Michele Balas, PhD, named UNMC’s 18th Scientist Laureate

Michele Balas, PhD, 2023 UNMC Scientist Laureate

Michele Balas, PhD, the associate dean of research at the UNMC College of Nursing and Dorothy Hodges Olson Distinguished Professor of Nursing at the college, has been named UNMC’s 18th Scientist Laureate.

The award is the highest honor that UNMC bestows upon its researchers.

Dr. Balas has a long-standing research focus on improving the clinical care and outcomes of critically ill adults through nurse-led, interprofessional interventions aimed at reducing intensive care unit-acquired pain, anxiety, delirium and weakness.

“Dr. Balas has dedicated her career to helping the elderly and has received numerous awards recognizing her work to improve the physical, functional, cognitive and quality of life outcomes of seriously ill older adults,” said Ken Bayles, PhD, UNMC’s vice chancellor for research. “She has secured multiple NIH and foundation grants to support her research and has played active leadership roles on a variety of gerontological societies, panels and associations.

“She is an outstanding addition to a long list of talented scientist laureates at UNMC.”

Nursing Dean Lepaine Sharp-McHenry, DNP, said that under Dr. Balas’ leadership, the college’s funded research grants have more than doubled since she assumed her current role in 2021, with an increased focus on faculty mentoring and development.

“Dr. Balas is nationally known for research and continues to push for excellence in nursing research,” Dr. Sharp-McHenry said. “We are pleased to have Dr. Balas at the helm of the Nieldfelt Nursing Research Center.”

Dr. Balas said the recognition is not only a tremendous source of pride for her but also a testament to the dedication and passion that she has for her research. She said the award reinforces her commitment to pushing the boundaries of understanding and making meaningful contributions to the advancement of nursing science.

“I am inspired to continue my research journey with renewed passion, striving to unravel new insights, develop innovative solutions and address the dire challenges facing the nursing profession,” Dr. Balas said. “The severe staffing shortages, increased nurse to patient ratios, physical violence and verbal abuse many bedside nurses experience on a daily basis not only threatens their own health and wellbeing but also puts patients’ lives at risk.

“Through rigorous research and ongoing partnerships with Nebraska Medicine and other health care systems, I hope to provide further ‘proof’ of the value of nursing and make substantive improvements in this area.”

Dr. Balas will be honored, along with other researchers named UNMC Distinguished Scientist, New Investigator, Research Leadership and Community Service to Research Award winners for 2023, during an awards ceremony on Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. at the Durham Research Center auditorium.

New Investigator Awards go to outstanding UNMC scientists who in the past two years have secured their first funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense or other national sources. New investigators also had to demonstrate scholarly activity such as publishing their research and/or presenting their findings at national conventions.

  • Windy Alonso, PhD, UNMC College of Nursing
  • Po-Jung Chen, DDS, UNMC College of Dentistry
  • Christopher Conrady, MD, PhD, UNMC College of Medicine
  • Jungyoon Kim, PhD, UNMC College of Public Health
  • Imayavaramban Lakshmanan, PhD, UNMC College of Medicine
  • Elizabeth Mollard, PhD, UNMC College of Nursing
  • Nicole Shonka, MD, UNMC College of Medicine
  • Joseph Siu, PhD, UNMC College of Allied Health Professions

Distinguished Scientist Awards, which are sponsored by the chancellor, recognize researchers who have been among the most productive scientists at UNMC during the past five years.

  • Karsten Bartels, MD, PhD, UNMC College of Medicine
  • Raymond Bergan, MD, Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases
  • Jennifer Blackford, PhD, UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute
  • Hongying (Daisy) Dai, PhD, UNMC College of Public Health
  • Yvonne Golightly, PhD, UNMC College of Allied Health Professions
  • Joseph Khoury, MD, UNMC College of Medicine
  • Daren Knoell, PharmD, UNMC College of Pharmacy
  • St Patrick Reid, PhD, UNMC College of Medicine

Research Leadership Awards honor scientists previously recognized as Distinguished Scientists who have a longstanding research funding history and also serve as research leaders and mentors on campus.

  • Carol Casey, PhD, UNMC College of Medicine
  • John Davis, PhD, UNMC College of Medicine

Community Service to Research Awards recognize community members for their service to UNMC’s research efforts.

  • Carolyn T. Williamson 
  • Amanda McGill Johnson


  1. Lisa says:


  2. Beth Beam says:

    Fabulous…both Michele and Windy! 😉

    1. Beth Beam says:

      Ugh…and Libby! Sorry. Elizabeth threw me off. 🙂

  3. Roslyn B Mannon says:

    Congratulations Dr. Balas! So delighted for you to receive this recognition!

  4. John Keenan says:

    Congratulations to Dr. Balas and all this year’s Research Award honorees for their impressive accomplishments!

  5. Anji Heath says:

    Congratulations! Well deserved recognition indeed.

  6. Robin Lally, PhD, RN says:

    Very proud for our College of Nursing honorees!

  7. Marna says:

    Congratulations Michele and all! We are so lucky to have your talent and dedication on our side.

  8. Parvez Khan says:

    Many Congratulations to Dr. Lakshmanan and the Awardees for their great achievements!!

  9. Mariya Kovaleva says:

    Congratulations, Dr. Balas and Dr. Alonso!

  10. Sue Schuelke says:

    Congrats to Dr Balas, Mollard, and Alonso

  11. Ann Berger says:

    Congrats to Michele for her leadership and success in securing grant funding! Also, congrats to all faculty who are advancing their research program, with special recognition to Windy Alonso and Libby Mollard!

  12. Gopalakrishnan Natarajan says:

    Congratulations to Dr. Imay Lakshmanan for the Award.

  13. Heidi Keeler says:

    This is amazing! Many congrats!


    Congratulations Dr.imayavaramban lakshmanan 👌🌏

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