Technology Center – West Jordan School District

Nominated by Mr. Todd Quarnberg the Principal of the Jordan Applied Technology Center, Ms. Sauzenbacher has demonstrated her commitment to science education in a variety of ways. Her involvement with Salt Lake Community College’s (SLCC) Biotechnology Program and local biotech companies to provide high school students with real research internships is a prime example of her commitment and innovation in this field. This program, a combination of SLCC, InnovaBio (a non-profit research organization), Jordan and Granite school districts is recognized nationally as one of the “15 Exemplary Academic Programs” by the Department of Education. Over the last two-years approximately 40% of the high school biotechnology students that have transferred to the SLCC curriculum have come from Ms. Sauzenbacher’s program. She has also been instrumental in creating the state biotechnology standards and curriculum and started the first biotechnology program in the Salt Lake School District. Enrollment in Ms. Sauzenbacher’s program continues to increase and this year her classes are filled to capacity. She conducts summer courses for students and workshops for teachers, counselors, and administrators. Ms. Sauzenbacher recently obtained a Master’s degree from the University Of Utah College Of Science and has won several teaching awards including the Science Teacher of the Year sponsored by the Utah Museum of Natural History and the College of Mining and Earth Science.

Academic Research

Dr. Anil Virkar
Professor and Chair, Materials Science and Engineering, University of Utah

Nominated by Dr. Richard Brown, Dean of the University Of Utah College Of Engineering, Dr. Virkar is a prolific researcher with over 200 publications, 35 patents, over 200 invited presentations. He is internationally recognized in the field of Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology and Ceramic Materials. The principal investigator of the Center of Excellence for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells, Dr. Virkar has co-founded two companies based on his research: Ceramtec Inc. employees over 140 people and Material and Systems Research, Inc. employs 20 people. Application spaces spanned by these two companies include drug delivery, fiber optics, and fuel cells. In addition to being a fellow in both the Society of Ceramic Engineers and the Electromechanical Society, Dr. Virkar has also won the Ross Coffin Purdy Award from the American Ceramics Society and the Outstanding Achievement Award in from the High Temperatures Division of the Electrochemical Society.

Academic Research

Dr. Pierre Sokolsky
Chairman and Professor, Department of Physics, University of Utah

Nominated by Dr. David Ailion, Professor of Physics, University of Utah, Dr. Sokolsky is recognized as one of the world’s leaders in high energy particle astrophysics. He has published over 200 articles including 58 research papers in peer reviewed journals and 190 proceedings papers. Dr. Sokolsky has led teams at the forefront of particle physics. A team led by Dr. Sokolsky discovered the highest energy astrophysical event recorded to date, this discovery is largely responsible for the revitalization of the entire field of ultra-high energy particle astrophysics. Dr. Sokolsky continues to led teams earmarked by international membership, these teams include the FLASH experiment team at the Stanford Linear Accelerator and the High Resolution Fly’s Eye project (Columbia U., U. of Illinois, Los Alamos Laboratory, Rutgers U., and the Institute of High Energy Physics – Beijing). The focus of Dr. Sokolsky’s Utah-based research projects is recognized as one of “the 12 fundamental questions about the universe” by the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Sokolsky’s many honors include: a Guggenheim fellowship, an American Physical Society fellowship, a membership on the National Academy of Sciences Decadal Review Panel on Astronomy and Astrophysics, and a Sloan Foundation fellowship. The projects led by Dr. Sokolsky have generated of $14M in funding for Utah alone. This funding continues to foster the creation of jobs in construction, optics, buildings and roads, a majority of which takes place in Delta Utah and surrounding areas.

Academic Research

Dr. Merrill Beckstead
Chairman and Professor, Chemical Engineering, Brigham Young University

Nominated by Dr. Thomas Fletcher, Professor and Associate Chair of Chemical Engineering, BYU, Dr. Beckstead is an internationally recognized expert in the chemistry and stability of rocket propellant combustion. Merrill’s most recognized publication is the Beckstead-Derr-Price (BDP) model of propellant combustion, which is a starting point for most modern propellant research. He has recently been involved in describing the detailed set of reactions for a universal propellant combustion chemistry model, which is a prominent achievement. He has served as a professor at BYU for 28-years, mentoring students in combustion and computer modeling. He served as assistant department chair for 17-years. He has given over 25 industrial short courses, performed a number of extensive industrial consulting projects, and has 179 publications. His collaboration with Russian scientists has added to his prominent understanding of both experimental and modeling work on propellant combustion. Dr. Beckstead has received well over $3M in research funding and continues to support Utah-based ATK propellant systems with both consulting and students. Dr. Beckstead’s stature in the scientific community is exemplified by honors such as a Fellowship with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astrophysics (AIAA), the AIAA Engineer of the Year Award in 1976, and the JANNAF award for recognition of Outstanding Contributions and Service in 1986.

Academic Research

Dr. Jan Miller
Chair and Ivor Thomas Professor, Metallurgical Engineering, University of Utah

Nominated by Dr. Siva Guruswamy, Professor of Metallurgical Engineering, University of Utah, Dr. Miller is the inventor of Air Sparged Hydrocyclone technology for phase separation that has been widely used for flotation of minerals, de-inking, paper recycling, coal cleaning, radioactive waste clean-up, oil-water separation, treatment of wastewater from chemical industries, and numerous other engineering applications. Numerous patents from this invention have led to a large number of licenses from the University of Utah. With 31 patents to his credit, he is one of the largest royalty earners for the university. A more recent invention based on “Magnetic Carbon Technology” for mining and water treatment applications has led to the establishment of a Center of Excellence and a subsequent start-up company. Dr. Miller has well over 460 research publications and 7 edited books. He has been recognized for his contributions with numerous awards including: election to the National Academy of Engineers; the Frank Aplan Award of AIME, SME for prolific contributions in research and education in mineral processing, surface chemistry, and hydrometallurgy; and the naming as a United Nations Expert in Mineral Processing.