2021 Faculty and Staff Award Recipients

2021 recipients

In 2021 CNAS recognized outstanding faculty and staff for the tenth straight year. 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 2021! 

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), and Kevin Mickus (2020, GGP).

The 2021 recipient of the Atwood Research and Teaching Award is Dr. Razib Iqbal from the Department of Computer Science.  

The 2021 recipient of the Atwood Research and Teaching Award is Dr. Razib Iqbal from the Department of Computer Science. Dr. Iqbal has a consistent record of teaching, research, and service excellence since joining the computer science department in Fall 2015. Dr. Iqbal uses innovative teaching pedagogy and styles and encourages   students to achieve  high standards in course activities. Dr. Iqbal has introduced research-based course projects in CSC 450 Introduction to Software Engineering and has been doing an excellent job of teaching that course through research-based activities which has proven to be the most effective way of instruction in some courses. He has also helped the community through this course by developing projects for free through this course. His research mainly spanned across Multimedia-aware Internet of Things. In addition, some of his research activities are also is in the areas of cloud computing and multi-threaded implementation of multimedia processing tasks. Dr. Iqbal has actively involved students in research. Dr. Iqbal has collaborated with several faculty members within CNAS and MSU as well as researchers from other universities.    

CNAS Excellence Awards for Staff

Michael J. Murphy

Mike Murphy (top photo) and Craig Baird (bottom photo). The staff award winners are Mike Murphy and Craig Baird.  They were actually nominated together as a team – and indeed they are a team.   The nominator indicated that “anyone who uses a piece of scientific instrumentation either in their classes or in their research owes a debt to these gentlemen.”  Mike and Craig maintain and repair all technical instrumentation that is not administered by a specific faculty member.  They update computers and software, and troubleshoot any problems associated.  And they do it all with a helpful demeanor and never a sense of irritation (which would be possible given the volume and nature of computer issues).  The nominator gave three specific examples where either Mike or Craig dropped everything to help with a situation.  I know others in the college can provide the same stories.

Craig E. Baird

CNAS Faculty Excellence in Service Awards

Dr. Sean Maher, associate professor biology.  Sean has established himself as a go-to person, using his expertise in computer hardware and software, and web development. In the department, he has assisted multiple colleagues and students in statistical analysis, using R.  Dr. Maher also uses his expertise to support two professional societies, one international (the American Society of Mammalogists – ASM) and the other regional (Central Plains Society of Mammalogist - CPSM).  Particularly for ASM (where his official title is Chair of the Informatics Committee), this is a very time-intensive role that includes selection of platform, upgrades, security, accessibility, compatibility with mobile phones, etc, and contracts with those service providers (http://www.mammalsociety.org/ ). In addition Sean serves on departmental and college committees.

Dr. Kevin Mickus, distinguished professor GGP.  Kevin provides service to his department, college, university and his professional societies.  In his department he serves as the coordinator for the geology program and on the GGP seminar committee.  Kevin serves as the Faculty Advisor for the MSU Auto and Bike Club.  Professionally, Kevin serves a number of roles as a member of the Geological Society of America (GSA).  He represents MSU when needed, serves as the annual national program committee and served as the technical program chair for the international conference in 2020.    He has also been guest editor for a special issue of Journal of African Earth Sciences. 

Dr. Songfeng Zheng, professor mathematics.  Songfeng is an active member of Faculty Senate.  He has also served on recent departmental faculty search committees – first as a committee member and then chairing the search committee.  He also chairs the departmental personnel committee.  Professionally Songfeng has reviewed grant proposals for various agencies and he also serves a reviewer for a number of professional journals. 

Brian High, Senior Instructor chemistry. Brian is an active member of department and college committees. He also helps with multiple outreach items related to Dual Credit and secondary schools in general.  Brian frequently assists other faculty when they when they need technical advice with instructional technologies. Brian is an outstanding advisor for the department and is particular helpful with transfer students.  Overall, his service commitment is among the highest in the department.  

Angela Plank, promoted to senior instructor this year biology.  Angela serves on a variety of committees across the University. Within the Department, she sat on the Microbiology Lab Coordinator search committee and at the College Level, she has been a member of the Recruitment/Retention Specialist Search Committee and Recruitment Committee. At the University Level, Angela serves on the SOAR Advisory Council and the Strategic Enrollment Management and Transfer Committee.  As an academic advisory Angela works at SOAR, is the Advising Coordinator for all Biology majors, and organizes the Biology presence at the Majors Fair.   Angela coordinates visits each semester of OTC biology students to Missouri State University. 

CNAS Faculty Excellence in Research Awards

Dr. Songfeng Zheng, professor mathematics.  Dr. Zheng’s research expertise is in pattern recognition and machine learning, statistics applications and image analysis and statistical learning theory.  Not only does Dr. Zheng have an outstanding peer-reviewed publication record for the past two years – four accepted and two submitted but he has also supervised eight master’s degree students who each wrote a thesis over the past several years.   Dr. Zheng serves as a reviewer for nearly forty peer reviewed journals – certainly a strong indication that he work is valued by his peers. 

Dr. Day Ligon, professor biology.  Dr. Ligon studies the conservation-related ecology and physiology of reptiles, especially turtles.  Over the past two years published 3 peer-reviewed journal papers and 2 technical reports to funding agencies. He and his students made 15 presentations at professional meetings. He served as research thesis advisor to several MS graduate students and undergraduate students in the past two years.  In 2019-2020 Dr. Ligon was awarded 11 external grants, from state and international agencies, totaling more than $365,000.  Dr. Ligon also traveled in Kenya and Belize, where he sought opportunities for further international collaboration and research opportunities. Dr. Ligon is working to establish a field research station in Belize. 

Dr. Gary Michelfelder, associate professor – GGP.  Gary’s research areas include geochemical and volcanology research and he involves many undergraduate and graduate students in his work every year.  His publication record and work with students is excellent.  Gary helped the university purchase an ICPMS – Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectrometer with a successful grant proposal to the National Science Foundation which is useful for geochemical analysis.  Most recently Gary has secured funding from NSF for his volcanology work in South America. 

Debra S. Finn

Dr. Deb Finn, assistant professor biology.    Deb studies the evolutionary biology and ecology of headwater streams, in relation to climate change.  In the past two years her achievements include 6 peer-reviewed publications, 5 unpublished technical reports, and 5 external grants from local, national, and international sources. Dr. Finn and her students were authors or co-authors of 14 presentations at professional meetings.  She supervised the research of 4 MSU graduate students, served on thesis committees for 8 others, and was an external graduate committee member for students at the University of Missouri and the University of New Mexico.  One of her undergraduate research students received an award from the Society for Freshwater Science (INSTARS program). 

CNAS Faculty Excellence in Teaching Awards

Tina Hopper, Biology instructor.  In the past two years, Tina has been the instructor of record for 8 sections of the non-majors general education course (Biology in Your World), 9 sections of labs associated with the biology major’s introductory biology sequence, and 2 sections of the labs associated with Biology in Your World. Tina was instrumental in making the major’s introductory sequence labs accessible to all students during the pandemic. She works with and helps all the Teaching Assistants for their lab sections (62 sections overall for BIO121 and 122) by leading weekly meetings to cover content and troubleshooting problems as they arise. Tina has completed the proactive advising workshop and has 38-42 advisees.  Her efforts are crucial to their success.

Dr. Babur Mirza, assistant professor - Biology.  Dr. Mirza teaches a variety of microbiology classes in the department of biology and has mentored several undergraduate and master’s students in his research lab. He has made substantial revisions to the upper division microbiology labs to provide students with direct research experience in the teaching lab.  Inclusion of field trips to Mother’s Brewery, the wastewater treatment plant and sanitary landfill are important additions to the industrial or environmental microbiology classes, which is excellent industry exposure to these fields of study.

Dr. Krista Evans, assistant professor – GGP.  Since arriving at Missouri State University Krista has developed or significantly modified courses in rural geography and the community planning practicum.  In order to give students a more meaningful experience she integrates a combination of site visits, fieldtrips and student community involvement in the classes.   Her students have developed award winning plans for communities.  Krista has been an active member of the department’s seminar committee.  It is good to note that not only was Krista nominated by her peers but she was also nominated by the students.

Dr. Yoshimasa (Nancy) Kageyama, assistant professor - Hospitality Leadership.  Despite the challenges of 2020, Nancy was laser focused on creating a supportive learning environment for students while also advancing her teaching skills and knowledge. Dr. Kageyama consistently excels in the classroom as evidenced by her strong student evaluations. She developed a new online course called “Creating Exceptional Guest Experiences” which was successfully offered for the first time in fall 2020.   Nancy integrated a Carrie’s Restaurant project into the Hospitality Marketing class. The class created marketing ideas and implemented marketing actions throughout the semester to build the awareness and promote the sales of Carrie’s-department student-run restaurant. 

Natasha M. DeVore

Dr. Natasha DeVore, assistant professor - chemistry.  Dr. DeVore teaches biochemistry lecture and laboratory courses and her student evaluations for the courses are outstanding.  In general students are complimentary of her teaching style, helpfulness, organization and timeliness of grading.  In addition to teaching biochemistry this past year she mentored five graduate students and five undergraduate students in her research lab.  She successful wrote a grant for a shaking incubator which is a wonderful addition to the biochemistry teaching lab. 

Dr. Kyoungtae Kim, professor biology.  The department awards committee recommended Dr. Kyoungtae Kim as he has done an outstanding job, not only teaching in lectures and labs, but also mentoring undergraduate and master’s students in his research lab. He has many advisees (40-60), and he made substantial revisions to the BIO320 Cellular and Molecular Biology lab to provide students with direct research experience in the teaching lab. The number of awards his students receive and the effort that he puts into improving his teaching and mentoring by attending workshops all contribute to his efforts.  In addition he has been an active participant in the Globally Responsive Education and Teaching or GREAT program.  Congratulations, Kyoungtae!

CNAS Student-Nominated Awards for Excellence - Faculty & Staff

One award that the CNAS Awards committee is not part of is the student nominations and the student selection of award winners.  Only students are involved in this part and make a recommendation to me regarding the winners.  This year we have four winners and I am proud to introduce them to you now.

Catherine D. Tucker

Katie Tucker - Katie is an academic advisor and marketing/recruitment specialist for the Hospitality Leadership Department.  The student nominated Katie for exceptional advising.  In the words of the student  “She has helped me in so many ways and it is clear to anyone that she cares deeply and truly wants the best for each and every student she advises. I specifically want to recognize her for being the one to help me decide that the Hospitality Leadership major was for me. She had a very long conversation with me over the phone before I was even a student …  She is kind hearted, friendly, knowledgeable, cares for each of her students, and is always willing to do everything she can to help you. ” 


Jeff Brannon -  Jeff is a per course instructor for the computer science department.  In the words of the student, “I would say his teaching style is perfect. He goes over the required material in a way that is very engaging for the class. He creates a friendly environment in the class, making it comfortable for people to ask questions, and he is not only happy to help, but he makes sure every student understands the material in a way we can use for our careers.  He is the best professor I have ever had.” 

Dr. Krista Evans -  Dr. Evans was nominated by a group of seven students.  They indicate that she has been hard at work expanding Missouri State’s GGP Department with special attention to the Community and Regional Planning program.  In most recent academic years, Dr. Evans has taken on the MAPS (Missouri Association of Planning Students) Club advisor position.  She inspires students to get involved in their community by volunteering for Adopt-A-Highway, Better Block and other projects.  In the words of the students, “She is the coolest teacher, especially in smaller classes... She’s really easy to talk to.”  “As a freshman I took a planning introductory course without a clue of what I wanted to do within GGP, Dr. Evans quickly made me realize that planning was right for me.”  “She makes me feel heard”  “Dr. Evans is amazing! I wanted to switch my major because I had been searching and she helped me through the process. She also has sent me emails with tips and advice!”


Dr. Bradley Mills – Bradley is a member of the faculty in the department of physics, astronomy and materials science. In the words of the student, “Dr. Mills has a way of making the class lighthearted while teaching physics 123. He always makes sure the students understand the material and that all our questions are answered before moving on. His love for teaching and his excitement for the material makes a difficult class easy to understand.” 

CNAS Diversity Award

The newest CNAS Award is the CNAS Diversity Award.   Just a quick reminder that this award may fit into teaching, research or service as defined in the policy.  It is to recognize outstanding committee work towards diversity, outstanding service and outreach towards equity, diversity and inclusion, recruitment for diversity, promoting an inclusive learning environment, official or unofficial mentoring and advisement of diverse student groups to increase academic success, creating an inclusive environment for teaching and research and/or development or implementation of innovative research or creative work to improve the CNAS and MSU climate. 

Dr. Avery Russell, assistant professor biology.  Dr. Russell has been deeply involved in promoting DEI at multiple levels, from students in classroom settings, to departmental faculty and staff, to national scientific societies. As a department, they noted an appreciation for his zeal on the topic of diversity and inclusion and the increased awareness he has brought to faculty, thanks to his tireless energy in communicating often neglected or misunderstood issues.  Avery serves on the college diversity, equity and inclusion committee and most recently agreed to serve on the provost committee.  He co-hosted a cultural competency workshop at a national conference in 2019 and helped to prepare a pre-proposal for a HHMI Inclusive Excellence program. 

Helena Metzker, senior instructor chemistry, has recently taken on a significant amount of diversity-related services and duties. She is currently co-chair of the CNAS Diversity Committee after serving in that committee for almost five years. This committee is charged with monitoring professional development and other opportunities related to diversity and inclusion in CNAS. She also serves as a pro-active advisor and this is one of the reasons why she was requested to mentor in the Missouri Louise Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (MoLSAMP).  MoLSAMP aims to increase the number of diverse students successfully completing science, technology, engineering and math baccalaureate degree programs.