Six faculty and staff members from the College of Natural Science (CNS) were among those honored for their outstanding contributions to education and research at the annual Michigan State University (MSU) Awards Convocation Feb. 12.
“On behalf of the College of Natural Science, I congratulate those in our college that are recipients of this year’s university-level awards,” said R. James Kirkpatrick, CNS dean. “These awards are a testament to the commitment and dedication of our faculty members, staff members and teaching assistants to excellence in everything they do: research, teaching and commitment to student success. Their contributions and achievements are an inspiration to everyone at the university.”
Katherine W. Osteryoung, professor of plant biology, and Stephen E. Zepf, professor of physics and astronomy, received distinguished faculty awards. They were among 10 MSU faculty members bestowed with this award, which is one of the highest honors given to faculty members by the university.
Osteryoung is a pioneer in the field of chloroplast division and biology in plants. Chloroplasts carry out photosynthesis and produce many compounds critical for plant growth and development, including membrane lipids, amino acids and growth regulators.
Osteryoung’s discovery of the first chloroplast division gene is considered to be the definitive evidence supporting the hypothesis that photosynthetic bacteria were the evolutionary ancestors of chloroplasts. This discovery launched an entirely new field of research on the molecular analysis of chloroplast division in plants and algae. Since this discovery, Osteryoung and her team have combined the powerful genetic and genomic resources of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana with the tools of biochemistry and cell biology to uncover many new components of the chloroplast division machinery and to investigate how they function together to divide chloroplasts. She has been honored as a fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) and a fellow of the American Society for Plant Biologists.
Zepf is an observational and computational astronomer who has produced world-class scholarship. Among his many honors and distinctions is the prestigious Hubble Fellowship Award. An eminent astronomer and astrophysicist, Zepf investigates two forefront areas of modern astrophysics: globular cluster systems and X-ray binaries, and accreting black holes and neutron stars in galaxies. He is the world leader in the investigation of globular cluster systems and successfully predicted the formation of globular clusters in galaxy mergers. He discovered the first known black hole in a globular cluster, and he built a world-leading team in the study of accreting neutron star and black hole populations. His Cambridge Press monograph, “Globular Cluster Systems,” remains the standard reference in the field.
Other CNS award recipients were: Alexander W. Shingleton, associate professor of zoology, Teacher-Scholar Award; Debra A. Dotterer, director of CNS Undergraduate student affairs, Distinguished Academic Staff Award; Shaun R. Bruno, doctoral student in chemistry, an Excellence-in-Teaching Citation; and Elizabeth H. Simmons, professor of physics and astronomy and dean of Lyman Briggs College, Robert F. Banks Award for Institutional Leadership.
Shingleton combines his enthusiasm for teaching with a highly successful research program in integrative developmental biology. These two endeavors feed each other so that students learn to think like scientists in the classroom while becoming a part of the research environment in the laboratory. As part of his prestigious CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation, Shingleton established the MSU Program for Undergraduate Research in Life Sciences, which takes freshmen students with little idea of what research involves and sets them on a path to becoming scientists well prepared to pursue a graduate research degree. Shingleton also developed and teaches Evolutionary Biology for Non-Biologists, a core graduate course in MSU’s recently established BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.
Dotterer exemplifies sustained excellence in comprehensive service to students. She has helped improve academic services to students, individually and collectively, and has distinguished herself within the college, across the university and nationally within the advising profession. Faculty members laud Dotterer as “the best” resource that they can turn to. Dotterer is regularly called upon to participate in campuswide advising initiatives, most recently the Academic Pillar of the Neighborhoods and the early warning system for students in academic difficulty. Despite extensive administrative responsibilities, Dotterer continues to advise individual students including Honors College students and students who find themselves in academic difficulties, and is able to customize her advising work for each student.
Bruno is described by students as everything a research and educator should be – knowledgeable, accessible and helpful. He believes there is a way to teach concepts so every student can achieve understanding of even the most difficult chemistry concepts. Bruno’s excellence in teaching has been recognized several times during his tenure at MSU — through the Educational Merit Fellowship from the Department of Chemistry in 2009 and 2010, and through recognition by the MSU Division of Student Affairs as a “Learning Leader” for the same years. His research interests are directed at the solid state synthesis of novel energy-related materials. His major focus is on synthesizing novel compounds from inexpensive, nontoxic, and abundant elements.
Simmons has an international reputation in theoretical particle physics and national recognition for her support of underrepresented groups in the sciences, especially women. She continues to enhance her reputation in these endeavors and has also excelled as an administrator. Simmons led Lyman Briggs from a school within the College of Natural Science back to its original status as an independent residential college, one of three such colleges at MSU. The transition required working effectively with other administrators, students and faculty members in science and non-science disciplines across campus. Simmons was elected a fellow in the American Physics Society in 2002, has received an impressive number of grants, is actively engaged in publishing and is regularly invited to speak around the world.
For more information on the awards convocation and a complete list of award recipients, visit http://bit.ly/XSoQ1T.