Two portraits: on the left, a close-up of Champika K. Soysa smiling; on the right, Allison Dunn sitting in front of a window, smiling

Professors Soysa and Dunn to Be Honored at Third Annual Deans’ Lectures Awards

November 2, 2021
By: Rebecca Cross

On Monday, November 8, Worcester State will present the third annual Deans’ Lectures award to Champika K. Soysa, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychology, and Allison Dunn, Ph.D, professor and chair in the Department of Earth, Environment, and Physics. The award recognizes the high-level contributions recipients have made to their respective fields. Winners will give a brief lecture about their work at the award ceremony

The evening will start at 4 p.m. with a reception followed by short talks from both honorees and presentation of the awards.

Soysa earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Clark University. The talk she will present on Monday, “Global and Local: Psychological Distress and Resilience,” draws from her research, which addresses how culture, social class, and generation shape psychological responses to global and local disaster, including the ethnic war and tsunami in Sri Lanka and the COVID-19 pandemic in Massachusetts.

In addition to presenting her own prolific research in peer-reviewed journals and at international conferences, a key aspect of Professor Soysa’s research is collaboration with undergraduates at Worcester State. Since 2003, she has mentored more than 50 undergraduates, who have co-authorship on conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications as well.

After receiving her Ph.D. in earth and planetary sciences from Harvard University, Dunn had a postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Manitoba in Canada before joining the Worcester State University faculty in 2007. On Monday, she will present the talk “From Forests to the Financial District: Exploring Carbon Dynamics in Central and Eastern Massachusetts” on her research, which seeks to better understand how forests influence atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and how processes like urbanization impact the global carbon cycle.

Professor Dunn has published peer-reviewed articles, datasets, and book chapters. Since joining WSU, she has been a co-investigator or collaborator on grants totaling more than $1.6 million from agencies such as NASA. Her research has over 4600 citations on Google Scholar. She has mentored more than 20 undergraduates on research projects, some of whom have received funding from NASA, and their contributions were recognized in peer-reviewed journal articles. Her students have presented their findings at the Harvard Forest Ecological Symposium, the Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference, and WSU’s Celebration of Scholarship and Creativity.

Last year’s winner, Professor Margaret Kerr, Ph.D., from Worcester State’s Chemistry Department, will also receive her award on Monday. Kerr was recognized for her extensive research, scholarship, and curriculum development in the field of green chemistry at the college and K-12 levels, at Worcester State and in Thailand, and presented a virtual talk last year.

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