College names Dean’s Early Career Award winners

The College of Arts and Sciences is proud to announce the winners of this year’s Dean’s Early Career Awards: Assistant Professors Jan Berry Baker of Music, Charlie Garnett Benson of Biology, Misty C. Bentz of Physics and Astronomy, Alex Sayf Cummings of History, and Ben Miller of English.
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The Dean’s Early Career Awards provide research funding to rising faculty stars each year. The award is designed to help the College of Arts and Sciences attract and retain the best and brightest scholars, researchers, and creative artists. The recipients will be celebrated at a reception this spring and each will receive a salary supplement in recognition of their outstanding success.

Jan Berry Baker is a saxophonist who has appeared on nine albums and played with the Chicago Philharmonic, the American Ballet Theater, and the Paris Opera Ballet among other ensembles. Her recitals have been broadcast on NPR and the CBC. Baker, who teaches saxophone performance, also gives performance clinics for five local high-school level orchestras.

Charlie Garnett Benson researches the human immune system, working on three closely linked projects. The first is to tease out the basic mechanisms of the immune system’s response to cancerous tumors. Second, she is investigating how cancer cells interact with the immune system. Finally, she attempting to discover whether certain viruses – adenoviruses – are a cause of childhood leukemia.

Misty C. Bentz researches active galactic nuclei, which are unusually luminous regions of space believed to result from the crush of matter around supermassive black holes. She has published 45 articles in refereed journals, which have been cited more than 1600 times. She also used scientific data to compose a three-part musical piece titled Fantasy on AGNs, which was performed at the University of California-Irvine Observatory in 2010.

Alex Sayf Cummings’ research is best summed up by the title of his book, Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century, published last year by Oxford University Press. He has also written about copyright and other issues for the website salon.com, and designed and organized videri.org, an online database for the summary and analysis of historical material.

Ben Miller studies digital media and collective memory. His most recent project was to develop data-mining techniques for witness statements and official records in Guatemala, Chechnya, Burma and Liberia. The project worked to find ways to pull together information from different documents in order to identify new witnesses to human rights abuses.