Professor of English Karen Coats has been named the Outstanding University Researcher for 2014. The award will be presented on Founders Day on Thursday, Feb. 19.

This award recognizes faculty members who are acknowledged for their research nationally or internationally, their quality of scholarly work, and their contributions to their profession/discipline.

Coats, who joined the Department of English in 1998, explores theory in children’s and young adult literature. Along with many journal articles and book chapters, she is the author of the textbook Children’s Literature and the Developing Reader as well as Looking Glass and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire and Subjectivity in Children’s Literature, and is working on two further textbooks. Coats is also the co-editor of several works, including the Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature. She has been invited to present her work throughout the United States and Europe.

Kara Keeling, president of the Children’s Literature Association, asserts that Coats “is one of the most recognized and outstanding scholars in the field of children’s literature criticism, and her work has helped shape the field as well as importantly shaped our understanding of children’s literature itself.” Department of English Chair Chris DeSantis added, “Professor Coats is one of the reasons why Illinois State University is increasingly on the international map of great institutions of higher education.”

Also named are the recipients of the Research Initiative Award, who will also be honored at Founders Day.

Assistant Professor of Management Avimanyu (Avi) Datta joined the College of Business at Illinois State in 2011. His research focuses on strategic management of technology and innovation. In particular, his work delves into the steps and processes of commercialization of innovation, especially in the area of new product development. He has published multiple journal articles and five book chapters as well as business cases. His recent work focuses on the role of machine agents as managers, especially in the context of product development.

Assistant Professor of Educational Administration and Foundations Nicholas Hartlep joined Illinois State’s faculty in 2012. His expertise focuses on the “model minority stereotype” of Asian Americans and issues of social, economic and educational injustice. Along with book chapters, journal articles and presentations, he is the author of Killing the Model Minority Stereotype: Asian American Counterstories and Complicity and The Model Minority Stereotype: Demystifying Asian American Success. In addition, he serves on two editorial boards and has editorial responsibilities for three additional publications.

Assistant Professor of Biology Viktor Kirik joined Illinois State in 2009 after earning his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Halle in 1998, followed by postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Tubingen, University of Cologne and the Carnegie Institute at Stanford University. Kirik’s research explores the mechanisms regulating plant growth and implications under the changing climate. His numerous publications and presentations complement his honor of receiving a National Institutes of Health R15 grant, and is in the running for several National Science Foundation grants.

Assistant Professor of Acting Kevin Rich became the artistic director of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival (ISF) in 2013, after performing as an ISF actor since 2009. Highlights of his first three seasons include an all-male, original-practices production of Much Ado About Nothing; the nurturing of new plays such as Failure: A Love StoryLove’s Labor’s Won and a hip-hop adaptation of Two Gentlemen of Verona; and the creation of a new, sold-out Halloween tradition, ShakesFEAR. As director of the ISF Touring Company, his abridgements have been performed in more than 30 schools and other community centers throughout Central Illinois, and he has produced additional theatrical collaborations with community organizations such as the Normal Rotary, the Community Cancer Center and YouthBuild. His play for young audiences, The Magical Mind of Billy Shakespeare, is published by Playscripts, Inc.

Assistant Professor of Cellular Neurophysiology Wolfgang Stein came to Illinois State in 2012 after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Kaiserslautern and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. His research explores the processing of sensory information from different sense organs on the motor circuits in locusts and crustaceans. Along with scholarly publications, Stein has been honored with a National Science Foundation grant from its Division of Integrative Organismal Systems as well as an ISU Cross-Disciplinary Grant. In his research lab, he mentors doctoral, masters and undergraduate student researchers.

Assistant Professor of Voice Justin Vickers has performed at prestigious venues that include Carnegie Hall, The Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, Moscow’s International House of Music, Beijing’s Forbidden City Concert Hall and Vienna’s Stephansdom. He has sung the world premieres of operas by Daniel Catán, Seymour Barab, Alexander Zhurbin, Jerrold Morgulas, William Banfield, and Francis Thorne. Vickers has recorded for Albany Records and most recently for Parma Recordings, for which Vickers has multiple forthcoming album releases of contemporary Shakespeare settings of Joseph Summer, alongside songs of Hamish MacCunn, Ivor Gurney, Michael Tippett, Benjamin Britten, Priaulx Rainier, Judith Weir and Alexander Zhurbin. Vickers is frequently asked to lecture, concertize and present papers on the subjects throughout the United States and internationally. He has several co-edited volumes coming to press.