Four faculty in the College of Science are among the 24 Texas A&M University faculty and staff members to be honored by the university and The Association of Former Students with 2015 Distinguished Achievement Awards.

The awards and their respective recipients from Texas A&M Science (which merited a record six such honorees in both 2012 and 2005) are as follows:

Teaching (10 given university-wide)

Research (6 given university-wide)

Student Relations (2 given university-wide)

The university-level Distinguished Achievement Awards were first presented in 1955 and have since been awarded to 1,002 professionals (including this year's recipients) who have exhibited the highest standards of excellence at Texas A&M.

The 2015 Distinguished Achievement Awards will be formally presented at 1:30 p.m. April 27 during a ceremony in Rudder Theater. In recognition of their achievements, each recipient will receive a cash gift, an engraved watch and a commemorative plaque.

For more information about the awards, contact Kelli Hutka '97 at The Association of Former Students at (979) 845-7514.

The Association of Former Students was established in 1879 and is the official alumni organization of Texas A&M University. The Association connects more than 677,000 members of the worldwide Aggie Network with one another and the university, and provides more than $10.7 million a year in impact toward university scholarships, awards, activities and enrichment for students, faculty, staff and former students.

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Brief biographies on each recipient as included in the official event program appear below:

James D. Pennington
After earning his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Jim Pennington joined the faculty of the College of Science in 1998. His primary responsibility and professional passion is teaching three sections of sophomore organic chemistry for non-majors each semester. He says being able to interact with and influence these future doctors, dentists, veterinarians and engineers at a critical time in their intellectual development is a blessing and incredibly rewarding. Among his colleagues and students, he has earned a reputation as an energetic, enthusiastic, challenging and rigorous instructor who holds his students to the highest standards while doing everything in his power to help them succeed. He holds multiple office hours most days and an evening help session once a week. For his devotion, his students honored him as a Fish Camp Namesake. Dr. Pennington also enjoys motivating others to enjoy and learn about sciences in his role as the coordinator and chief presenter for the Texas A&M Chemistry Road Show, one of the premier outreach programs of the university. The Chemistry Road Show is a K-12 program that is presented 50 to 60 times per year at schools and to other organizations throughout Texas, reaching about 10,000 students annually. Many of these students are motivated to pursue careers in science -- perhaps at Texas A&M. Serving as coordinator of the Road Show has an added bonus for Dr. Pennington because he has the opportunity to work closely with and mentor 20 or so Aggies who participate as assistant demonstrators, putting them on a path to involvement in service and community outreach. A former student writes, "Dr. Pennington renewed my love for science and gave me the motivation to continue pursuing my goal of becoming a physician. . . . I am now in medical school . . . and without a doubt, he is the most helpful and encouraging professor I have had during my academic career."

Deborah Bell-Pedersen
Deborah Bell-Pedersen earned her Ph.D. at the State University of New York at Albany. Following postdoctoral work at Dartmouth Medical School, she joined the College of Science faculty in 1997. Her research investigates how the circadian clock regulates daily rhythms in behavior, physiology and biochemistry. Defects of the human clock are associated sleep disorders and, for unknown reasons, epilepsy, cerebrovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, headaches, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Understanding how biological clocks function can lead to new ways to improve human health. Dr. Bell-Pedersen is well respected in her field. She has published more than 50 articles in top journals, garnering more than 5,900 citations, and she is frequently invited to present her work at scientific meetings and seminars across the country. Among her awards and honors, Dr. Bell-Pedersen has received the Jo Ann Treat Award for Excellence in Research and the Texas A&M Women Former Students' Network Eminent Scholar Award. In 2014, she was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Microbiology. A colleague writes, ". . . the results of her research efforts have added substantially to the basic body of knowledge of how clocks drive an organism, and she is already making sure that these findings can be used to improve the quality of life. . . . Deb stands out as a distinguished researcher." A department head at another university writes, "Dr. Bell-Pedersen has made significant research contributions to the filamentous fungal and clock research communities and is a highly-respected leader in these fields. . . . She is on a steep upward trajectory, and we will continue to see her accomplish great things in the future." Another colleague sums up, "Simply stated, she's among the best there is . . . in the field of circadian rhythms, in the entire world."

Darren L. DePoy
Darren DePoy is an astronomer and holder of the endowed Rachal-Mitchell-Heep Professorship in Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He also serves as deputy director of the Mitchell Institute and as director of the Munnerlyn Astronomical Laboratory. He joined the faculty of the College of Science in 2008. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii. Dr. DePoy is a world leader in the development of astronomical instrumentation for ground-based telescopes. Before coming to Texas A&M he was the director of astronomical instrumentation at The Ohio State University. While there, he was project scientist for the Dark Energy Survey camera -- the world's largest digital camera -- that is now working in Chile. Although it is common for astronomers who are experts in instrumentation to not do science along with instrumentation development, Dr. DePoy actively uses the instruments he builds. His main field of work has been the study of active galactic nuclei fueled by the enormous black holes and the discovery of exoplanets using microlensing, the rapid brightening and fading of a distant star by a foreground object. He is also involved with other initiatives, including the Giant Magellan Telescope. His leadership in astronomical instrumentation has positioned Texas A&M as a premiere institution in astronomical instrumentation. His international impact is expressed by a few quotes from colleagues. "Darren's contributions to astronomical research . . . have expanded the frontier of astronomical observations." "His work has enabled or aided the research of hundreds of professional research astronomers worldwide," and "By training the next generation of instrumentalists, DePoy is making a contribution to the future of astronomy that will endure." His nominator sums up, saying, "We were incredibly fortunate to bring Prof. DePoy to Texas A&M."

Sue Geller
Sue Geller earned her Ph.D. from Cornell University. She has been on the faculty of Texas A&M for 33 years, serving as a professor of mathematics in the College of Science with a joint appointment in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. She has published research on both abstract algebra and on biostatistics. Dr. Geller has had a transformative effect on the pedagogical mission of the Department of Mathematics. She founded the department's undergraduate honors program -- one of the first such programs on campus -- and has served for many years as its director. Her extensive and effective work with honors students was recognized in 2012 by the University Honors Program, which presented her the Director's Award for Outstanding Service to Honors Programs. She also helped create a specialized track of the master's degree program in mathematics intended for prospective teachers. Her exemplary record of innovative teaching and effective mentoring was recognized in 2014 by the Texas Section of the Mathematical Association of America. Here are some comments from her former students: "I just got a job as an accountant at the school administration office in my hometown. I believe the skills I learned in your class played a huge role in helping me secure the job." "Dr. Geller possesses several qualities that set her apart as an outstanding supporter of students . . . [She] strove to foster students' learning outside of coursework. . . . Dr. Geller still stands out as one of the most influential and inspiring people I have met. I visited her fairly recently and, true to form, her office was filled with students. Even in that visit, she offered me advice and guidance for my academic career."


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

Cannon Stephanie

  • James D. Pennington

  • Deborah Bell-Pedersen

  • Darren L. DePoy

  • Sue Geller

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