ASEMFL Announces Selection of 12 ‘Rising Stars’ Honorees for 2023

Nov 02, 2023

Nov. 1, 2023 – Twelve mid-career researchers from throughout the state of Florida have been selected to receive “Rising Stars” awards by the Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida (ASEMFL), a group that brings together the nation’s most distinguished and impactful scholars who live and work in Florida.

The 12 honorees were competitively selected among nominated researchers at universities from across the state in the categories of science; engineering; and medicine and public health.

The Rising Stars honorees will receive their awards on Friday, Nov. 3 during ASEMFL’s annual meeting in Orlando.

Honoring the state’s rising stars in science, engineering and medicine is a new feature of ASEMFL’s annual meeting program, now in its fifth year.

“The goal is to recognize researchers working in the state of Florida who are on the cusp of consideration for full ASEMFL membership. Rising Stars recognition showcases these individuals’ significantly growing contributions to their disciplines,” says Angela Laird, Ph.D., ASEMFL member and Rising Stars committee chair. The committee includes members of the national academies at multiple Florida institutions.

“Identifying Rising Stars allows the distinguished members of ASEMFL to more actively engage with, and mentor, mid-career investigators to ensure the growth and prominence of ASEMFL and call attention to the state of Florida’s pioneering contributions to science, engineering and medicine,” Laird says.

Members of the National Academies – National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and National Academy of Medicine (NAM) – who live or work in Florida have automatic ASEMFL membership. National Academy membership is considered the highest career distinction in the United States in these disciplines. New members, who have potential to become National Academy members, are inducted into ASEMFL annually after a rigorous selection process.

Housed at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, ASEMFL is a not-for-profit organization of top scholars and researchers from universities, public agencies and industries statewide who study issues in science, engineering and medicine that impact the people of Florida and provide unbiased, expert advice related to these issues.

ASEMFL’s annual meeting, Nov. 3-4, will feature the Rising Stars awards as well as the induction of 15 new members announced earlier this year. Visit and select “2023 Annual Meeting” to see the full meeting schedule.

ASEMFL’s 2023 Rising Stars, by Discipline

Science Rising Stars

Kerri Donaldson Hanna, Ph.D., Department of Physics, University of Central Florida.

Citation: For being the first Florida scientist to lead a mission to the surface of the moon to study its volcanic history.

Mariana Fuentes, Ph.D., Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, Florida State University. Citation: For novel approaches to inform the recovery and sustainable management of species of conservation concern.

Xiaohu Xia, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry, University of Central Florida. Citation: For developing an artificial enzyme with catalytic constant of 45 million per second, which is the current world record.

Engineering Rising Stars

Ashutosh Agarwal, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Miami. Citation: For engineering and translating novel organ-on-chip platforms and building a culture of inclusive excellence.

Ruogo Fang, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida. Citation: For pioneering contributions in medical artificial intelligence for brain health, and for tireless education of diverse transdisciplinary researchers.

Akihiro Kushima, Ph.D., Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Central Florida. Citation: For contributions to understanding fundamental mechanisms of reaction/failure of energy storage materials and the development of novel electrode materials.

Parisa Rashidi, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida.

Citation: For visionary leadership in medical artificial intelligence.

Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos, Ph.D., Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, University of Miami. Citation: For work on understanding the mechanisms of tensegrity structures that enable novel architectural design of structures that are much more resilient and sustainable.

Thomas Wahl, Ph.D., Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering, University of Central Florida. Citation: For fundamental contributions to research of extreme sea level changes, compound events, and assessment of coastal flood risk.

Medicine and Public Health Rising Stars

Ashley Brown, Ph.D., Department of Medicine, University of Florida. Citation: For outstanding contributions in the field of antiviral pharmacodynamics.

Mariana Sanchez, Ph.D., Department of Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, Florida International University. Citation: For excellence in examining pre- to post-immigration alcohol use trajectories among recent Latino immigrants during their first decade in the U.S.

Gregg Stanwood, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Sciences, Florida State University.

Citation: For work on the developmental origins of brain disorders through assessments of brain developmental trajectories following genetic and environmental perturbations.

Contact Kimberly J. Lewis for questions about news outreach at