MAA Teaching Award

MAA Teaching Award


Kevin Wortman, an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the University of Utah Department of Mathematics, has been honored with the 2022 Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Distinguished Teaching Award for the Intermountain Region.

Kevin Wortman

The award honors professors of mathematics whose efforts have been recognized as influential beyond their own institutions. Since 2004, Wortman is the fifth U mathematics faculty member to receive this MAA award. Previous U math faculty recipients include Don Tucker, Nicholas Korevaar, Peter Alfeld, and Anne Roberts. Wortman joined the U's Math Department in 2007.

The Mathematical Association of America, with more than 25,000 members, is the primary professional organization for teachers of undergraduate mathematics. The MAA Intermountain Region includes all colleges and universities in Utah and southern Idaho.

by Michele Swaner, first published @ math.utah.edu

 

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Distinguished Service

Distinguished Service


Pearl Sandick

Pearl Sandick receives Distinguished Service Award.

Pearl Sandick, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs for the College of Science, has received the Linda K. Amos Award for Distinguished Service to Women. The award recognizes Sandick’s contributions to improving the educational and working environment for women at the University of Utah. Amos was the founding chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, was a professor of nursing, and served for many years as Dean of the College of Nursing and as Associate Vice President for Health Sciences. Throughout her career, Amos was the champion for improving the status and experience of women on campus.

“This is a great honor. I’m privileged to work with amazing students and colleagues who understand the value of a supportive community,” said Sandick. “I am really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and I’m excited to start to see the impact of some more recent projects.”

Sandick is a theoretical particle physicist, studying some of the largest and smallest things in the universe, including dark matter, the mysterious stuff that gravitationally binds galaxies and clusters of galaxies together.

Upon her arrival as an assistant professor in 2011, Sandick founded the U’s first affinity group for women in physics and astronomy. For the last two decades, the national percentage of women physicists at the undergraduate level has hovered around 20%. The percentage at more advanced career stages has slowly risen to that level, thanks in part to supportive programming designed to increase retention. The goal of the affinity group within the department is to foster a sense of community and provide opportunities for informal mentoring and the exchange of information, ideas, and resources. The group has also been active in outreach and recruiting. As of fall 2021, the group is now known as PASSAGE, a more inclusive group focused on gender equity in physics and astronomy.

Within the department and in the College of Science, Sandick has improved a number of processes, including writing an effective practices document for faculty hires, based in large part on research related to equitable and inclusive recruitment practices and application review. As Associate Dean, she worked with the College of Science Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (which she currently chairs) to create college-wide faculty hiring guidelines, which were adopted in 2020. She was also instrumental in several other structural and programmatic initiatives to create a supportive environment in the department, such as the development of a faculty mentoring program and the establishment of “ombuds liaisons” to connect department members with institutional resources.

Through her national service related to diversity and inclusion, Sandick has gained a variety of expertise that she has brought back to the campus community. For example, she has given workshops in the department, the college, and across campus on communication and negotiation, implicit bias, conflict management, and mentorship.

Here are comments from women in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, who have participated with Dr. Sandick in activities sponsored by PASSAGE:

“Being part of PASSAGE has allowed us to connect with others who share similar experiences in the department. It has also helped us connect with people, both within the university community and at other institutions, who have served as role models and mentors.” –Tessa McNamee and Callie Clontz, undergraduates

"PASSAGE became a lifeline during the pandemic and continues to be so. It helps equip members with the tools that they need in various aspects of academia. Professor Sandick makes it her mission to guide us, especially in a time of crisis. I am personally thankful to her and to all of the group members.” –Dr. Ayşegül Tümer, Postdoctoral Research Associate

In addition to her research, Sandick is passionate about teaching, mentoring, and making science accessible and exciting for everyone. She has been recognized for her teaching and mentoring work, with a 2016 University of Utah Early Career Teaching Award and a 2020 University of Utah Distinguished Mentor Award. In 2020, she also was named a U Presidential Scholar. As discussed earlier, women are still widely underrepresented in physics, and Sandick is actively involved in organizations that support recruitment, retention, and advancement of women physicists. She has served on the American Physical Society (APS) Committee on the Status of Women in Physics and as the chair of the National Organizing Committee for the APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics. She is currently chair of the APS Four Corners Section, which serves approximately 1,800 members from the region.

- by Michele Swaner, first published at physics.utah.edu

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2022 ASBMB Fellow

2022 ASBMB Fellow


Vahe Bandarian

Vahe Bandarian, professor of chemistry, has been named a 2022 fellow of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).

“Fellows are recognized for their contributions to the ASBMB, as well as meritorious efforts to advance the molecular life sciences through sustained outstanding accomplishments in areas such as scientific research, diversity, education, mentorship and service to the scientific community,” according to the ASBMB.

Bandarian’s research interests are “centered in developing molecular level understanding of biosynthesis of complex natural products.” Specifically, he and his colleagues have studied how queuosine, a component of transfer RNA, is synthesized and used by organisms. He also studies how enzymes participate in complex chemical reactions.

A nominator wrote that Bandarian’s career displays “example after example of newly discovered chemistry, newly discovered enzymes and biochemical mysteries solved.”

He serves on the Minority Affairs Committee, the Women in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Committee and the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Bandarian is the second U faculty member to be named an ASBMB Fellow. Wesley Sundquist, distinguished professor of biochemistry, was a part of the inaugural class of fellows in 2021.

The fellows will be recognized in April at the 2022 ASBMB Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

 

Story originally published in @theU

Camille-Dreyfus Award

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks recognized with the Camillle-Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award


Luisa Whittaker-Brooks, an assistant professor in the department of chemistry, is among 16 early career chemists named as a 2021 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar. Selected by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars receive an unrestricted $100,000 research grant.

“I was actually having a meeting with my undergraduate students when I received a text message from my Ph.D. advisor with the news,” Whittaker-Brooks says. “The only thing I could think about after the text was how instrumental my undergrads were in getting this award.”

Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars, according to the Dreyfus Foundation, “are within the first five years of their academic careers, have each created an outstanding independent body of scholarship, and are deeply committed to education.”

Whittaker-Brooks’ award cites her research in “designer hybrid organic-inorganic interfaces for coherent spin and energy transfer.” Her research group, their website says, is “driven by two of the greatest challenges of our time –sustainable energy and low cost electronics for daily use applications. We plan to embark in these new endeavors by synthesizing and elucidating the functional properties of well-defined and high-quality materials for applications in photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, batteries, spintronics, and electronics.”

Story originally published in @theU

NAS Membership

mary beckerle elected to the national academy of science


The National Academy of Sciences has elected Mary Beckerle, PhD, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) CEO and distinguished professor of biology and oncological sciences at the University of Utah (U of U), as a member. Beckerle is among 120 newly elected members announced in a press release during the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.

Election as a member in this organization is widely accepted as a mark of excellence in scientific achievement and is considered one of the highest honors a scientist can receive. Of its more than 2,400 current members, approximately 190 have received a Nobel Prize, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

Beckerle shared she was “very surprised” to learn of her election to the prestigious group. She received a phone call this morning from a member of the National Academy of Sciences informing her of her election. Within minutes, she then received a flood of phone calls, emails, and text messages from colleagues congratulating her. “It was the most connected I have felt to my scientific community since the pandemic began, and it was lovely to be in touch with so many colleagues from around the world,” added Beckerle.

Beckerle’s research discovered a new pathway that is crucial in enabling cells to respond to mechanical signals in their environment. Such signals are now known to regulate cell growth and movement, two behaviors that yield critical insights into cancer biology. The Beckerle Lab is currently focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying this pathway and its impact on tumor progression, particularly in Ewing sarcoma, a rare but deadly bone cancer that typically affects children and young adults.

“Dr. Beckerle’s election to the National Academy of Sciences affirms what her colleagues see every day. She is a driving force as an individual scientist, yet Dr. Beckerle’s hallmark is collaborative leadership that allows teams of scientists to achieve more together than they ever could alone,” said Michael L. Good, MD, University of Utah interim president and CEO of University of Utah Health. In addition to leading HCI, Beckerle holds the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Endowed Chair and also serves as associate vice president for cancer affairs at the U of U. Beckerle is only the 27th faculty member in the history of the U of U to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Beckerle joined the U of U faculty in 1986, when she set up her first independent laboratory as a young scientist. Prior to coming to Utah, she earned her PhD in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she received a Danforth Fellowship. She completed postdoctoral research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received a Guggenheim Fellowship for her studies at the Curie Institute in Paris.

She has received numerous accolades for her research, including the National Cancer Institute Knudsen Prize in recognition of her contributions to research on the genetic basis of cancer. She is also an elected fellow of other distinguished scientific organizations, including the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Academy of the American Association for Cancer Research.  She served as President of the American Society for Cell Biology and is a member of the Medical Advisory Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

As CEO of HCI, she led the organization to achieve its first-ever designation as a National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, the highest possible status of a cancer research institute. She also has led HCI’s clinical programs to recognition as among the nation’s Best Cancer Hospitals, according to U.S. News and World Report. Beckerle was appointed as a member of then-Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel, where she co-chaired the working group on Precision Prevention and Early Detection.

“It is an incredible honor to be named alongside exceptionally talented colleagues who are part of the National Academy of Sciences,” said Beckerle. “Scientific research is fascinating and motivating work, yet as a scientist, I often feel impatient. Each day, I work with the understanding that people are counting on the scientific community to make discoveries that will improve health, develop better treatments for diseases, enhance quality of life, and, wherever possible, prevent development of diseases like cancer. It is deeply humbling to see my contributions, and those of the many people who have worked in my lab over several decades, recognized in this way. My sincere hope is that the work of my research team will contribute to Huntsman Cancer Institute’s vision of delivering a cancer-free frontier.”

Beckerle adds that the National Academy of Sciences has a major impact in shaping science policy. She looks forward to the opportunity to contribute to the national dialogue on how to advance scientific innovation and impact via her role as a member of this organization.

first published by Ashlee Harrison of Huntsman Cancer Institute in @theU

AAAS Membership

Valeria Molinero elected to the american academy of arts and sciences


Valeria Molinero, Distinguished Professor and Jack and Peg Simons Endowed Professor of Theoretical Chemistry, is among the 252 newly elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world and work together.

Among those joining Molinero in the Class of 2021 are neuroscientist and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay K. Gupta, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times and media entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey.

Molinero joins 16 other members affiliated with the U, including Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi, Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO Mary Beckerle and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Kristen Hawkes. The U’s first member was chemist and National Medal of Science recipient Henry Eyring, elected in 1958. Molinero currently directs a center for theoretical chemistry named for Eyring.

“I am surprised and elated by this recognition,” Molinero said. “My most pervasive feeling is gratitude:  to my trainees and collaborators for sharing with me the joy of science and discovery, to my colleagues and scientific community for their encouragement and recognition, and to the University of Utah for the support that has provided me throughout all my independent career.”

Molinero and her lab use computational simulations to understand the molecule-by-molecule process of how ice forms and how polymers, proteins and other compounds can either aid or inhibit the formation of ice. In 2019, the U awarded her its Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award. In 2020, she and her colleagues received the Cozzarelli Prize from the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for finding that the smallest nanodroplet of water that can form ice is around 90 molecules. Their research has application ranging from climate modeling to achieving the perfect texture of ice cream.

“This is not surprising, as Vale is just an outstanding scientist and colleague,” said Matt Sigman, chemistry department chair.

“Vale Molinero is among the most influential theoretical and computational chemists of her generation,” said Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science. “ Today’s announcement is a fitting recognition of her exceptional career.”

The College of Science now features eight Academy members, including five from the Department of Chemistry.

The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. Studies compiled by the Academy have helped set the direction of research and analysis in science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy, education and the humanities.

Current Academy members represent today’s innovative thinkers in every field and profession, including more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners.

first published by Paul Gabrielson in @theU

Sloan Research Fellow

LUISA WHITTAKER-BROOKS AWARDED PRESTIGIOUS SLOAN AWARD


Assistant Professor of Chemistry Luisa Whittaker-Brooks is one of the recipients of the prestigious 2021 Sloan Research Fellowship, given to researchers “whose creativity, innovation, and research accomplishments make them stand out as the next generation of scientific leaders.”

The awards are open to scholars in eight scientific and technical fields: chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, Earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics. Candidates must be nominated by their fellow scientists, and winners are selected by independent panels of senior scholars on the basis of a candidate’s research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in his or her field. More than 1000 researchers are nominated each year for 128 fellowship slots. Winners receive a two-year, $75,000 fellowship which can be spent to advance the fellow’s research.

Whittaker-Brooks, a 2007 Fulbright fellow, earned her doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo before a L’Oreal USA for Women in Science Postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University. Among other awards, Whittaker-Brooks has received a Department of Energy Early Career Award, a Cottrell Research Scholarship, a Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences and was named one of C&EN’s Talented 12 in 2018.

“I was very excited as this award is a testament to all the great work that my students have accomplished throughout these years,” Whittaker-Brooks said. “I am happy to see that their endless creativity and research work ethics are highly recognized in the field.”

Her research studies the properties and fabrication processes of nanomaterials for potential applications in solar energy conversion, thermoelectrics, batteries and electronics. She and her research group are also testing hybrid concepts to simultaneously integrate multiple functions, such as a nanosystem that scavenges its own energy.

The Fellowship is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a not-for-profit dedicated to improving the welfare of all through the advancement of scientific knowledge. Founded in 1934 by industrialist Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the foundation disburses about $80 million in grants each year in four areas: for research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics; initiatives to increase the quality and diversity of scientific institutions and the science workforce; projects to develop or leverage technology to empower research and efforts to enhance and deepen public engagement with science and scientists.

Since the first fellowships were awarded in 1955, 44 faculty from University of Utah have received a Sloan Research Fellowship.

 

first published @ chem.utah.edu