2020 Faculty and Staff Award Recipients

In recognition of the wonderful work the faculty and staff in the College of Natural and Applied Sciences complete each year, we host an annual awards ceremony. The recipients are nominated by their peers or department heads and selected by a faculty committee.

2020 recipients

In 2020 CNAS recognized outstanding faculty and staff for the ninth straight year. This year our celebration is virtual for now but we will be together soon! The award winners were nominated by departmental personnel committees, department heads, or students. The nominations were then reviewed by a faculty committee for the faculty/staff awards and by a student committee for the student-nominated award. Dean Jahnke is proud to announce the following award winners for 2020!

Atwood Research and Teaching Award

The Atwood Research and Teaching Award was endowed by Dr. Jerry Atwood a 1964 graduate of MSU and now an internationally known chemist. He started his career at University of Alabama in 1967 but was the department head at University of Missouri-Columbia from 1994 to 2016. In addition, he was appointed a Curators Professor starting in 1999. The award winner receives a certificate and $2500 to be spent over the next year on students, research supplies, summer salary or travel. Previous award winners include: John Havel (2012, BIO), Day Ligon (2013, BIO), Bob Pavlowsky (2014, GGP), Paul Durham (2015, BIO), Nick Gerasimchuk (2016, CHM), Bob Mayanovic (2017, PAMS), Kyoungtae Kim (2018, BIO), Kartik Ghosh (2019, PAMS).

The 2020 recipient of the Atwood Research and Teaching Award is Dr. Kevin Mickus from the Department of Geography, Geology and Planning.

Dr. Mickus has a sustained record of excellence across all through areas of faculty performance: teaching, research, and service. Dr. Mickus teaches courses from the introductory General Education classes to 700-level graduate courses including GLG 110 Physical Geology, GLG 171 Environmental Geology, GLG 316 Oceanography, GLG 590/690 Applied Geophysics, GLG 360 Directed Field Trips. GLG 794 Global Tectonics, and GLG 591 Seismic Data Processing. He is a demanding teacher whose classes cover some of the most difficult and quantitative subjects in geology. He has served as the coordinator of the geology major and overseen a major curricular revision and the development of several certificate programs. His research program is even more impressive, with a sustained high level of both publication (21 peer reviewed publications in the last five years) and external funding (over $850K since 2016). Dr. Mickus has also made an outstanding impact in his service. He has served as the technical program chair or vice-chair in 6 out of the last 9 years for the Geological Society of America annual conference. He has also served as the editor of the Journal of Environmental Protection since 2011 and was on the editorial board of the Journal of Applied Geophysics for 11 years.

CNAS Excellence Awards for Staff

Linda Allen, administrative assistant for the department of chemistry, is described as having an excellent work ethic and a cheerful, professional attitude. Everyone in the department trusts Linda to get the job done right and seek her out for advice on the day-to-day along with the unusual items that come along from time to time. The department head wrote, “Linda continues going above and beyond what is expected of her.”

Marc Owen, assistant director, OEWRI, has been on the staff for almost 15 years and has been instrumental in its success and productivity. His expertise spans a wide range of professional, technical, and educational skillsets. He has an excellent work record and is well respected by students, faculty, and staff at MSU and by outside community members and agency staff. He is instrumental in external relationship building, grant writing, day-to-day management of the institute, its personnel, and mentorship of graduate assistants and undergraduate workers. One partner agency noted his professionalism and a faculty member in GGP noted his willingness to provide guest lectures. The department head noted the significant investment of time that Mr. Owen has dedicated to the mentorship of OEWRI’s student workforce.

CNAS Faculty Excellence in Service Awards

Michelle Bowe, senior instructor of biology, makes substantive contributions at all levels of service. A few contributions of particular note include work as Curator of the Missouri State University Herbarium and on the Greenhouse Committee, which was very active during the past two years. Michelle served on both CNAS and University committees, including CGEIP, where she served in the time-consuming position as secretary. She advises the pre-optometry society, and worked on both the Mission Diploma project and the Bachelor of General Studies Committee. In addition to her community service, Dr. Bowe excels at professional service, particularly noting her multiple positions with the Missouri Native Plant Society.

Melanie Carden-Jessen, instructor of geography, geology and planning; has continuously gone far beyond the normal departmental requirements for service by serving as a judge at numerous science fairs, conducting workshops for educators, organizing regional conferences, and is a member of departmental (including other departments) faculty recruitment committees. Melanie holds membership as an educator preparation provider at Missouri State University. Ms. Carden-Jessen is an energetic recruiter and advocate for the department and the entire college.

Dave Cornelison, professor of physics, astronomy and materials science, had years of experience in leading the Department. Now he serves as the curriculum committee chair, advisor to Society of Physics Students (SPS), liaison to local schools, faculty senator, and provides an array of other service leaderships that together help the Department meet the expectation of the society. Over the last several years, he arranged and led trips (between 12 and 22 SPS students) to Boulder, CO to visit NIST, JILA, NCAR and other scientific institutions; Chicago, IL to visit Argonne and Fermi National Laboratories; and Houston, TX to visit Johnson Space Center and Rice University’s Center for Quantum Materials. Dave has also worked tirelessly to build relationships with local businesses, including Northstar Battery, 3M, Dynatek, EaglePitcher and others. This has allowed for internship opportunities for students and, in some cases, small contract funding for graduate student and faculty research. However, perhaps more importantly, it has opened up important communication opportunities between PAMS and local industry.

Matt Pierson, professor of civil engineering, excels in service activities to the department, college, university and the engineering profession. The connections he made being involved in the local Missouri Society of Professional Engineers (MSPE) chapter have allowed him to help many students obtain internship positions at local companies and full time employment after graduation. Matt organizes a visit for all OTC pre-engineering students each semester. The students interested in engineering tour the facilities at the E-factory and faculty talk with them about our program. Matt also serves as advisor for Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe teams that compete annually. Matt participated in the MSU “IT’S ON” campaign – providing a video and live statement at the opening event during Homecoming 2019.

Lloyd Smith, professor of computer science, serves the department and college in a variety of ways. It is his work as Graduate Program Director that best shows his merit. Computer Science receives a large number of applications each semester - well over 100 applications are typical for any given semester. He corresponds with all prospective students, as well as with accepted and denied applicants. Departmentally, Lloyd has served on the ABET Accreditation Committee, a faculty search committee and the personnel committee. At the college level, Lloyd is an active member of the college personnel committee, MNAS Committee, budget committee and instructional technology committee. He also represented the MNAS committee on Graduate Council.

CNAS Faculty Excellence in Research Awards

Paul Durham, distinguished professor of biology and director of Missouri State University's Center for Biomedical and Life Sciences, a multidisciplinary laboratory that utilizes cellular/molecular, microbiological, biochemical and chemical techniques is recognized for his work over the past two years. A primary goal of his research is to determine the signaling pathways by which inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agents control neuropeptide gene expression in disorders involving the trigeminal nerve. In the last two years his research group produced three peer-reviewed journal articles and a co-edited book, one book chapter and one technical report. He and his lab group gave 16 conference presentations (2 keynote) during this time period, with most at international conferences. He gave 8 invited workshops on his area of research specialty, and 6 were at international venues (Australia, UK). His grant funding is in excess of $700,000 for the past 2 years.

Kyoungtae Kim, professor of biology, is a consistently productive researcher, with nine peer-reviewed journal articles in the last two years, all of which had student coauthors. His research focuses on diverse cellular processes, including endocytic pathway, intracellular trafficking of proteins and membranes, membrane organization, nanomaterial traffic, and nanomaterial-mediated global gene expression pattern changes. Dr. Kim mentored over thirty research students in the past two years. He and his students made an impressive 33 presentations at state, regional and international professional conferences in this time period, including two in Canada. He received external funding from Mercy and from ERDC, and internal funding as well.

Quinton Phelps, assistant professor of biology, joined the department in August of 2019. His research group studies fisheries management and fish ecology. During his first year he supervised seven Master’s students that arrived with him from U. West Virginia, and he served on five additional graduate committees. He received two large multiyear grants, from external agencies, published three papers in good quality journals (from his work in a previous position, with student co-authors), and he and his students made 12 presentations at professional meetings.

CNAS Faculty Excellence in Teaching Awards

Laszlo Kovacs, professor of biology, is in charge of a core Biology course required for all of our majors, including a large lower-division lecture course in Genetics. He also teaches upper-division courses in genome biology and molecular markers. He averages over forty undergraduate academic advisees, primarily in the area of genetics and forensic biology. Dr. Kovacs is consistently strong as a research advisor, with an average of three grad students per year in the last two years, and over thirteen independent-study research students per year.

Chris Lupfer, assistant professor of biology, has assumed a leadership role in the microbiology program. His courses have been kept current, he attends teaching workshops, and he has increased accessibility by putting two courses online. He has supervised service learning students and has over thirty undergraduate academic advisees. In addition to teaching strong courses, with good student evaluations, he has had an exceptional record of mentoring research students, which is a highly valued teaching role in the department. In the past two years, he was the major advisor for nine graduate students and four undergraduate researchers (1 MOLSAMP) and served on an additional ten graduate committees.

Gary Meints, associate professor of chemistry, has taught the small, upper level physical chemistry lecture and laboratory courses in the chemistry department most recently. He enhanced his classes with supplemental technical video content to use in the “flipped format” of these courses as much as possible. These videos allow students to repeat and revisit difficult concepts (of which physical chemistry contains a lot) and study at their own pace. Gary has also created “pre-lab” videos that allow students to come into lab fully prepared and ready to work. Gary’s student evaluations are excellent and by uniformly positive comments, with some being enthusiastically positive, citing his passion for teaching and dedication to his students’ learning. Gary has recently developed an intersession course CHM597 Fundamentals of Applied Math for Chemists. This course serves two purposes. First, it is a mathematics review for any student who needs a refresher on the mathematical concepts to be used in physical chemistry. Second, it is additional material that helps any chemistry student (or otherwise) use mathematical models for analyzing data. It has been a popular course since it was developed in 2018, to help students entering physical chemistry but unsure of their math preparation, sometimes not having taken a math course for two or more years. Additionally, since 2011 Gary continues to advise chemistry undergraduates who are in the Honors College, and starting in the fall of 2019 became the second departmental advisor to work with proactive advises (designated as first-generation, Pell grant eligible, and/or from an under-represented minority group). He has the largest number of advisees of any single advisor in the department, and for his work he received the prestigious Curtis P. Lawrence Excellence in Faculty Advising Award.

Judy Meyer, professor of geography in the department of geography, geology and planning, teaching accomplishments are stellar by every possible yardstick. Her student evaluations consistently rank at or near the top among all GGP faculty and her courses are in high demand and almost always fill to capacity. The department head noted that he had frequently received messages and comments from students about how impactful her classes are. Her formal and informal advising efforts are superhuman. She directly works with dozens if not more than a hundred students each year to steer them through their GGP degrees and the Sustainability minor. In spring 2019 she coordinated out-of-class student service events for more than 150 students in GRY 108 and the Sustainability minor. This involved working with numerous external organizations to plan the opportunities and the associated logistics. In 2018 Dr. Meyer received the MSU Sustainability Award in recognition of her teaching in GRY 108 Principles of Sustainability. She was nominated unanimously by students in the course. In 2019 Dr. Meyer led a comprehensive revision of the Sustainability Minor program. This required coordination of the Sustainability Minor Action Committee and working with participating faculty and department heads across many departments and colleges.

David Perkins, assistant professor in the department of geography, geology and planning, has shown great dedication to teaching and to his students since his arrival at Missouri State University. In addition, he has contributed to the development of new courses and has been eager to take new teaching challenges and responsibilities. Dr. Perkins has demonstrated a wide range of teaching abilities and has become an important asset to the department. Dr. Perkins was awarded two study away proposals for courses in Geography and he developed an entirely new course (GRY 708 Philosophy of Sustainability). In addition he helped to revise the GGP minor in sustainable tourism development.

Fan Zhou, instructor in the department of mathematics, has the strong unanimous support of all voting tenured mathematics faculty. Student comments include: “MTH 107 was an excellent course that helped me better understand course material that was taught each week in MTH 130”, “Awesome instructor, amazing lecture, well prepared, outstanding performance”, “The teacher was incredible. She was very kind, helpful, and did her best to make the coursework understandable”, “Information is presented in a way that allows the students to easily understand. Great instructor, very clear direction and fair grading”, “She has a way of breaking down complex topics so that everyone can understand them and genuinely cares about the progress of every student. The first day of class, she advised all of us to get rid of every preconceived notion we had of math and any bad feelings tied to the word. She explained that all those emotions do is get in the way of learning. This was exactly what I needed to hear, and in this environment of acceptance, I thrived.” and many more. Ms. Zhou has applied for two grants from FCTL to lower costs for students in MTH 130 and MTH 138 by using open source materials for the classes. During the academic year 2018-2019, she also received a diversity scholar stipend and attended the seminars to attain the diversity scholar status. The mathematics department head added, “Fan Zhou is highly successful in all of the courses she has taught while at MSU. In short, Fan is a dynamo in our instructional staff.”

CNAS Student-Nominated Awards for Excellence - Faculty & Staff

Ten faculty were nominated by students for this award and the nominees included: Melanie Carden-Jessen (GGP), Dr. Liza Cobos (HL), Dr. Paul Durham (BIO), Dr. Nick Gerasimchuk, (CHM), Dr. Shelby Kilmer (MTH), Dr. Day Ligon (BIO), Dr. Matt McKay (GGP), Dr. Gary Meints (CHM), Dr. Matt Pierson (EGR/GGP) and Dr. Ryan Udan (BIO). In the words of the students, these faculty/staff truly understand the power of knowledge and they are always willing to help. They provide a learning environment where every student has the potential to succeed. One student also said that the nominee was the most effective teacher that he had ever had! And everyone used the word “passion” in their nomination. Although each person on the list is a winner the students ranked the following four highest and will receive the award for excellence this year.

Melanie Carden-Jessen was nominated by the two TA’s who helped her with GRY240.  Here’s what one said, “She listens to her teaching assistants concerns about labs, and she makes changes as she sees fit. She deals with all class matters gracefully and swiftly. I have not met a teacher who cares about her students’ and teaching assistants’ success, and wellbeing more than Melanie.” Another said, “If you are looking for a fun way to teaching anything, Melanie is the person to go to.”

Shelby Kilmer - Dr. Kilmer’s nomination came from a struggling upper division student who said, “His faith in me was beyond inspiring. Even when I had given up on myself he didn’t give up on me. He went beyond his obligations as a professor to help me succeed.”

Day Ligon - One research students noted the following, “While Dr. Ligon was abroad for much of the summer, he still made time to talk to me whenever I needed help, and always seemed able to suggest creative solutions to get myself and other lab-mates out of the (endless) sticky situations that tend to arise in the field.” Another said, “During the field season, Dr. Ligon is always just a phone call away to help his students solve logistical programs; he always encourages us to do as much as we can for ourselves, but he is always available when we need guidance.”

Ryan Udan - One student wrote, “His love for teaching and Biology shows with every interaction we’ve had. He believes in his students abilities and wants nothing more than to see them succeed.” Another wrote, “Grad life is challenging. It is more challenging when you are 10,000 miles away from home … and focus on class/research/TA all together. I am glad to have Dr. Udan as my mentor.”