Heagy, Riley Garner Year-End Faculty Honors

SOCORRO, N.M. May 15, 2014 -- New Mexico Tech awards two faculty awards each year – the Distinguished Research Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award. This year’s recipients are Dr. Michael Heagy of the Chemistry Department for research and Dr. Michael Riley of the Chemical Engineering Department for teaching. Both awards include a framed certificate and $1,500.

Dr. Michael Heagy

Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero introduced Heagy, with President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez presenting him with the award.

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Dr. Michael Heagy (left) accepts the 2014 Distinguished Researcher Award.


Heagy earned his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California and completed a post-doc at M.I.T. He then joined the faculty at New Mexico Tech in 1996.

Dr. Heagy is a well-known researcher in the design of dual-fluorescent probes for chemical detection in a range of medical and industrial applications. His breakthroughs have the potential to contribute to the solution of important problems, ranging from heart attack detection to transitioning away from fossil fuels.

He has published 29 articles in academic journals and five chapters in reviewed books, accumulating more than 500 citations from his published research. He also has served as associate editor and reviewer for journals. 

Romero said that the breadth of Dr. Heagy’s expertise has been demonstrated by the range of funding agencies with which he has been successful, including the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund.

“Perhaps the most notable application has been the design of a dual-fluorescent probe that can detect a biomarker prevalent during a heart attack; the leading cause of death in the United States,” Romero said. “This new probe is the first of its kind and has the potential for rapid medical diagnostic treatment.  This paper was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the most prestigious venue in the entire field of chemistry.”

Two other important applications of Heagy’s research include an organic light-emitting diode for flat-panel display screens and solid state lighting.

Dr. Heagy has also been very successful training his doctoral students, Romero said. For example, one of his students has received tenure at the University of Nebraska and another is a post-doc at UC-Berkeley.

Dr. Michael Riley

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Dr. Michael Riley accepts the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award.


Dr. Mary Dezember, interim vice president for Academic Affairs, introduce Dr. Riley, with Dr. Lopez presenting him with the award.

Dr. Michael Riley is an assistant professor in the Chemical Engineering Department.

Dr. Riley earned his bachelor’s at West Virginia University and his Ph.D. at North Carolina State University in 2002.

Dr. Riley spent about six years working in private industry before accepting a position on the New Mexico Tech faculty in 2008.

Dezember said that more than 15 students submitted recommendations supporting Dr. Riley’s nomination. Students consistently praised Dr. Riley’s focus on both ethics and safety. Students also detailed how Dr. Riley stresses to students the importance of research and they credit him with serving as an inspiration to make New Mexico Tech a better place.

“Nearly all the students who nominated Dr. Riley commented that he is extremely helpful and responsive, even answering emails late at night,” Dezember said. “The students said that Dr. Riley makes it easy to understand difficult topics. Students overwhelmingly credited Dr. Riley for being supportive, inspirational and motivational, particularly because he leads by example.

The award committee recognized that Dr. Riley’s presence and his teaching style serve as a great motivating factor for Tech students to strive for excellence.

– NMT –