Montana State University

MSU College of Letters and Science to award top honors April 13

March 28, 2017 -- MSU News Service

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BOZEMAN -- The Montana State University College of Letters and Science will honor the faculty, staff and student recipients of the college’s annual awards at a ceremony to be held from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, April 13, in the Strand Union Building, Ballroom A.

Bennett Link, professor of physics in the Department of Physics, and Laurence Carucci, professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, will receive the Letters and Science Meritorious Research and Creativity Award, which recognizes especially significant research or creative achievement.

Link is an internationally known scholar in theoretical condensed matter physics and neutron star astrophysics. His record of achievement extends back to his earliest papers on neutron star superfluids in the early 1990s. In recent years, he has produced a series of studies on glitches and flares, which are sudden energy releases in neutron stars. He is a highly productive scholar, averaging two papers per year that are published in peer-reviewed journals. His colleagues describe him as one of the world’s most creative researchers on the physics of neutron stars.

Carucci is a pre-eminent scholar of the peoples of the Marshall Islands, and is widely viewed by his peers as the leading anthropological scholar actively involved in research endeavors in this Pacific Islands region. In recent years, he has expanded his research sites to include a growing migrant community of Marshallese residing on the Big Island of Hawaii. During his career, he has authored or edited seven books, with two more under review, published more than 55 journal articles or book chapters and presented more than 115 papers at regional, national and international conferences.

Jennifer Green, assistant professor of statistics in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Kari Cargill, an instructor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, will receive the Letters and Science Outstanding Teaching Award.

Although she is early in her career, Green has already established herself as a leading researcher in statistics education. She has amassed a substantial list of peer-reviewed papers that have been published or are in review and has multiple grants and awards in recognition of her excellent scholarship. She develops many of her research ideas in the classroom and is recognized for providing excellent and innovative instruction at MSU. Green has a reputation among her students as being one of the kindest and most approachable professors in the math department.

Cargill is the lead instructor for two large entry-level microbiology courses, which are both taught twice per year (BIOM103, Unseen Universe: Microbes; and BIOM250, Microbiology for Health Sciences: Infectious Diseases). Cargill demonstrates excellent teaching skills and succeeds in keeping students engaged in these very large classes. She notes that she is constantly working to improve her courses and to incorporate new teaching approaches and technologies where appropriate. In addition to her work in the classroom, she is also the primary undergraduate adviser in her department.

Amanda Hardin, Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, and Dan Lawver, Department of Earth Sciences, will receive the Letters and Science Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award.

During her two years as a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Hardin’s teaching scores have been among the highest ever received for a GTA in the history and American studies programs. She excels at helping her students understand the material being studied and says that she truly cares about the students and their success. Her colleagues say they are appreciative of her professionalism, dedication and dependability, and she has excelled as a GTA while maintaining her own excellent scholarship as she completes her master’s thesis.

Lawver, a graduate student in the Department of Earth Sciences, has served as a graduate teaching assistant for BIOH201, Human Anatomy and Physiology, for the past six years. He says that he cares deeply about his students and works tirelessly on their behalf. Lawver is known for being available outside of class time to meet with any students who need additional assistance. His colleagues note that he excels at recognizing the varied abilities of his students and adapting his teaching techniques accordingly. In his teaching evaluations, students express appreciation for the concern he has for them as students and as individuals.

Katie Yaw, Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, and Doreen Brown, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will be honored with the Kathy Griffith Employee Excellence Award.

Yaw serves as the business operations manager in the Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies. She manages a triple-major department that also houses two Ph.D. programs, making her department one of the most administratively challenging in the college. She demonstrates a thorough understanding of departmental procedures and accounts, combined with a core commitment to treating everyone with respect and compassion, according to her colleagues. Those colleagues note that Yaw’s presence boosts the department’s reputation and their ability to attract new faculty and students, saying that she excels as the public face of the department.

Since 2010, Brown has been directing the graduate program in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which currently has over 80 doctoral students. Her colleagues note that due to her efforts, dropout rates have been dramatically reduced and students are more effectively moving through the program. She is described as an invaluable link in the transition that every graduate student makes from being an introductory learner to being an independent thinker and problem-solver.

Finally, Heather Olson, sociology and anthropology, and Riley Shearer, chemistry and biochemistry, will receive the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence. This award is presented to the top two seniors in the college.

When she graduates in May, Olson will earn a dual degree in anthropology and sociology, a minor in history and an honors baccalaureate. She is a funded research assistant for assistant professors Colter Ellis and Kelly Knight on a National Institutes of Health grant project. She has co-authored a peer-reviewed journal article and serves as the head research assistant in Colter and Ellis’ research lab, training and supervising other undergraduate research assistants. She also volunteers at the Voice Center as a sexual assault advocate, is an anthropology teaching assistant and serves as an academic tutor.

Shearer is a triple major in economics, biochemistry and chemical engineering, with a minor in math. He will earn an honors baccalaureate. Shearer won several prestigious awards, including a Goldwater Scholarship. He was also MSU’s first-ever recipient of the Schwarzman Scholarship, which is a highly competitive and selective one-year master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing. In addition to his rigorous academic program, he also volunteered locally, nationally and internationally, receiving the 2017 Torlief Aesheim Community Involvement Award in recognition of his efforts.

For more information on the awards or the College of Letters and Science, see or contact the college directly at (406) 994-4288 or

Contact: Jody Sanford, College of Letters and Science, (406) 994-7791 or