Presidential Award of Distinction
The Presidential Award of Distinction was established to recognize outstanding career achievement, scholarly excellence, leadership in a profession, noteworthy public service and or humanitarian endeavor.
Credit: John Sumrow

From cancer to coffee, the recipients of the 2015 Presidential Award of Distinction have portfolios of research accomplishments that separate the scientists from many others in their fields.Both Patricia Crown and C. Jeffrey Brinker, have dedicated their lives to studying culture and health in anthropology and engineering, respectively.

UNM President Robert Frank will honor and recognize Brinker and Crown with the 2015 Presidential Award of Distinction at the Dec. 11 fall commencement ceremony at WisePies Arena aka The Pit. Brinker and Crown are the fifth and sixth awardees of the Presidential Award of Distinction, established by Frank in 2013.

Frank established the honor to recognize outstanding career achievement, scholarly excellence, leadership in a profession, noteworthy public service or humanitarian endeavor. It is commemorated with a bronze medallion displaying the UNM Presidential Seal on one side and a howling lobo on the other.

“The university has a number of awards that honor the varied contributions and expertise of our campus community, but this one gives me the opportunity to recognize individuals, both within and outside UNM, who support the kinds of thoughts and actions that advance the highest ideals of the citizens of our state,” said Frank. “I am indebted to all who were nominated, as well as to those nominating and advising me in selecting this year’s honorees.”

C. Jeffrey Brinker

C. Jeffrey Brinker
C. Jeffrey Brinker is a Distinguished and Regent’s Professor in the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering with an appointment in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology. A member of The UNM Cancer Center, and a fellow at Sandia National Laboratories Brinker is also a distinguished affiliate scientist in the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, (CINT) created by Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories.

Brinker is inspired by the natural systems which have evolved over billions of years to solve difficult engineering problems like water collection and purification, self-cleaning and repair, energy harvesting, and selective cellular delivery. He says emulating proven natural designs in robust engineering materials using efficient, processing approaches that can be manufactured represents a fundamental current grand challenge in materials science and engineering.

Over the past two decades Brinker’s research team has developed self-assembly as a robust and efficient means to create porous and composite thin film and particulate nanostructures with optimized properties with complex functionalities. Recent work has focused on mesoporous silica nanoparticles whose huge internal surface area and variable surface chemistry enables loading with diverse cargos and whose external surfaces can be engineered to avoid or enhance binding with specific cell and tissue targets.

Brinker joined SNL as a member of the technical staff in 1979 and was appointed distinguished member of the technical staff at Sandia and National Laboratory Professor of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at the University of New Mexico in 1991. Since 1999, he has been jointly employed at Sandia, where he is one of four Sandia Fellows and a distinguished affiliate scientist at CINT.

Brinker has received some of the highest honors in the materials research field including the U.S. Department of Energy Ernest O. Lawrence Memorial Award in Materials Science and the Materials Research Society MRS Medal. In 2002 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Brinker is also the recipient of the 2015 STC.UNM Innovation Fellow Award.

His impact on technology is evidenced by four R&D100 Awards and 43 issued U.S. patents. Brinker’s graduate students have won five MRS Graduate Student Awards (three Gold), the American Chemical Society Victor K. LaMer Award for best Ph.D. dissertation in colloid and surface chemistry, the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, and the 2015 Kavli Award from the Materials Research Society.

Brinker grew up in Easton, Pa., and attended Rutgers University where he received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in ceramic science.

Patricia L. Crown

Patricia L. Crown
Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Patricia Crown has conducted field investigations in the Ancestral Pueblo, Mogollon and Hohokam areas of the American Southwest. A UNM faculty member since 1993, she recently directed the re-excavation of a room in Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon that builds upon previous research. The paper, titled “Ritual drinks in the pre-Hispanic U.S Southwest and Mexican Northwest,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, studies how widely caffeine was used at different time periods. Crown says it is probable the caffeine was consumed as part of rituals or in political contexts, as they were in Mesoamerica. Part of that theory is based on context.

With collaborator Jeffrey Hurst, she identified the first Prehispanic cacao (chocolate) north of the Mexican border in ceramics from Chaco Canyon. It was the first actual scientific evidence of the use of Black Drink in the south central United States and the first demonstration that Black Drink was consumed prior to European contact.

In her original research on the consumption of cacao in Chaco Canyon she used sherds of pottery that came from cylinder jars. One hundred eleven of them were found in 1896 in one room of Pueblo Bonito, a large ruin in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Most of the cylinders are now in the collections at the American Museum of Natural History. Crown says it documents the use of the plants far north of their natural habitats, implying some trade activity and suggests the beakers may have been created especially for their role in the ritual ceremonies featuring Black Drink.

Her books have included three co-edited volumes, “Chaco and Hohokam,” “Social Violence in the Pre-Hispanic Southwest,” and “Ceramic Production in the American Southwest,” the single-authored, “Ceramics and Ideology: Salado Polychrome Pottery,” and an edited volume “Women and Men in the Pre-Hispanic Southwest: Labor, Power, and Prestige.”

She has a new edited volume in press, “The Pueblo Bonito Mounds in Chaco Canyon: Material Culture and Fauna.”

Crown received her A.B. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974, and her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1981.

Previous recipients of the Presidential Award of Distinction include inaugural recipients Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics Steve R.J. Brueck and Emeritus Professor of Computer Science Cleve Moler. Last year, Dr. Howard Yonas, Distinguished Professor and chair of the UNM Department of Neurosurgery, and Gov. Susana Martinez, were honored.