Faculty and Staff Awards

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.

Awards are given in the following categories:

  • The Atwood Research and Teaching Award, funded by Jerry Atwood
  • CNAS Faculty Excellence in Teaching
  • CNAS Faculty Excellence in Research
  • CNAS Faculty Excellence in Service
  • CNAS Instructor Excellence in Service
  • CNAS Staff and Administrative Excellence Award
  • CNAS Faculty Excellence - Student Selected and Awarded
  • CNAS Inclusive Engagment Award
  • CNAS Excellence in Interdisciplinary Research

Thank you for all that you do!

The CNAS Faculty and Staff Awards policy can be found on the CNAS College Policies page.

2024 recipients

In 2024 CNAS is recognizing outstandging faculty and staff for the 13th straight year.  The award winnders were monimated by departmental personnel committees, department heads, or students. The nominations were then reviewed by a faculty committee for the faculty/staff awards and a student committee for the student nomated award. I am proud to annouce the following award winners for 2024 along with Associate Dean Jorge Rebaza. The award winners receive a certificate and a small monetary award.

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 and was the department head at University of Missouri-Columbia from 1994-2016.  In addition, he was appointed a Curators Professor starting in 1999. The award winner receives a certificate and $5000 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), Kevin Mickus (2020, GGP), Razib Iqbal (2021, CSC), Steven Senger (2022, MTH), and Deb Finn (2023, BIO).


The 2024 recipient of the Atwood Research and Teaching Award is Dr. Tayo Obafemi-Ajayi from the Cooperative Engineering Program.

This year’s winner of the Atwood Research and Teaching Award is Dr. Tayo Obafemi-Ajayi.  Her research is interdisciplinary – overlapping engineering and computer science.  She develops machine learning/artificial intelligence algorithms for broad utility in biomedical applications.  Over the past seven years she has published a book, one book chapter and 13 peer reviewed international publications, and 29 peer reviewed international conference proceedings.  In addition to her high quality teaching in electrical engineering – she has mentored 70 under-represented ethnic minority students as National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) research scholars.  These scholars have done research throughout the disciplines within CNAS.  Student feedback indicates that Tayo “genuinely cares about her students” and “very enthusiastic about teaching and learning”. 

CNAS Excellence Awards for Staff








Adam Beck
- Adam is pro-active in alerting faculty to potential problems that may have arisen and deadlines to follow through.  He makes sure that grants and contracts are running smoothly and in order.  In addition he is a trained Master Advisor so is very helpful with student issues as they arise.










Linda Allen - Due to the construction and renovation activities in Blunt Hall, the department has had no choice but to think creatively in terms of scheduling of classes and labs.  Linda has been at the front and center of these activities and she has gone above and beyond to ensure minimal disruptions.  In addition she has significantly enhanced the department’s sense of community – promoting values of collaboration and inclusion.


CNAS Faculty Excellence in Service Awards


Yassine Belkhouche, assistant professor of Computer Science, since 2022, Dr. Belkhouche has served as the event leader for the Code Busters event at the regional Science Olympiad. He also served on the ad hoc committee that developed an interdisciplinary major in data science, he serves on both the CS undergraduate and the graduate curriculum committees, the CS faculty search committee, and other departmental and college committees. Dr Belkhouche has been a reviewer for several journals and conference proceedings, and advises over 60 students per semester.


Jay McEntee, assistant professor of Biology, has been a reviewer of several journal articles, for a biostatistics textbook and for an international grant proposal. He was a member of Faculty Concerns Committee in the Faculty Senate. He was a member of the BIO-BMS Working group, maintained our ornithological teaching collection, and has served as an advisor to the Bird Club, a CNAS student organization. He also served as an organizer of the CNAS Undergraduate Research Symposium. Dr. McEntee gave presentation for GLADE (Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems).


Babur Mirza, associate professor of Biology, on external service, Dr. Mirza contributed as a member of the Scientific Review Committee for the Ozarks Science and Engineering Fair, led the Disease Detectives event for the Science Olympiad, served as an Advisory Board Member for the Missouri Water Resources Research Center, and participated as a Contributing Member of the American Society of Microbiology. For the Missouri Water Resources Research, Dr. Mirza reviewed several major research grant proposals. Internally, Dr. Mirza chaired search committees for both tenure-track and non-tenure-track assistant professor positions in microbiology, led the per-course instructor hiring committee for microbiology classes. He also served as coordinator of the Master of Natural and Applied Sciences Graduate Program (MNAS-PSM).


Brian High, senior instructor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has had a relatively large service load, which includes committee work, helping numerous faculty with technology issues and with very well documented informal services. His university-wide service includes working on a committee to find a Blackboard replacement, while also being an early adopter of Brightspace, which has been tremendously important, as he has provided continuous support and guide to his colleagues.


Angela Plank, senior instructor of Biology, has an exceptional passion for student advising, she helped coordinating the 2+2 program by inviting OTC Navigators in conjunction with the CNAS success office, and has helped elect ambassadors for our university. She is involved in numerous events including Presidential Scholars Day, MSU/OTC day, Spring and Fall Showcase, Admitted Student Day,  bringing Nixa High School classes to campus, Summer Visit Day, Majors Fair, Presentation to West Plains classes, Science Academy, OSEF judge, Science Olympiad, and SOAR.

CNAS Faculty Excellence in Research Awards


Yue (Daisy) Cui – Mathematics. Dr Cui’s research area is theoretical and applied statistics, specifically nonparametric models.  She has been actively conducting interdisciplinary research with faculty members from Missouri S&T.   The interdisciplinary work has resulted in three peer-reviewed publications in the last year along with two additional publications, an invited talk and a book chapter.  Congratulations on this outstanding work!


Tuhina Banerjee – Chemistry and Biochemistry. Dr. Banerjee maintains one of the largest research groups in the department of chemistry and biochemistry – both undergraduate and graduate students.  The students are part of presentations and publications – local presentations at CNAS Research Day and EIDF along with many others.  Dr. Banerjee received funding this past year from the National Science Foundation Launching Early-Career Academic Pathways in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (LEAPS-MPS) – nearly a quarter million dollars and National Institute of Heal (NIH) R15-AREA grant (nearly a half million dollars).


Songfeng Zheng – Mathematics. Dr. Zheng is a research statistician and professor of mathematics in the department of mathematics.  He has published five high quality research articles in the last two years in highly respected research journals – from Advances in Computational Intelligence to Journal of Statistical Computation and Simulation to Communication in Statistics. He has also mentored three graduate students in their seminar paper research.  He actively pursues external funding for his work.


Laszlo Kovacs – Biology. Dr. Kovacs is professor in the department of biology.  His research focuses on grape genomics and the impact of environmental contaminants on plant health.  His research group is large and he mentors several undergraduate and graduate students each year.  He has had funding from US Army Engineer Research and Development Center through JVIC and from the National Science Foundation.  His publications and presentations always include the names of the students who worked on each project.

CNAS Faculty Excellence in Teaching Awards


Matt Siebert, associate professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, analyzed student study habits and used those findings to make wholesale changes to his instructional approach in CHM 342 and 343, resulting in significant student gains in those courses. Dr. Siebert has mentored several undergraduate and graduate research projects and theses, and his students have presented at several state and regional conferences. As Chair of the University Premedical Committee, Dr. Siebert worked with 24 students in the past year.


David Perkins, associate professor in the School of Earth, Environment and Sustainability, has made significant contributions to teaching in the past calendar year, including: Advising about 60 students, teaching overloads to keep the Sustainability program recruitment going, and being the Director of the Sustainability program. He also published an article with a recently graduated MS student.


Daniel Moreno, assistant professor in the Cooperative Engineering Program, has consistently received positive comments for his teaching. He records his lectures and gives post-lecture notes for students to go over the subjects on their own. He also provides his students with additional resources such as educational Youtube videos. Dr. Moreno’s teaching initiatives have been exemplary and have gone above and beyond of what is typically expected.


Babur Mirza, associate professor of biology, helped the Biology department get through a very difficult time with the resignation of Dr. Chris Lupfer.  He accepted the responsibility of offering Dr. Lupfer’s classes and also served as chair of the hiring committee to find a new faculty.  Dr. Mirza’s students have presented their findings at scientific meetings and received 8 awards.  Dr. Mirza received the Master Online Course Recognition Award for “Best in Design and Layout” (2022).



Tara Herring, senior instructor of Biology, has developed and implemented new teaching methods in her classes to increase retention, facilitate learning, and reduce the number of DFWs.  She has the difficult task of teaching our introductory biology courses for non-majors and first year students.  She is responsible for training and supervising several graduate assistants, and volunteers for service activities that benefit our department, college, and university.



Tina Hopper, senior instructor of Biology. Tina's commitment to the development of biology students is, in a word, unparalleled. Tina has earned high marks in her course evaluations, and she has actively engaged herself in teaching and advising workshops. She helped revising Gen Bio 1 and 2 lab manuals as well as BIO 121 online lab, which in particular I consider an exceptional asset for the department summer teaching resources.

CNAS Student-Nominated Awards for Excellence - Faculty & Staff

In the words of the students, these faculty truly understand the power of knowledge and they are always willing to help.  They provide a learning environment and support where every student has the potential to succeed.  The winners of student nominated award for faculty excellence are:


Shelby Kilmer – The nominating students said, “Dr. Kilmer is a great example of joy and it is obvious he finds happiness in what he does for a living. He is always willing to open his doors to help students when they are struggling and is truly invested in the education of all.”.


Bob Mayanovic – The nominating student said , "Dr. Mayanovic helped me land an internship at one of largest research organizations in the world. He has integrated a partnership with mercy hospital to see how the concepts in the class extend into the real world and to show the class where the degree itself can take us. I have not met another professor that is more deserving of a faculty honor like this one.


Sean Maher – The nominating student said, “Dr. Maher’s dedication to teaching excellence is evident in his innovative instructional methods, ability to engage students from diverse backgrounds, and his genuine passion for fostering a stimulating learning environment. Under his mentorship, students have not only produced high-quality research but have also gained valuable skills and insights that will serve them well in their future careers.”


Fei Wang – The nominating student said, “The classes that I took with Dr. Wang eventually led me to declare my major in Chemistry. Dr. Wang has helped me with my application to summer research opportunities. Because of my engagement with him, I am even thinking of being a professor someday and working in a research lab. He has impacted me in a significant way, and I am sure he has had that impact on several other students.”.


Avery Russell – The nominating student said, “ I took BIO 515 with Dr. Russell, and it has been one of the best class experiences I have had at MSU. He makes it very clear that he is open to questions and discussion. He is very accommodating, which has been very helpful to me as a student with disabilities. I feel I have learned more in this course than most of the classes I have taken during my time in college.”.

CNAS Inclusive Engagement Award

Just a 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.


Helena Metzker is the 2024 winner of the CNAS Inclusive Engagement Award. Helena embodies inclusive engagement in teaching and learning.  Beginning in fall of 2022, Helena has worked with students with low attendance and scores below 60% on the first exams in CHM160 and 170, the largest enrollment classes in the department to identify their most significant challenges.  She then develops an action plan for each student and works with her colleagues to implement evidence-based courses adaptions each semester, thereby making the broadest impact.  And it doesn’t end there – she is an FCTL Teaching and Learning Fellow for 2024-2025 to help others.

CNAS Interdisciplinary Research Award

The newest CNAS Award is the CNAS Interdisciplinary Research Award.  This award is meant to recognize individuals involved in collaborative research efforts, where results reflect integration of ideas or knowledge from two or more disciplines, or for individuals who have shown leadership in promoting interdisciplinary research.


Keiichi Yoshimatsu is the 2024 winner of the CNAS Interdisciplinary Research Award. Dr. Yoshimatsu is an active researcher in the department of chemistry and biochemistry.  He has developed a fruitful collaboration with Razib Iqbal in computer science that has led to joint supervision of four students (two in chemistry and two in computer science).  This provided opportunities for students to tackle problems in chemistry (colorimetry and spectral analysis) while integrating AI/machine learning and infrared spectroscopy.  The collaboration has led to two peer reviewed publications and one patent.