2013 CNAS Faculty and Staff Awards

2013 CNAS faculty and staff awards

Atwood Research and Teaching Award


Day Ligon, Assistant Professor Biology

Day Ligon received the Atwood Research and Teaching Award, which is funded by an endowment by Jerry Atwood, a 1964 graduate of MSU and an internationally known chemist.

Day has established a research program at Missouri State on the conservation and environmental physiology of turtles that has already made him a leader in the field. In 2012, Day’s lab published two articles, had four articles in press, and three articles pending revision. There are also five articles in review. Day works closely with state and federal agencies, and his research has resulted in implementation of conservation measures. Day is sought out for expert consultations for his expertise in turtle conservation and was interviewed for an article that was distributed by the Associated Press and printed in several newspapers. Day excels as a research advisor, with six graduate students and five undergraduate projects under his direction. One of his students received MSU’s Outstanding Thesis Award this year. Teaching is also an important and essential element for this award. Day’s primary teaching responsibility is BIO361 – General Physiology (lectures and laboratories). This past year he also taught BIO767 – Advanced Vertebrate Zoology. His students are required to read the primary literature and integrate knowledge from other courses. In addition, the courses involve discussions of ethical issues and social/political issues.

CNAS Excellence in Teaching Award Winners


Bryan Breyfogle, Associate Professor Chemistry

Bryan Breyfogle is a member of the Department of Chemistry. Bryan has taught CHM105, 160, 170 and the laboratories associated with the courses. He also teaches CHM435 and SCI314 for science education majors. Bryan taught CHM160 and 161 Honors for the first time this past year. Bryan has been involved in the design of CNAS Science courses and is Co-Principal Investigator on an NSF grant aimed at improving science teacher training. Bryan also serves as primary advisor to several of the chemistry education students in the department. Bryan has received recognition from the Honors College for his outstanding teaching evaluations in CHM 160. Bryan was nominated based on his commitment to teacher education and his continued effectiveness in General Chemistry. Student evaluations from General Chemistry are excellent.


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Debbie Corcoran, Senior Instructor Geography, Geology and Planning

Debbie Corcoran is one of the most effective and most revered teachers in the Department of Geography, Geology, and Planning. As a Senior Instructor, she teaches a 12-hour load each semester. Each of the past two academic years she has taught seven sections of the General Education course in World Regional Geography (GRY 100) plus one upper-division undergraduate course in her specialty, Geography of Global Health and Disease. She also serves as coordinator for GRY 100, so she is responsible for collecting and analyzing all the assessment data needed for the triennial CGEIP review of that course. Debbie’s expertise as an instructor of World Regional Geography has been recognized by a number of national publishers who have sought out her advice on the development and revision of their textbooks and electronic teaching resources.


John Heywood, Professor Biology

John Heywood is a member of the Department of Biology. The courses he teaches include features that are considered as quality indicators by the department - reading of primary literature, stressing analytical skills, integrating knowledge from other courses, discussion of ethics, student discussions, connecting science with social/political issues. Three of his courses are writing-intensive. He continually works to improve and update his classes and is currently converting one of his classes (Evolution) to a blended format to increase accessibility. Because of his work as Chair of the Pre-med committee for several years, the Biology Department assigned John as the academic advisor for all of the Honor’s Pre-med students, a group of 36 that requires considerable attention.


Kathy Hughes, Instructor Biology

Kathy Hughes, an instructor in the Biology Department has the challenging job of teaching a large (>125 students) service course in microbiology to nursing students (with some wildlife biology students also in the class); she also teaches upper-division microbiology laboratories. She updates her courses every semester. Kathy attends teaching seminars to learn new ideas and techniques in teaching. She developed a new 1-hr course that will supplement her microbiology class by offering training to students in emergency preparedness. Her service work with the Academic Integrity Council has had an impact on her teaching, and she is careful to explain these ethical issues to students. Kathy is excellent in one-on-one sessions with students and she serves as advisor for up to 74 students!

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Diann Thomas, Senior Instructor Chemistry

Diann Thomas, a Senior Instructor of the Department of Chemistry, teaches Principles of Environmental Chemistry and several labs. She has been involved in new course development for the general chemistry laboratories CHM161 and 171 (General Chemistry I and II), and she serves as lab coordinator for CHM161 and CHM 171, as well as for CHM200 (Introduction to Organic Chemistry). She is also a co-instructor for two Study Away courses – one to Ecuador, another planned this year for Brazil - and is developing another Study Away course to France to study the science of winemaking. Diann is highly active in academic advising including maintaining her master advisor status. She also assists with prospective general chemistry and pre-med students.

CNAS Excellence in Research Award Winners

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John Havel, Professor Biology

John Havel, Professor of Biology, is an internationally-respected leader in the field of limnology, with a particular emphasis on invasive species. He has a consistently-strong publication record, with 13 papers published in the last 5 years, and one paper accepted for publication in 2012 in a top international journal in his field. One of John’s recent papers was titled “The invasion history of the exotic freshwater zooplankter “Daphnia lumholtzi” in North America – A genetic analysis”. He has recently established a new funded research program on invasive species in Wisconsin lakes. An indicator of the respect of his Wisconsin peers, he was invited to serve as interim summer director of the University of Wisconsin’s Trout Lake Research station, one of the oldest and most active limnological stations in the country. Dr. Havel and his students have been very active at presenting their research results at professional conferences, with 10 presentations, including 4 at national conferences, and one additional invited presentation at Dartmouth College.

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Robert Pavlowsky, Professor Geography, Geology and Planning

Bob Pavlowsky, professor from the department of Geography, Geology and Planning, serves as Director of the Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Institute (OEWRI), an applied research/outreach center devoted to studying and protecting the fragile natural environment of the Ozarks region. In the last two years he has worked closely with US Fish and Wildlife Service, City of Springfield and James River Basin Partnership on projects. In 2012, Bob had five external grants that helped to fund OEWRI staff and a number of graduate students and 31 research presentations; 26 with student co-authors. His publications included final reports on two multi-year research projects: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Big River Borrow Pit Monitoring Project and City of Springfield, Pond and Stream Sediment Baseline Study. Bob had four peer reviewed publications in 2011 in environmental earth sciences and physical geography.


Adam Wanekaya, Associate Professor Chemistry

Adam Wanekaya is from the Department of Chemistry. Adam maintains a highly active research group that currently includes four undergraduate students and four graduate students! Over the last two years, he and his students and collaborators have published over ten manuscripts and delivered over 20 presentations in various scientific journals and conferences. In collaboration with faculty from Physics and Biomedical Sciences, Adam secured external funding from the NIH to support research that seeks to demonstrate RNA nanoconjugates as stable and efficient delivery agents targeting cancer cells. This grant was recently renewed by the NIH in the amount of $391,756 to optimize the fabrication and characterization of the nanoconjugates. Plans to begin protocols for animal testing are currently being discussed. Adam also helped to secure an NSF-MRI grant for the acquisition of a Micro-Raman Photoluminescence instrument to support research and teaching. Adam’s research also extends to the fabrication, modification, characterization and application of nanoscale materials with the intent to integrate these materials (specifically conducting polymers, carbon nanotubes and metal oxide nanowires) into functional devices with specific applications in chemical sensing, biomedical sensing and remediation of heavy metals and other toxins from the environment. Adam is currently working with several other faculty in CNAS as well as scientists at JVIC to help to understand the life cycle of nanoparticles.

CNAS Excellence in Service Award Winners


Richard Biagioni, Professor Chemistry

Rich Biagioni, Professor of Chemistry, is a dedicated member of campus and department communities. He is the chair of the faculty handbook committee working on significant revisions. He has chaired committees at both the college and department levels, including college council and departmental policy committees. He is involved in the daily operation of departmental instruments and has prepared online safety quizzes for the laboratory courses. Rich also works with the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society each year to prepare chili for the Sertoma Chili Cook-Off.


Jill Black, Associate Professor Geography, Geology and Planning

Jill Black is an Associate Professor from the Department of Geography, Geology and Planning. Jill is a leader in the field of science education and she is tireless in using her expertise to serve the science education community at all levels, from local to national. Jill is in her second consecutive three-year term as departmental representative to the University’s Professional Education Committee, and she has served for many years on the CNAS Education Committees. For many years Jill has helped to organize the annual Expanding Your Horizons event and lead a session. Each year she chairs the Meteorology event for the Science Olympiad and serves as a judge for the Earth Science section of the Ozarks Science and Engineering Fair. Over the past two years she served on the University-wide Ozarks Studies Advisory Council and on the new University-wide committee to develop a minor in Sustainability. Jill also serves on the Environmental Education Advisory Group of the Springfield Environmental Collaborative. She has been President of the Missouri Environmental Education Association and was Director of that organization’s last state conference. Jill’s work with the Missouri Department of Higher Education includes Improving Teacher Quality Grants that serve K-4 teachers in twelve districts in the West Plains area by improving science education. Her grant in 2012 was approximately $168,000 and has been funded for two additional years with over $247,000 for the 2013 year.

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Lynda Plymate, Professor Mathematics

Lynda Plymate, professor of Mathematics has served in a number of roles in Missouri State University’s Professional Education Unit including serving on the PEC, the admission and retention committee, the program review committee, the BSED Oversight Committee. Lynda has supervised events for Science Olympiad and Expanding Your Horizons. Lynda has been the departmental coordinator for the annual Pummill Relays held on the MSU campus each year since 1998. This event brings 1000 students to campus each spring. Lynda is also the departmental coordinator for four other regional high school math competitions. This commitment to outreach takes Lynda off-campus and requires dedication of her free time and travel time. Lynda is also the web-page developer providing resource links to lessons, activities, contests, instructional technologies and problem of the week for all levels of school students.


Becky Baker, Instructor Physics, Astronomy and Materials Science

Becky Baker is an Instructor in Physics, Astronomy and Materials Science. Becky has been a strong supporter of positive change in her department. Within the department Becky has helped produce the departmental assessment plan and report, led a committee effort to bring the 100 level physics sequence into a higher degree of consistency with other departments on campus. Becky’s service includes outreach with the local area girl scouts organization and included hosting the Girl Scouts for a Saturday in order for all of them to earn their science badges. She has also been instrumental in helping to get the PhysBiz van on the road and into full implementation with Springfield Public Schools (SPS) second and fourth graders. The PhysBiz has already made 12 visits to area elementary schools this spring. For those who have not heard of or seen PhysBiz – it is a van equipped to take hands-on activities into targeted SPS elementary schools. Becky and others are seeking external funding to expand the possibilities for outreach.


Michelle Bowe, Instructor Biology

Michelle Bowe is an Instructor in the Biology Department. Michelle spends a great deal of time in her role as Curator of the Herbarium. In this role she responds to requests for samples and for visitors to the herbarium. In addition she conducts tours of the facility upon request. Michelle is active in the Missouri Native Plant Society. Michelle gives presentations about botany and flower parts to area elementary and high school students and has helped identify plants at Smallin Cave. Michelle is an event leader for the Science Olympiad competition hosted on the MSU campus and serves as a judge for the regional science fair.

CNAS Excellence Award - Staff



Angela Plank, Laboratory Supervisor and Advising Coordinator Biology

Angela Plank’s job involves multiple roles as advising coordinator, recruitment coordinator, academic advisor and teacher. She is extraordinarily well-organized, and does an outstanding job of balancing these tasks. As advising coordinator, Angela has an initial advising appointment with all biology students. She spends considerable time preparing for each appointment, and spends about 45 minutes talking with each student, helping them to understand their transfer evaluations (and advising when appeals should be made), advising which classes should be taken during their first semester, determining their specific career interests, and finally assigning them to a permanent advisor. During the past few years, Angela has put substantial energy into planning and implementing new recruitment activities - including specific activities with OTC students! She also sends weekly emails to potential transfer students. The department’s recent increases in enrollment are due in part to her efforts.


Laura Rios, Academic Administrative Assistant II Physics, Astronomy and Materials Science

Laura Rios is from Physics, Astronomy and Materials Science. Her duties as Administrative Assistant for the department include filing, scheduling appointments, communications - both internal and external, maintaining all documentation for the department, preparing all paperwork for hiring and travel, and all procurement functions for the department. These are all typical functions of administrative assistants in CNAS. But Laura is very involved assisting students. She provides guidance with work-related items and helps them find the answers and help that they need for classes and scheduling. Laura is involved with the International Students Thanksgiving dinner and the CNAS Diversity Taskforce. She has a strong commitment to our mission and a solid understanding of the university environment.


Katie Tucker, Academic Advisor/Marketing and Recruiting Specialist Hospitality and Restaurant Administration

Katie Tucker serves as the Academic Advisor and Marketing and Recruitment Specialist for the Hospitality and Restaurant Administration Department. Katie has made significant improvements to the department’s communication efforts to students. She has also made significant improvements to the webpage to aid in communication. She advises almost all of the 250 HRA majors with the help of faculty, and does so thoroughly and consistently. Katie has an aggressive recruitment plan that includes visits to high schools and community colleges in Missouri. She has also arranged for high school groups to visit campus. Her kindness, patience, and professionalism are evident to all students, faculty, and staff. She is a true asset to HRA, CNAS and the entire university.

Faculty Excellence Awards (nominated/awarded by CNAS students)


Richard Biagioni, Professor Chemistry

Dr. Biagioni has assisted students by developing labs and manuals for two new chemistry courses (CHM 161 and CHM 171), improving equipment in teaching labs, and by directing the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society at the Sertoma Chili Cook-Off.


Mario Daoust, Assistant Professor Geography, Geology and Planning

Dr. Daoust was selected for his ability to interact with students in his various geography courses. Students commented on the discussions during his classes, the way he empowers students with knowledge, his willingness to answer questions, and his availability for advising.


Paula Kemp, Distinguished Professor Mathematics

Students appreciate the way that Dr. Kemp’s mathematics notes and lectures are presented in a comprehensible way. She offers time to help and will create study sessions at convenient times for students. She puts in the extra effort to ensure that her students enjoy and understand math.


Alicia Mathis, Professor Biology

Dr. Mathis has been instrumental in helping her students grow into biologists. She engages students in her behavioral ecology and comparative anatomy courses by providing outside information and examples that make her classes current and interesting. She is also a great help to her students with projects and thesis writing.