The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois International Programs are pleased to recognize the recipients of the 2017/18 International Achievement Awards.
The International Achievement Awards recognize outstanding alumni, faculty, and students whose exceptional work, service, and/or scholarship has made a significant, global impact. The recipients were celebrated for their work at the annual International Achievement Awards Banquet on April 4, 2018 at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center in Urbana.
The 2017/18 International Achievement Award recipients were:
Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement
Benjamin J. Lough
Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement
Charles C. Stewart International Young Humanitarian Award
Richard Oliver Bido-Medina
Illinois International Graduate Achievement Award
Illinois International Undergraduate Achievement Award
Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement Recipient
Established in 2000, the Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement is awarded annually to a distinguished international Illinois alum who has helped to better their own nation or the world through their contributions to government, humanity, science, art or human welfare. Dr. Jinwoo Cheon is the founding director of the Institute for Basic Science – Center for NanoMedicine (IBS CNM), a Korean government-funded institution established for cross-boundary research in nanoscience and nanomedicine. He is also the Horace G. Underwood Professor of Chemistry at Yonsei University.
After completing his undergraduate major in chemistry at Yonsei University, Dr. Cheon ventured to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois. While at Illinois, Dr. Cheon focused on inorganic materials chemistry, specifically on the organometallic precursor design for solid state materials such as ceramics, metals, and semiconductors. After receiving his doctoral degree in 1993, he continued his studies on solid state materials and inorganic spectroscopy at UC Berkeley and UCLA.
While at UCLA, Dr. Cheon was offered a position as an assistant professor at KAIST, a top research university in South Korea. However, at that time, Korea was the most heavily shaken country by the Asian financial crisis. Though this would present many challenges, Dr. Cheon wanted to bring the academic knowledge and experience gained from top-tier American universities like the University of Illinois to the growing scientific community in Korea. In the beginning, there was indeed insufficient resources to run a sophisticated research laboratory with high-end instrumentation. Yet he overcame those financial hurdles with the help of a group of dedicated and talented students and by using innovative applications of older technology – ‘wet-solution’ chemistry – for nanoscience research.
In the mid 90’s, nanomaterials chemistry and nanotechnology were booming as a new field of science where you could manipulate materials with ultimate precision. Intrigued by this emerging technology, Dr. Cheon launched his scientific journey into the world of nanoparticle chemistry. With his students, he studied the size, shape, and composition of nanoparticles in order to understand systematically their mechanical and physical properties. As a result, they discovered interesting nanoscale phenomena with a variety of applications in the medical sciences, such as highly sensitive MRI contrast agents for the accurate diagnosis of early-stage cancer. Dr. Cheon also has been exploring nanomaterials as a new toolkit to control cell-signaling pathways at the single-cell level in order to change disease outcomes. His research opens new possibilities in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
As the director of IBS CNM, Dr. Cheon envisions the Institute as a global hub where researchers from around the world can develop new and exciting science. To find solutions for the bigger scientific problems we are facing today, he believes the Center must aim for “Team-Science,” a collective of international scientists with diverse disciplines from chemistry to engineering to medicine, focused on future-driven collaborative research.
Dr. Cheon’s scientific advancements in chemistry and nanomedicine have been recognized with many of the top scientific awards in South Korea, including Ho-Am Prize (2015), KCS Academic Achievement Award (2013), POSCO ChungAm Prize (2012), and Inchon Prize (2010) and the Presidential Young Scientist Award (awarded by the President of Korea in 2002). On the international level, Dr. Cheon received recognition as one of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Reuters (2014). Currently, Dr. Cheon serves as a Fellow of the Korean Academy of Science and Technology, Royal Society of Chemistry, and American Chemical Society. He is member of the Editorial Advisory Boards for multiple ACS and RSC chemistry journals focused on Nanoscience and Materials Science, including serving as Senior Editor for ACS Accounts of Chemical Research.
Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement Recipient
Benjamin J. Lough
The Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement is presented to an Illinois faculty member with profound international accomplishments in teaching, research and public service. Dr. Benjamin Lough is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Faculty Director of International Service at the Center for Social Development (CSD), Washington University in St. Louis. He also works as Senior Research Associate for the Center for Social Development in Africa (CSDA), University of Johannesburg, and Senior Researcher for the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program in Bonn, Germany. He is also the Quantitative Research Director of Campus Compacts’ Global Service-Learning, Associate Editor of Voluntaristics Review, and serves on the Board of the Building Bridges Coalition—a US-based coalition of hundreds of international volunteer-cooperation organizations. He co-leads the tripartite Global Research Agenda on Volunteering for Peace and Development in partnership with the UNV, CSD and FORUM to implement a strategic “global research agenda on volunteering for peace and sustainable development”—a framework designed to shadow the new UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030.
Dr. Lough’s research interests include: volunteering, civic engagement, community development, and non-profit management. He was co-author of is lead author of the 2011 United Nations State of the Worlds Volunteerism Report (SWVR), and is lead author of the 2018 SWVR. As part of this effort, he is currently leading a research team of 24 researchers to assess how volunteerism effects the resilience of communities in 15 countries affected by humanitarian disasters, violent conflict, mass migration and refugee resettlement.
Dr. Lough has been awarded more than a dozen research grants from foundations, research centers, international network bodies, and intergovernmental organizations to study the impacts of voluntary action in low-income communities, as well as the impacts of global service learning (GSL) in institutions of higher education. He is currently engaged in research funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada SSHRC of Canada (together with Dr. Rebecca Tiessen) to understand effective practices of international volunteering.
Many of his most visible works have been published by intergovernmental and transnational organizations, and their related global network bodies. Many of these works have been translated into multiple languages and are contributing to global dialogue and discussion on volunteerism for development. Since his appointment at the University of Illinois, Dr. Lough has published 25 peer-reviewed journals on international volunteering and service learning – in addition to more than 25 manuscripts as monographs, reports or book chapters on the subject. In 2017, he was keynote speaker at the UNESCO NGO Forum in Saudi Arabia for his work on voluntary engagement by youth and their potential to create global social change.
Dr. Lough’s has served on the organizing committee for multiple discipline-specific global conferences. As a member of the Service World Global Summit Planning Team, he helped to organize the 2012 National Conference on Volunteering and Service, and the Global Summit on Volunteering and Service in 2014. He served as a member of the Steering Committee for the UN Habitat Africa Conference on Volunteer Action for Peace and Development in 2012, as well as a partner conference on Volunteer Action for Peace and Development in Asia and the Pacific in 2014. He is an active member of the International Forum for Volunteering in Development (FORUM) Research Working Group—a global coalition of international volunteer-involving organizations from 18 countries. In 2013, he represented FORUM at the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals. He also serves as an advisory board member for the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program and the UNESCO Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service.
Dr. Lough is also actively engaged with the international research community at the University of Illinois. He is a faculty affiliate with Center for Global Studies (CGS), the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC), the Center for African Studies (CAS), and the European Union Center (EUC). Since 2015, he has also served as a member of the EUC Executive Committee. He continues to serve on the Provost’s Illinois International Advisory Committee (IIAC) with a focus on international engagement. He served on the Office of the Provost’s Service Learning Task Force in 2015, and the Provost’s Special Working Group on An International Campus in a Global World in 2014. For multiple years, he has served on selection committees for the International Programs and Studies’ Graduate and Undergraduate International Achievement Awards.
His teaching interests include: community and organizational practice, non-profit management, international social work, and the evaluation of social welfare programs and services. He currently teaches courses in foundations of the non-profit sector, social work practice with organizations and communities, management of human service organizations, and international social work at the Illinois School of Social Work.
Prior to beginning his work at the University of Illinois, Dr. Lough was an independent consultant with the Department of Human and Social Services of American Samoa and the Foundation for International and Community Assistance in Armenia and the Republic of Georgia. In addition to considerable research and teaching experience, Dr. Lough worked for two years as a clinical social worker. He earned his B.S. in Sociology in 2000 and his MSW in 2003 from Brigham Young University, and his Ph.D. in 2010 from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.
Charles C. Stewart International Young Humanitarian Award Recipient
The Charles C. Stewart International Young Humanitarian Award recognizes the accomplishments of an Illinois graduate whose dedicated international service exemplifies the highest ideals of selflessness and dedication to the welfare of communities outside of the United States. Adam Brakhane completed his Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering in 2014. Just before his Junior year, a new engineering class was introduced: Honduras Water Project. He joined on a whim and was quickly introduced to the idea of holistic engineering design that incorporates the social, cultural and technical implementations of a project.
While visiting Honduras for the class project survey trip, he connected with other long-term volunteers from International Rural Water Association (IRWA) and Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario (ADEC). These relationships would become invaluable over the following years, as he continued to come back to Honduras. With his computer engineering background, he created pressure monitoring devices that could be placed around communities to better monitor and improve water systems. Adam continues to work with these organizations, providing technical assistance and analytics.
In 2017, Adam and several other past students from the Honduras Water Project class decided to take their passion for holistic design of water projects and create Akelos, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Akelos partners with nonprofits around the world to provide resources they may be lacking: the ability to work with local NGOs, engineering design, administration, community health, grant experience, and more.
Adam currently works at Tovala, a food-tech startup in Chicago, where he serves as Director of Software Engineering.
Illinois International Graduate Achievement Award Recipient
Richard Oliver Bido-Medina
The Illinois International Graduate Achievement Award recognizes an Illinois graduate student whose innovative and sustained international research or public service abroad has had the greatest impact (or has the greatest potential impact) on the university, larger community or internationally. Richard Oliver Bido-Medina was born in Villa Tapia, Hermanas Mirabal; the smallest province of the Dominican Republic, which is mostly devoted to agriculture. He finished High School at the age of 14 years old, with one of the highest GPAs of his country for that cohort and receiving the distinction of “Maximum Excellence”, awarded by the Dominican Ministry of Education. At age 21, he received his “Doctor of Medicine” (M.D.) degree, with “great honors”, from Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo. Currently, he is a fourth year Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience Program of University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (Illinois), with the concentrations: Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience and Psychopathology.
Richard’s trajectory has proven that it is possible to have multiple interests and, furthermore, to successfully combine them to contribute to the development of society. Over the years, he faced many challenges that are characteristic of developing countries, but his enthusiasm, perseverance and hard work made him able to succeed regardless of the adversities. Richard’s path can be defined with three words: physician, diplomat and scientist.
As a physician he has multiple experiences working for underserved communities in his country, as well as leading discussion groups and conferences with a wide range of topics that oscillates from primary and preventive care for chronic patients to sexual education for adolescents. He has a particular interest for academia, reason why he became a TA of histology during Med School and Assistant Professor of pharmacology at Universidad Catolica Tecnologica Del Cibao, after receiving his M.D. He was one of the founders of the Student Development Unit at Centro Universitario Regional del Nordeste (CURNE), where he had the opportunity of developing numerous academic events (e.g., debate forums) and mentoring/tutoring college students.
Richard has always been passionate about international/global affairs, interest that he acquired through his multiple participations in the Model United Nations. In 2013, after a rigorous process of evaluation and a national open call, he was elected as the Youth Delegate of the Dominican Republic to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Third Committee for Social Cultural and Humanitarian Affairs, for the period 2013-2014. As the Youth Delegate, he designed, led and carried out a consultation process throughout his country, in order to identify the interests and needs of the Dominican young population so they could be genuinely represented in the UN. He has been an active member of the United Nations Association of the Dominican Republic (UNA-DR) since 2012, organization at which he has held important positions like Secretary General of the UN Conference for the North Region and President of the World Health Organization Assembly at the International Conference of the Americas. Every year, Richard travels back to his home country so he can be part of the staff of several UN Conferences directed to promote the work of the UN among students.
As a child, Richard expressed deep interest in pursuing a career in the sciences, particular the brain sciences. He was a vivid participant in the School Science Fair, becoming regional and national champion in several occasions. Unfortunately, there was not any Ph.D. program in the Dominican Republic but that did not stop him from dreaming and, in 2013, he became the recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship of the United States Department of State which allowed him to join the Neuroscience Program at Illinois. Immediately, he started developing training and research projects in the Dominical Republic. He has been a very active graduate student and received the 2017 Neuroscience Outstanding Service Award.
He is currently a fourth year Ph.D. student at the Control and Network Connectivity Team (CONNECT Lab) led by Dr. Sepideh Sadaghiani, his mentor, who has supported his interests of developing collaborations with several Dominican institutions. At present, he has several neuroimaging studies in collaboration between Illinois and, CEDIMAT and Hospital Gautier at Santo Domingo. One of these studies consists of the first longitudinal case-control neuroimaging study with Zika virus-infected patients with severe neurological complications, for which he received partial funding from the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) of Illinois, through the Tinker Fellowship. In addition, he is leading a collaborative project that involves psychiatric populations suffering from Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety in the Dominican Republic. He was also the leader of a project about early rehabilitation in patients with stroke conducted at Hospital Gautier in Santo Domingo. Furthermore, Richard is also interested in training Dominican physicians in the field of neuroscience, very limited in the Dominican Republic, reason why he has facilitated the rotation of several clinicians in different labs in the Beckman Institute from Advanced Science and Technology, with the support of the CONNECT lab and the Neuroscience Program of Illinois. He has also been invited in multiple occasions as the speaker of several neurology and psychiatry conferences in the Dominican Republic, including international conferences and offering workshops to resident physicians. Altogether, these initiatives are opening doors to the Dominican Republic and contributing to the closing of the scientific gap between developed and developing countries, as well as promoting a collaborative environment between the United States and the Dominican Republic.
Illinois International Undergraduate Achievement Award Recipient
The Illinois International Undergraduate Achievement Award recognizes an Illinois undergraduate student for a significant service or contribution resulting from participation in an international study course, program or project. Naomi Kainuma is a Political Science major at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who also minors in French and Psychology. Naomi was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Illinois for university. With an interest in working for the United Nations that dates back to middle school, she focuses on International Relations within her major. In her freshman year, she took LAS199 (now known as LAS100), which is a course that helps international students adapt to the American higher education system, and became an intern for the same class the following year. Her work with this course involved recruitment and course planning for spring semester, and assisting the TA for fall semester. In her junior year, she became a facilitator for the same class and led a class of 13 international students for two hours every week. In addition, she joined her TA’s research project and contributed to the community auto-ethnography. Following from her work on this project, she presented at the Comparative and International Education Society Conference of 2015 and 2017. In addition to her participation in LAS199, she works for the Women’s Resources Center as a First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education facilitator and leads a two-hour discussion for freshman and transfer students every week. During spring semester 2017, she studied abroad in Paris through the Illinois Program in Paris, and studied at l’Institut Catholique for four months. After graduation, Naomi will be working for the Peace Corps in Indonesia as an English teacher/teacher trainer for 27 months.