Alumna pays forward to support early-career faculty
A generous gift from alumna Joyce Misinec ’82 and her husband, Tony Hodun, is supporting the professional and personal growth of early-career faculty in the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering (ISE).
“Starting out, faculty have more limited access to funding,” explained ISE Assistant Professor Parinaz Naghizadeh, who also has a joint appointment in electrical and computer engineering. “We have our startup funding, but you're still trying to get research grants.”
She added that new faculty spend most of their time and resources supporting students in the first few years, so their own professional development can be forgotten.
Naghizadeh, who joined The Ohio State University faculty in 2019, is grateful to be one of the inaugural recipients of the Misinec/Hodun Endowment Fund. A researcher in the areas of fairness in AI, decision making and learning in networks, and the economics of cyber security, she used the funding to attend the Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) Conference. Attending conferences like NeurIPS helps Naghizadeh stay informed of the latest advances in the field and share them with students.
“NeurIPS is probably the top AI conference right now. If people have a good new piece of software or hardware, or something advancing the theory of AI algorithms, that's the place to present it,” she said. “I really appreciate having that opportunity to present my work and network with other people without worrying about how I am going to support this trip.”
The dedicated educator’s research efforts are paying off. Naghizadeh received a $550,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) last year for her research on multilayer networks. She is also collaborating with researchers from other universities on a $1.8 million NSF grant to develop an AI-enabled, real-time and context-aware holistic health monitoring approach for construction workers.
As lifelong educators, coaches and mentors, Misinec and Hodun created the endowment fund to support the growth of non-tenured ISE faculty in perpetuity.
“Continuous learning is important. Every opportunity that provided me additional training or coaching helped me become a better leader and more effective manager,” said Misinec, who earned an industrial and systems engineering degree from Ohio State and was a manager for Procter & Gamble for 33 years. “We wanted to give back, to do the same thing for others.”
“If we help educators grow and get better, they're definitely going to have that impact on their students,” added Hodun, who also worked in engineering management at Procter & Gamble for nearly three decades and was a high school physics teacher. “They can be a force multiplier, just by the way they help their students.”
Like her benefactors, Naghizadeh enjoys being a mentor to future engineers. She advises high school, undergraduate and graduate students who work in her lab.
“I'm big on increasing opportunities for the involvement of women in engineering and STEM research in general,” she said. “So I get to do research in this area of fairness in AI, and I get to support interested female students who want to work in this field and mentor them as they explore education and career opportunities.”
Misinec and Hodun’s gift illustrates the Buckeye spirit of paying forward, Naghizadeh said.
“The environment of the ISE department is collegial. We support our students and want them to succeed,” she explained. “It's good to know that this is a continuing trend in the department’s history, that alumni want to support the department, and to help faculty and students.”
by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications, email@example.com