Montana State University

MSU faculty receive 2010 awards

May 5, 2010

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Dedicated teachers, dynamic researchers and faculty devoted to the betterment of Montana are among the winners of the top Montana State University 2010 faculty awards announced this week. The annual awards honor achievement in faculty research, teaching, outreach and creative projects. The awards will be presented at the MSU Honors Night Banquet on May 7.

The Cox Family Faculty Excellence Award
Mary Cloninger, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Tomas Gedeon, a professor of mathematical sciences, and Luther Talbert, professor of plant sciences and plant pathology, are the recipients of the 2010 Cox Family Awards for Creative Scholarship and Teaching. Each will receive a $2,000 honorarium from the Winston and Helen Cox Family Endowment as well as an $800 stipend to be used to purchase books dedicated in their honor at MSU's Renne Library.

Cloninger has distinguished herself nationally and internationally for her work in organic chemistry and is in demand as a speaker at seminars and conferences. She is the principal investigator on a long-running National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates grant, and she supports a research group comprised of graduate, undergraduate and post-doctoral scholars. As a teacher and mentor, she is most noted for her command of scientific knowledge, her dedication and the passion and enthusiasm of her presentations.

Gedeon is a mathematician who continues to build an international reputation in several diverse areas of applied mathematics and mathematical biology. His body of work, coupled with his creative approaches to applied problems and immersion in biology and neuroscience, sets him apart from all but the most elite applied mathematicians on the international scene. Gedeon is also recognized as a dedicated mentor to many individuals, from freshman students to graduate researchers.

Talbert's research focuses on spring wheat breeding, and he is recognized as an authority on bridging genetics and applied plant breeding. His research efforts have resulted in the release of eight new hard red spring wheat varieties that have collectively been grown on more than 10 million acres in Montana. Talbert is also known as a dedicated teacher who has mentored numerous students.

James and Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence
John Peters, professor of chemistry, and Wendy Stock, professor of agricultural economics/economics, have received the 2010 James and Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence, which recognizes excellence in teaching and scholarship. Each will receive a $2,500 honorarium for the award.

Peters is recognized as an excellent researcher and innovative teacher who shares his expertise and love of chemistry with non-scientists and scientists alike. He is viewed nationally and internationally as a major figure in frontier areas of protein structure and function. He is director of MSU's Thermal Biology Institute and director of the NASA Astrobiology Biogeocatalysis Research Center on campus.

Stock is recognized for making economics exciting and relevant to her students. Besides teaching students to think objectively and apply theories to solve real-life problems, she is an outstanding scholar whose research has appeared in the leading journals in her field. She is head of the Department of Agricultural Economics/Economics.

President's Excellence in Teaching Award
Lisa Eckert, professor of English, Todd Feeley, professor of Earth sciences and Kevin O'Neill, professor of entomology, have won the 2010 Excellence in Teaching Award. Each will receive a $2,500 honorarium.

Eckert, a professor who teaches students to one day also be English teachers, is a leader in English education and a master teacher. Her courses, which range from introductory to graduate level courses, employ both the traditional and the innovative, such as collaboration with Bozeman High School and the creation of blogs and wikis to engage young students. She has written about literary theory, and she is praised for talent in creating student-driven learning experiences. Eckert also directs the Yellowstone Writing Project, a federally funded National Writing Project site, designed to offer professional development and support to K-12 teachers throughout Montana.

Feeley is a committed geologist and enthusiastic mentor who takes undergraduate and graduate students to some of the most spectacular field sites in the world. An accomplished researcher before he came to MSU from Switzerland, Feeley says teaching and mentoring have provided him great professional growth and personal satisfaction. One of his greatest passions is sponsoring cutting-edge undergraduate research projects.

O'Neill is an ecologist and teacher who is passionate about challenging and inspiring his students. He teaches multiple courses every year to hundreds of students, some of them dealing with topics, such as evolution and conservation, that may be controversial in the minds of some students. He is committed to student-centered learning, classroom innovations and interdisciplinary collaborations. He has improved teaching across the campus by his involvement in developing the Core 2.0 curriculum.

Provost's Award for Undergraduate Research/Creativity mentoring
Trevor Douglas, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Kristin McGarity, professor of music, won this year's undergraduate research/creativity mentoring award. They will each receive a $2,000 honorarium.

Douglas is a world-recognized scholar and teacher who has mentored some three dozen undergraduate students, many who have won such awards as Goldwater and Beckman scholarships and Howard Hughes Medical Institute scholars. He has provided such noted mentoring while founding Science Saturdays at MSU and on the Crow Reservation and a similar outreach program in his native South Africa. He is director of MSU's Center for Bio-inspired Nanomaterials. His own groundbreaking research on protein cage nano-architecture is a model of opportunity and excellence for his students.

McGarity directs MSU's new bachelor's of arts in music technology, whose rapid success is her personal mission. McGarity devotes 80-hour work weeks to serve as mentor to the 60-some students who are in the three-year-old program, teaching them sound design, composition and multimedia production. McGarity also founded the MONSTER Studios and Sunday Night Multimedia Series concerts. She also teaches oboe and is a composer of acoustic and electronic music including film scores.

Provost's Excellence in Outreach Award
Paul Lachapelle, professor of political science and Extension community development specialist, and Hunter Lloyd, adjunct instructor of computer science, have been selected as the 2010 recipients of MSU's Provost's Excellence in Outreach Award. Each will receive a $2,000 honorarium.

Lachapelle works in 35 communities across Montana to address poverty through community capacity building and has played a lead role in the Montana Horizons program. His work on the Crow Reservation has resulted in the Crow Men's Health Project. Lachapelle's local governance programs have reached over 2,000 elected and appointed government officials through trainings on open meetings policies, conflict management and leadership and team-building skills.

Robots are the unifying theme of Lloyd's work. He uses robots to excite K-12 students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math-related careers. He has helped elementary students build Lego robots and is actively involved in the annual junior high and high school robotics competitions, which attract hundreds of students from around the state. Hunter is a member of the MSU for a Day team and travels the state on recruiting trips.

The Meritorious Technology/Science Award
David Dickensheets, an electrical and computer engineering professor, received MSU's Meritorious Technology/Science Award. It carries a $2,500 honorarium and recognizes an MSU faculty member who has made at least one significant technological or scientific contribution that could be transferred or already has been transferred to the private sector.

Dickensheets has garnered significant recognition for his work in the development of microdevices used for confocal optical microscopy for medical imaging and focus and aberration control in optical imaging instruments. He invented the first micromachined confocal microscope for endoscope-based medical microscopy. Dickensheets had been issued 13 patents for his work. He also created the Montana Microfabrication Facility for use in research and instruction.

Wiley Awards for Meritorious Research
Charles Kankelborg, professor of physics, Frances Lefcort, professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Hashem Nehrir, professor in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, have won this year's Charles and Nora L. Wiley Faculty Awards for Meritorious Research and Creativity. Each will receive $2,000. Sponsored by the MSU Foundation, the prizes are given in honor of the Wileys, who were pioneer ranchers in eastern Montana.

Kankelborg is an internationally recognized solar scientist who studies the structure and dynamics of the solar atmosphere and develops instruments to remotely sense it. He obtained two major NASA grants for the development and flight of MOSES, or Multi-Order Solar Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrograph. MOSES involved undergraduate and graduate students and prepared optical instruments that were launched on a NASA rocket in 2006. In 2008, Kankelborg received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest award the United States government gives to outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their careers. Kankelborg received the honor for developing novel solar instruments and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students.

Lefcort has recently made important progress in understanding processes in the developing nervous system that have puzzled scientists for more than 100 years. She has applied new technologies, including live imaging, and cleverly focused research questions to uncover the sequences of developmental events and cellular interactions in the neural crest and how those processes can go awry to cause disease in the nervous system. Lefcort has published more than 30 articles in peer reviewed journals, including Nature Neuroscience, The Journal of Cell Biology and The Journal of Neuroscience.

Nehrir is internationally recognized for his work on alternative energy power generation system modeling and control, including wind and solar power, fuel cells, and microturbines. In January 2010 he was named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for his contributions to alternative energy power generation. He is a recipient of the 2007 IEEE Energy Development Committee Prize Paper Award. His 2009 book, "Modeling and Control of Fuel Cells: Distributed Generation Applications," stands as the culmination of nearly 10 years of research and his widely referenced papers in the area. The computer-based fuel cell models developed under his supervision at MSU are being used by researchers around the world.

Betty Coffey Award
Jessi L. Smith, professor of psychology, received the Betty Coffey Award. The award was established in memory of Betty Coffey, an engineering professor from 1977-1984 who was noted for her teaching excellence and her contributions to women's equity. The award comes with a $500 honorarium.

Smith is a scholar on the social psychology of gender, with an emphasis on understanding and overcoming barriers women face as a function of cultural norms. She has more than 25 peer reviewed publications and is currently conducting grant funded research on the role of gender and cultural norms in predicting important outcomes such as breastfeeding persistence and persistence in male-dominated fields such as science and math. Smith is the chair of the MSU Women's Faculty Caucus, is an active member of the Women's and Gender Studies committee and has helped to organize the upcoming NSF-funded ADVANCE conference on "Cultures of Leadership."

Phi Kappa Phi Award
Ada Giusti, a French professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, won the Anna K. Fridley Distinguished Teaching Award given by the Phi Kappa Phi honorary. Giusti will receive a $1,500 cash award.

Giusti is known for providing experiential learning opportunities for students, including service-learning projects in France and Mali in West Africa, where her students have helped implement economic and agriculture development projects. She frequently collaborates with other departments and colleges to develop interdisciplinary courses. She consistently receives praise from students for her performance in the classroom. She is the critically acclaimed author of the book "Why Don't They Just Go Home?" and is an authority on French immigration and immigrant populations.

Pat Chansley (406) 994-4373,