Two University of Kentucky faculty members are recipients of The Graduate School’s two distinguished annual awards for exemplary research and outstanding contributions to graduate student mentoring and education.

The 2024 recipient of the Albert D. and Elizabeth H. Kirwan Memorial Prize is Alan Daugherty, Ph.D., professor and chair in the Department of Physiology in the UK College of Medicine and director of the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center and the Saha Aortic Center. The prize is bestowed each year to a faculty member in recognition of their outstanding contributions to original research or scholarship, with an emphasis on work produced in the four years prior to the award.

The 2024 recipient of the William B. Sturgill Award is professor David Harmon, Ph.D., in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. The honor is presented each year to a graduate faculty member who has provided outstanding contributions to graduate education at UK.

Daugherty and Harmon were recognized at UK’s annual Faculty Awards Ceremony on April 26.

Alan Daugherty — 2024 Albert D. and Elizabeth H. Kirwan Memorial Prize recipient

Professor Daugherty is one of the world’s leaders in research on aortic aneurysms and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. His research has been published in top-tier journals and is widely recognized for its innovation and impact. He and his lab have published 238 peer-reviewed manuscripts, including 45 published since 2019.

One particularly impactful paper, published in 2000, has been cited more than 1,500 times and describes Daugherty’s pioneering development of the angiotensin II infusion mouse model to study aortic disorders. This paper began a new research area and established a novel model for inducing aneurysms that has been used by more than 100 labs worldwide.

Daugherty’s research has been funded continuously for 39 years and he currently holds several highly prestigious grant awards, including a seven-year $5.6 million National Institutes of Health Outstanding Investigator Award for his aortic research. He also received a $1 million merit award from the American Heart Association to identify and test new drugs to treat aortic diseases.

Daugherty served as editor-in-chief of the major cardiovascular journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. In this role for 10 years, Daugherty dramatically improved the journal's impact factor and review process. He has been very active in the national and local American Heart Association for 40 years. For his cumulative impact on the AHA's mission, he received the 2023 Award of Meritorious Achievement.

Under Daugherty's leadership, UK has achieved a national reputation for robust cardiovascular research, one of seven University Research Priority areas. He has organized the annual Cardiovascular Research Day for over 25 years. Daughtery has served as director of the Cardiovascular Research Center since 2005 and helped establish the Saha Aortic Center to promote the integration of basic research and clinical practice at UK.

David Harmon — 2024 William B. Sturgill Award recipient

Harmon has developed an internationally recognized research program in the nutrition and digestive physiology of animals. Over his career, Harmon has mentored more than 50 graduate students and post-doctoral scholars, many who have gone on to achieve remarkable success. He continues to mentor and collaborate with these trainees long after they’ve left his lab.

Supporting letters from Harmon’s former students indicate he is a hands-on mentor who challenges his students to think critically and creatively, while making sure their research has a high probability of success. He also promotes the professional development of his students, encouraging them to develop their skills in written and oral communication, teamwork, leadership and teaching. He inspires his students to live out UK’s land-grant mission and provides opportunities for them to interact with local and regional stakeholders where they gain important experience in presenting science to end-users.

For more than 20 years, Harmon has provided visionary leadership to the graduate program in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences as the director of graduate studies and chair of the graduate activities committee. He ensures they have a current detailed handbook and is well-informed on university policies around graduate students. His nominators comment that he “consistently evaluates issues through a student-focused lens of how a given decision will impact the ability of our department — to provide a high-quality, research-based graduate education.”


The Kirwan Memorial Prize was established in 1995 and recognizes its namesakes' collaborative research efforts, as well as Albert Kirwan's endeavors in creating an environment at UK that promotes high quality research and scholarship. Albert "Ab" Kirwan was head football coach at UK from 1938 to 1944 and was a distinguished faculty member and scholar in the field of Southern history. He later served as dean of The Graduate School and as the seventh president of the university. Elizabeth Kirwan was awarded the Sullivan Medallion in 1973 for her service to UK and the Lexington community. She held executive roles across more than 10 organizations, including president of the UK Woman’s Club and chairwoman of the Lexington Parks and Recreation Board.

Established in 1975, the Sturgill Award is named in honor of alumnus William B. Sturgill, who contributed to higher education through organizing and serving as president of the Hazard Independent College Foundation, in addition to working with legislators to develop the community college system across the Commonwealth.Sturgill, who died in 2014, was born in Lackey, Kentucky, and graduated from UK in 1946. He was involved in a variety of businesses, including executive and owner of several coal operations, East Kentucky Investment Company, Fourth Street and Gentry Tobacco Warehouses and the Hartland Development Project. Sturgill served as both secretary of energy and secretary of agriculture under Gov. John Y. Brown Jr.  He served 18 years on UK's Board of Trustees, including serving as chair for 10 years. The Sturgill Development Building is named in his honor.

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The mission of The Graduate School is to promote excellence at all levels of graduate education at the University of Kentucky. By encouraging and supporting the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in an environment of diversity and interdisciplinary cooperation, The Graduate School aids graduate programs in preparing students as future leaders of the global society in research, teaching, applied science, creative production, policy making and public service.