Faculty Members Honored for Exemplary Public Engagement

side by side images of Igor Lednev and Meghan Cook
Igor Lednev and Meghan Cook are the winners of this years President's Award for Exemplary Public Engagement.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 7, 2022) — Meghan Cook, program director for CTG UAlbany, and Igor Lednev, distinguished professor of Chemistry and the RNA Institute, will be honored with the President’s Award for Exemplary Public Engagement in a ceremony and reception beginning at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the Performing Arts Center (PAC).

The award honors UAlbany people and programs that have made outstanding contributions to addressing a significant societal need and enhancing public well-being through publicly engaged research, teaching, creative activity and/or public service, and in collaboration with community partners.

Meghan Cook

Cook, who also teaches courses at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, was chosen for her 25-year career focused on advancing local government empowerment and digital transformation. Cook has worked with municipal leaders, particularly those in information technology, as an instructor, consultant, program developer and advisor on projects ranging from cybersecurity to elections to urban blight. Her work on “smart cities,” designed to use data and digital technology to enhance decision making, communications and operational efficiency to improve government service for citizens. She founded New York State City CIOs, an organization of municipal chief information officers, to improve collaboration and communication among civic leaders.

Cook’s expertise is on local government digital transformation and innovation, where she facilitates, connects and generates new knowledge and capabilities for county, city, town and village leaders. The success of this collaborative approach between UAlbany and the community of local government IT leaders in New York has resulted in mutually beneficial relationships and research opportunities in government and technology adoption and application.

Cook’s community partners: 

  • New York State local government IT leaders from municipalities including New York City, Rochester, Plattsburgh, Buffalo, Syracuse, Plattsburgh, Yonkers and Albany
  • The state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
  • New York State Intelligence Center

Igor Lednev

Lednev, who was recently named a SUNY Distinguished Professor, is being honored for the work his lab has done to develop new methodologies for forensic applications using traces of body fluids, and novel screening tests for early, pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease.

Collaborating with the New York State Police Crime Laboratory for over a decade, his work has resulted in the development of promising new forensic technologies and ongoing federal funding. This research is expected to lead to faster analysis of biological traces and serological examinations of evidence, reducing investigative backlogs and shortening the turnaround time for legal cases. The development of these new patented forensic methodologies has led to the formation of a University spin-off company called SupreMEtric LLC.

Through his research and close collaboration with the New York State Police Crime Laboratory, Lednev prepares UAlbany students for careers as forensic scientists. Currently, there are four UAlbany graduates, who previously worked in Lednev's lab, now employed as members of the forensic team at the state crime laboratory. 

In addition to his work in forensics, Lednev works collaboratively with Albany Medical Center on the development of new, noninvasive tests that can detect Alzheimer’s at early stages, with the goal that doctors would be able to delay the progression of the disease through early therapeutic treatment for patients.

Lednev’s community partners: 

  • New York State Police Crime Laboratory System 
  • Albany Medical Center

Honorary Awards for Distinguished Community Engagement

In addition to the President’s Awards for Exemplary Public Engagement, two honorary awards are going to professors from the School of Public Health (SPH) and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Christine Bozlak, in a gray sweater and glasses, gestures with her hands while speaking
Christine Bozlak

Christine Bozlak, associate professor of Health Policy, Management and Behavior at SPH, is being honored for her collaboration with the Alliance of New York State YMCAs on childhood obesity prevention.


This partnership has resulted in three research studies that have helped YMCAs implement childhood obesity prevention interventions throughout the state, and contributed to the public health training and professional development of UAlbany undergraduate and graduate students and increased childhood obesity prevention knowledge base through its dissemination efforts. 

Rui Li, associate professor of Geography and Planning, specializes in Geographic Information Science and spatial cognition, developing mapping and tracking apps and websites for various community partners. 

A smiling Rui Li in a blue checked shirt and black suit jacket
Rui Li

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Li developed the New York State COVID-19 Tracker, an interactive web-based platform for the public to track cases in the state. Since the vaccine became available, he has worked with the Capital Region Vaccine Network to provide two map-based web portals. One is an interactive planning tool to identify neighborhoods with low vaccination rates and choose potential locations for vaccination sites to promote equity in vaccination. The other is a web portal for the public to track vaccination progress in their own communities and find nearby vaccination sites. 

Through this work, he makes possible experiential learning and internship opportunities for UAlbany students as well. 

Ceremony, reception

A reception for the honorees will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the PAC’s Futterer Lounge. The awards ceremony will begin at 5:30 in the Recital Hall, with President Rodríguez presiding. Registration is not required but is appreciated.