The Leatherby Libraries is pleased to announce the first-ever recipients of the Supporting Open Access Research and Scholarship (SOARS) Faculty Research AwardThis award was created to help financially support Chapman University faculty publishing their research, scholarship, or creative activities in Open Access (OA) journals.

The SOARS award is a collaboration between the Leatherby Libraries, Office of the Provost, Office of Research and Graduate Education, and the IS&T Department to support faculty publication in Open Access Journals, which increases research impact by promoting interdisciplinary collaboration. Our inaugural SOARS recipients were recognized at the Faculty Awards Convocation, honoring members of the Chapman University faculty for teaching, scholarship, and research.

From left to right: Chair of Resources & Scholarly CommunicationsKristin Laughtin-Dunker, Assistant Dean for Library Research & Data ServicesDoug Dechow, Executive Vice President, Provost, and Chief Academic OfficerNorma Bouchard, SOARS RecipientBrent Harper, SOARS RecipientAftab Ahmed, and Dean of the Leatherby LibrariesKevin Ross.

Inaugural Recipients

Dr. Aftab Ahmed

Dr. Ahmed is a Research Associate Professor in the School of Pharmacy. His area of research focuses on the purification and characterization of biologically active proteins/peptides, isolated from medicinal plants, that may have potential anticancer activity. He received the 2024 SOARS Faculty Research Award for his manuscript, “Proteomic Characterization and Cytotoxic Potential of Proteins from Cuscuta (Cuscuta epithymum (L.) Crude Herbal Product Against MCF-7 Human Breast Cancer Cell Line.”

SOARS is an excellent program for supporting faculty towards the APC (annual processing charges) for their scientific contributions as an original research article. I am very grateful for this support.

Dr. Hagop Atamian

Dr. Atamian’s lab uses genomics and bioinformatics tools to investigate diverse biological processes in agricultural plants and advance sustainable agriculture. His lab leverages deep learning algorithms to design molecules that hold promise as potential therapeutics against both human and plant pathogens. Dr. Atamian received the 2024 SOARS Faculty Research Award for his manuscript, “De Novo Drug Design Using Transformer-Based Machine Translation and Reinforcement Learning of an Adaptive Monte Carlo Tree Search.”

The SOARS program generously funded our research by enabling us to publish our work. While receiving support during the research process is crucial, it is indeed a rarity to find support that extends to the critical stage of disseminating the generated knowledge—a facet I consider equally significant.

Dr. Brent Harper

Dr. Brent Harper is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Chapman University. He has been a practicing physical therapist since 1997. He received his D.Sc. in physical therapy, specializing in orthopaedic manual physical therapy. Dr. Harper’s first line of research focuses on the musculoskeletal and nervous systems in those with chronic injuries or concussions during postural control while performing functional tasks incorporating wearable sensors and other technologies. His second area of research interest is investigating the effects of manual therapy techniques on the fascial system in improving musculoskeletal system function and compiling scientific evidence to support clinical practice. Dr. Harper received the 2024 SOARS Faculty Research Award for his manuscript, “Short-Term Benefits from Manual Therapy as an Adjunct Treatment for Persistent Postural-Perceptual Dizziness Symptoms: A Preliminary Prospective Case Series.”

“I am honored and extremely thankful to SOARS for supporting research such as mine, enabling its availability on open-access publishing platforms. I appreciate the enhanced recognition, making my work more accessible to other researchers in my field.”

Dr. Ashley Wendell Kranjac

Dr. Kranjac is an Assistant Professor of Sociology who is a recipient of the 2024 SOARS Faculty Research Award. In her research, she focuses on health inequalities and population studies. She investigates the role of familial, social, economic, and environmental contexts that lead to disparate health outcomes. Dr. Kranjac received the 2024 SOARS Faculty Research Award for her manuscript, “Pediatric Obesity in the United States: Age-Period-Cohort Analysis.

“The SOARS program offers an additional avenue to enhance scholarly impact by removing financial barriers to publishing in top-tier open access journals, thus accelerating career trajectories. “

Dr. Nasim Mohammad Estakhri

Dr. Mohammad Estakhri is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Fowler School of Engineering at Chapman University, and she works in the Physics program. Her prior academic appointments include postdoctoral researcher at Univ. of Pennsylvania and PhD researcher at Univ. of Texas at Austin. Her research broadly focuses on nanophotonic metamaterials and applied electromagnetics, with recent emphasis on computational metamaterials and machine learning for novel flat optical components. Dr. Mohammad Estakhri received the 2024 SOARS Faculty Research Award for her manuscript, “Inverse-designed Integrated Biosensors.” 

“While some of our projects are externally funded, there are always new ideas that we want to explore. We have recently started working on an exciting new direction of research on metamaterials and obtained interesting results. SOARS program provided timely support for us to disseminate the new results to the general public through Open Access publication.”

Dr. Hamid Montazeri

Dr. Montazeri joined Chapman University School of Pharmacy in August 2014. He is a pharmacist by training and completed his PhD in 2007 at the University of Alberta, Canada. His research focuses on drug delivery in general and, more specifically, on delivering nucleic acids to cancer cells. He has been working on siRNA delivery to breast cancer cells since 2009. He has recently expanded his research interests to CRISPR/Cas9 delivery, prostate cancer, and the use of nucleic acids in treating viral diseases. Dr. Mohammad Estakhri received the 2024 SOARS Faculty Research Award for his manuscript, “Modifying Peptide/Lipid-Associated Nucleic Acids (PLANAs) for CRISPR/Cas9 Ribonucleoprotein Delivery.”

“In this age, the majority of journals are “open access” and demand publication fees from authors, and when extramural funding is elusive for many researchers, the SOARS award is a breath of fresh air, which widens the choices of the Journals for any given manuscript.”

Dr. Justin Walsh

Dr. Walsh is a professor of Art History, Archaeology, and Space Studies at Chapman and an Ad Astra Fellow in Space Habitats and Space Anthropology at USC who is a recipient of the 2024 SOARS Faculty Research Award. He has co-directed the International Space Station Archaeological Project (ISSAP), the first archaeological investigation of a human habitation site in space, since 2015. He was named to the Explorers Club 50 Class of 2024, recognizing remarkable explorers changing the world and extending the meaning of exploration. 

“The ISSAP team is extremely grateful for the support of the SOARS program for publishing the first results of an archaeological experiment in space. Since our work is directed at multiple communities, from archaeologists to space station designers, we want it to have the greatest reach and accessibility that it can. Gold open-access publishing, made possible by SOARS, allows us to achieve that goal.”

About the Award

The SOARS Faculty Research Award was created to support full-time Chapman University faculty who are in their early to mid-career and wish to publish their works in OA platforms but lack APC funding. Supporting OA platforms creates innovative models of scholarly publishing, ultimately increasing access by removing barriers that might prevent access to research. The Leatherby Libraries supports OA publishing’s ability to improve access to research profiles and scholarships from Chapman University.

The Leatherby Libraries would like to sincerely thank the Office of the Provost, Office of Research and Graduate Education, and the IS&T Department for their collaboration that allowed the creation of this award, and all of our 2023-2024 SOARS awardees.

If you are interested in applying to the program or would like more information about the award, check out the SOARS website here.