Dean Joe Newton (right) and Association of Former Students Vice President Marty Holmes (left) bookend 2013 Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Award in Teaching winners (left to right) Simon J. Sheather, professor of statistics; Helmut G. Katzgraber, associate professor of physics and astronomy; Oksana Shatalov, lecturer in mathematics; and James D. Batteas, professor of chemistry (with Holly Gaede, senior lecturer in chemistry, pictured here, accepting on Dr. Batteas' behalf).


Nine faculty, staff and students within the Texas A&M University College of Science were recognized for recent outstanding accomplishments by Dean H. Joseph Newton at the college's annual Faculty-Staff Meeting and Awards Presentation Wednesday (Oct. 9).

The ceremony, which honors college award recipients and serves as a forum for new faculty and staff introductions, was held in the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium inside the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy.

Dr. James D. Batteas (chemistry), Dr. Helmut G. Katzgraber (physics and astronomy), Dr.Oksana Shatalov (mathematics) and Dr. Simon J. Sheather (statistics) were honored as recipients of The Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Awards in Teaching for 2013 for their commitment to education and contributions to their respective disciplines. Each honoree was awarded a framed certificate commemorating the occasion and a $2,000 check from The Association.

Staff members Christine Farris, Patricia Forman and Cheryl Picone were presented with 2013 Outstanding Staff Achievement Awards. Established in 1995, the award commends the dedication, enthusiasm and accomplishments of staff throughout the college. Each received a plaque and a $500 check, also funded by The Association.

Farris, director of undergraduate programs in the Department of Biology with 12 years of service to the college, oversees all undergraduate advising-related activities of the department -- a feat of coordination involving 45 faculty, roughly 100 teaching assistants and 1,800 biology majors with varying backgrounds and career goals. She manages three other staff members and several student workers, serving as "an island of calm in a turbulent sea of changing requirements, imposed rules, demanding and opinionated faculty and distraught students." Beyond knowing the ins and outs of five degree options -- each with distinct curriculum requirements -- Farris keeps up-to-date with professional and graduate school admitting standards as well as the latest job trends to help students make properly informed decisions affecting their present and future. She also helps organize the department's annual Graduation Reception and Awards Ceremony and serves on the Undergraduate Program Committee. Colleagues continually marvel at her historical knowledge, high degree of organization, "care and concern for students that carries all the way through graduation" and ability to strike a perfect balance between maintaining efficiency and personalizing attention to create a sense of pride and belonging that the students in biology and beyond clearly appreciate.

Forman, a senior administrative coordinator in the Department of Chemistry with 23 years of service to the college, has served three department heads in her lengthy tenure, managing day-to-day operations for nearly a quarter-century for a one of the largest teaching and research programs at Texas A&M comprising in excess of 60 faculty members, 250 graduate students, 80 postdoctoral research associates and 60 support staff. Simply put, she is the face of a department and a main office viewed as cheerful and receptive, in large part owing to Forman's own efforts and engaging personality. She routinely works more hours than would be expected of even the most dedicated employee, efficiently and effectively helping to meet deadlines, make last-minute administrative arrangements and deal with unexpected emergencies. A common expression throughout the department is "See Pat Forman, and she will take care of it." And she always does! Her nominator, who describes her as the "archetypal model for this position" and a key parameter in the department's operation, overall success and progress, sums up the "Pat Effect" as follows: "If your view of chemistry begins with a conversation of exchange with Pat Forman, then I am extremely confident your needs will be met in a highly professional manner and with the personal touch that is oftentimes missing in our modern electronic culture."

Picone, facilities coordinator in the Department of Physics and Astronomy with 12 years of service to the college, is responsible for all physical assets for the department. As such, she handles space and property inventories, building maintenance issues, telecommunications, parking, key control, activity scheduling, and health and safety issues -- a laundry list she manages to juggle with exceptional efficiency, ease and enthusiasm. Despite the fact that her position is described by her nominator as "an amalgamation of all the jobs no one else would want," she does them all capably and cheerfully, bringing value to the department far beyond her job description. As one highly visible example, Picone played an active role in the design of the Mitchell Physics Buildings, displaying innovation and inexhaustible patience throughout the planning stages and in solving inevitable post-occupancy problems. She also coordinated a major project last year to upgrade lighting, heating and cooling systems in the Engineering/Physics Building, acting as the liaison between the faculty and central command to ensure little to no disruption to research and teaching activities. In addition, she oversees set-up for the annual Physics and Engineering Festival and the department's many symposia, workshops and outreach events, routinely delivering across-the-board success with her trademark knowledge and professionalism that keep both problems and emotions to a minimum.

Seniors Christopher Akers and Ernesto Calleros each received the John B. Beckham Award in Science. Established in 1983 through the Texas A&M Foundation by friends and family of John B. Beckham in recognition of his 36 years of educational service to Texas A&M, the Beckham Award honors undergraduate students who go above and beyond to uphold the university's standards for achievement, integrity, and academic and extracurricular leadership. Winners each receive $1,750 and a commemorative medallion.

Akers, a physics major with minors in mathematics and philosophy from Baton Rouge, La., maintains a cumulative 3.93 GPA and has been recognized as a Mechanics Scholar, President's Endowed Scholar and as an inducted member of both Phi Eta Sigma and the Naitonal Society of Collegiate Scholars. He spent the past summer at Rice University as a participant in their National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergarduates (REU) program. In addition to serving as co-founder and vice president of the new Texas A&M chapter of the Society of Physics Students, Akers is executive vice president of the Honors Student Council and a Fish Camp co-chair.

Calleros, a Houston area native who is majoring in applied mathematics, maintains a cumulative 3.95 GPA and has been a consistent member of the College of Science Dean's Honor Roll. In addition to being named an Aggie Southern Leadership Scholar, he has received Classroom Excellence Awards for MATH 409 and 416. Like Akers, Calleros also participated in a 2013 summer REU program -- in his case, at the University of North Texas. In addition, he serves as treasurer for the Texas A&M Math Club and is first-chair trombonist in the Texas A&M Symphonic Band.

In addition to the award winners, Newton recognized Dean's Office members and introduced Faculty and Staff Interaction Teams (FASIT) members within the departments, while heads of each of the college's five departments (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, and Statistics) also introduced their respective new faculty. Newton then delivered a State of the College address to conclude the ceremony.

A reception honoring all award winners and new faculty and staff was held following the presentation in foyer of the Mitchell Institute.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Superior Staff

    The Department of Chemistry's Patricia Forman (left), the Department of Physics and Astronomy's Cheryl Picone (second from right) and the Department of Biology's Christine Farris (right) received congratulations from Dean Newton (second from left) for their diligent work in their respective departments with the college's highest awards for staff in 2013.

  • Best and Brightest

    Christopher Akers and Ernesto Calleros (second and third from left, respectively) were celebrated by Dean Newton (left) and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs Tim Scott (right) for their academic achievements with John B. Beckham Awards honoring the college's top two seniors for 2013.

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