Skip to main content
Alumni awards

Alumni Awards celebrates exceptional achievements

By Hannah Ashton

Photos by Jodi B. Herrling

Distinguished professor of microbiology Jo-Ann Leong received the Lifetime Achievement in Science Award for exceptional and significant contributions to science over the course of her life.

The College of Science community recently gathered to celebrate this year’s Alumni Award recipients. These alumni distinguished themselves through their groundbreaking research, strong leadership and efforts to enhance equity, access and inclusion.

Jo-Ann Leong, former department chair and distinguished professor of microbiology, received the Lifetime Achievement in Science Award; Parisa Khosropour (‘89) received the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award; and Simon Johnson (‘09) received the Young Alumni Award.

Congratulations to these alumni and former college leadership, for their exceptional accomplishments! This recognition is a testament to their unwavering commitment to excellence and serves as an inspiration for the entire College of Science community.

Jo-Ann Leong poses for a photo with her award

Jo-Ann Leong accepts the Lifetime Achievement in Science Award from Dean Feingold.

Jo-Ann Leong is an outstanding microbiologist with a long history of aquaculture discoveries at Oregon State University and around the world. After obtaining her Ph.D. in microbiology and virology at the University of California, San Francisco, she became the only female professor in Nash Hall to help run one of the first virology labs at Oregon State in 1975. Throughout her life, Leong made breakthrough discoveries that inspired faculty members, future scientists and the world we live in today.

In the 1980s, Leong helped discover a new vaccine for salmon that died from IHNV, a disease that killed millions of fish and affected their migrations across the Columbia River. She also collaborated to help found the Center for Salmon Disease Research, which continues to find vaccines and solutions to fish diseases today.

After becoming a distinguished professor and spending more than 25 years in Corvallis, she moved on to be a director of the Marine Institute at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Read more about her transformative work that advanced aquaculture globally.

Parisa Khosropour accepts an award.

Parisa Khosropour accepts the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from Dean Feingold.

Parisa Khosropour encourages a pursuit of personal excellence over conventional markers of success. Advocating for doing what one loves and working hard, she views success as an ongoing process rather than a final destination.

Khosropour, a former president of the transplant diagnostics division at Thermo Fisher Scientific, now channels her expertise into angel investing, supporting healthcare startups with transformative potential. Her philosophy of “paying it forward” has inspired her to mentor and advise startups, emphasizing the importance of thorough research and aligning goals with investing groups.

She graduated with her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Oregon State and then transitioned from clinical pharmacology research at Stanford to industry, where she excelled in cellular immunology and assay development.

Read more about her career advice and dedication to healthcare innovation.

Simon Johnson accepts an award.

Simon Johnson accepts the Young Alumni Award from Dean Feingold.

Simon Johnson spearheaded a novel approach to researching mitochondrial diseases that has reshaped his field’s work.

For many years, scientists speculated on the pathway from which these diseases arise, primarily focusing on the mitochondria's role in generating energy to find an answer. However, Johnson reasoned that an energetic explanation wouldn’t account for how infants with the disease commonly survive through development.

With this in mind, his laboratory instead examined the structure’s origins as a remnant of ancient bacteria within our cells. Certain bacterial components remain intact as parts of the mitochondria and, as Johnson’s lab discovered, could trigger innate immune responses if they were to leak out of the cell. These pioneering findings create a much clearer picture of the diseases than ever before, and Johnson is now focusing his efforts on specifying what particular bacterial aspect of the mitochondria could be at fault. He currently runs his laboratory in the U.K. at Northumbria University and is eager to continue exploring this mystery.

Read more about Johnson’s groundbreaking work in mitochondrial diseases.

Enjoy some photos from the event below. Click here for the full gallery of photos.