The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) has announced the 2016–2017 Outstanding College Researchers: Christopher Breu, Department of English; John Sedbrook, School of Biological Sciences; and Maura Toro-Morn, Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
“Research and scholarly activity serve as catalysts for growth within our community, and bring national and international attention to Illinois State University. This year’s recipients of the Outstanding College Researcher Awards are excellent examples of the important and innovative research being conducted by our faculty,” CAS Dean Gregory Simpson said. One recipient is selected from each of the College’s three divisions—the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences/mathematics.
Breu joined the Illinois State University faculty in 2000. His scholarly record is notable for its theoretical acumen and broad thematic consistency. Central to his research are questions of materiality and materialism, and the ways in which cultural productions, including literary texts, enact important ideological work. His focus explores difficult and controversial themes in American culture, including masculinity, racial fantasies, race, and conceptions of southern manhood, misogyny, historical and psychological roots of white supremacy, and broader explorations of race, class, gender, and nationalism.
His excellence as a scholar extends beyond Illinois State University. In summer 2011 he was invited to teach at Paderborn University in Germany, and in fall 2011 a Fulbright Grant allowed him to conduct and share his research with the intellectual community at McMaster University in Hamilton in Ontario, Canada. His publications include two books: Insistence of the Material: Literature in the Age of Biopolitics (2014) and Hard-Boiled Masculinities (2005). He currently has three books in progress. He is also the author of numerous book chapters and articles in a range of journals, including Symplokē, Textual Practice, Twentieth-Century Literature, and Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts & Letters.
Sedbrook joined Illinois State’s faculty in 2003. His areas of study follow two important pathways—one is basic science and the other is applied. His longstanding basic science investigations are targeted at the cellular processes involved in cell expansion in plants, which underlie all aspects of plant development and growth including responses to touch, gravity, and light. His model system is the genetically tractable and controllable system, Arabidopsis thaliana (i.e., the “fruit fly” for plant biologists).
Sedbrook’s applied research is focused on developing pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) as a new winter annual oilseed cover crop to be grown throughout the 80 million-acre U.S. Midwest Corn Belt and around the world. He is collaborating with researchers throughout the U.S. and around the world to rapidly domesticate pennycress and improve seed oil/seed meal quality for biofuels and feed/food applications. He has received funding from many different government agencies—the Department of Energy, United States Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, and National Institutes of Health—totaling over $2 million. He has published his research findings in top journals, including The Plant Cell, Plant Physiology, Nature, and The Plant Journal.
Toro-Morn became a member of Illinois State’s faculty in 1993. Since 2006 she has also served as the director of the Latin American and Latino/a studies program. She belongs to a generation of scholars that developed their research agenda against the backdrop of significant social changes that took place in the middle decades of the 20th century—and that continue to take place today—such as the large-scale mobilization of women into migration processes, known as the feminization of migration, the large-scale movement of Latinos to the United States, processes that are structured by the rise of neoliberal globalization.
As a migration scholar, her work has contributed to revealing migration as a gendered process. As a globalization scholar, her work has contributed to documenting the gendered dimensions of globalization. She has presented her research in national and international forums. She edited two books and authored almost three dozen articles in peer reviewed journals, and several book chapters. Her most recent edited volume, Immigrant Woman Workers in the Neoliberal Age, seeks to deepen our understanding of neoliberal globalization in the Americas and the disruptions it creates in Latino families and communities. Most recently, she edited a special volume of the CENTRO journal (Toro-Morn, Zambrana, and Alicea, 2016) dedicated to new scholarship about Puerto Rican Chicago. She is now working on a new book project about Puerto Ricans in Illinois.
All three professors will be honored at Simpson’s spring address and award ceremony, to be held April 11 at 3:30 p.m. in the Old Main Room of the Bone Student Center.