Dean Meigan Aronson (left) poses with 2016 Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Award in Teaching winners (from left) Karen Wooley, distinguished professor of chemistry; Christian Hilty, professor of chemistry; Kim-Vy Tran, associate professor of physics and astronomy; and Dan Melconian, associate professor of physics and astronomy.


Thirteen faculty, staff and students within the Texas A&M University College of Science were recognized for recent outstanding accomplishments by Dean Meigan Aronson at the college's annual Faculty-Staff Meeting and Awards Presentation Tuesday (Nov. 1).

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.

Christian Hilty (chemistry), Dan Melconian (physics and astronomy), Kim-Vy Tran (physics and astronomy) and Karen Wooley (chemistry) were honored as recipients of The Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Awards in Teaching for 2016 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 of Former Students.

Distinguished professors Donald and Marcetta Darensbourg (chemistry) and Allen Lunsford (chemistry) were honored with the college's Undergraduate Research Mentoring Awards. Established in 2014, the award recognizes faculty members and graduate students for their dedication, enthusiasm, accomplishments, and contributions in mentoring undergraduate researchers. Each received a $500 check and a plaque of appreciation.

Jennifer Marshall (physics and astronomy), Paula Barton (Cyclotron Institute) and Lauren Heilborn (Cyclotron) were honored with the college's inaugural Leadership in Equity and Diversity (LEAD) Awards. Established in 2016, the award recognizes one faculty member, one staff member and one postdoctoral research associate/student who have displayed commitment to enhancing the college's environment of mutual respect and diversity. Each received a $500 check and a plaque of appreciation.

Staff members Jennifer Bradford (biology), Elaine James (statistics) and Urania Wells (biology) were presented with 2016 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.

Bradford, graduate programs coordinator in the Department of Biology with nearly three years of service to the college, is responsible for all aspects of the department's graduate program support. This arduous but invaluable task includes organizing graduate student recruiting, fielding information inquiries from current and prospective students, assisting students with administrative tasks and paperwork, and interfacing with a variety of related campus offices. In addition to serving as the face of the Biology Graduate Program, Bradford has quickly earned a reputation as an energetic self-starter who goes above and beyond to get the job done -- hers and others. For example, shortly after arriving in Biology, Bradford established a new and simplified database system to collect and manage student data. She then worked with the graduate student organizations to create departmental outreach activities that were virtually nonexistent in past years. Most recently, she stepped in when the department lost its webmaster in mid-redesign/platform conversion, learning new computer skills so that she could help complete the transition. As the department's de facto social ringleader, Bradford has organized barbecues, kickball tournaments, ice-cream socials and even a departmental book club during her free time. She is revered by faculty, staff and students alike as "the first person we go to when we need a question answered, a shoulder to cry on, or a person to celebrate our success with." Another student writes, "I am so very happy to have Jennifer as our graduate coordinator. She cares so much about each individual student's success, both in and out of their research needs. She is encouraging, kind, thoughtful, professional and caring." One of her nomination supporters concludes, "Such proactive engagement and concern for our graduate students goes well beyond Jennifer's job-description, yet it is typical of her personal touch. . . . In my opinion, Jennifer is one of the most talented and creative staff members to work in Biology in the last 20 years."

James, an administrative assistant in the Department of Statistics for the past 10 years, has served nearly 25 years in the college and as a leader in myriad aspects within Texas A&M Statistics. Her primary roles are many, from technical typist, departmental webmaster and Statlinks magazine editor, to seminar coordinator, special events manager and all things organizer extraordinaire. In between, James also serves as backup support to the department head assistant, assisting with all facets of administrative and faculty support, including faculty hiring, annual reviews, promotion and tenure cases, and departmental committee setup and coordination. To a person, faculty and staff members within the department and across the college and campus laud James for her dedication, initiative, creativity and drive. She is described by her nominator as "the one real administrative constant" within the department and by another supporting nominator as "the type of person whom the university should use as a role model for staff personnel to achieve success in their careers." Bar none, James finds a way to make things work and, in the process, displays an uncanny ability for and ease with making those around feel part of the solution. "She continually performs many tasks that are essential to the smooth operation of the department," says her nominator. "Thanks to her unwavering perseverance, events in the department have been consistently successful, and we routinely receive glowing reviews of her work, often even weeks after an event has concluded." Because of her longevity in the department, James acts as an informal mentor to new employees and student workers, assisting in their training and ongoing career development. Her mentorship also extends to the university level and into the wider Bryan-College Station community. James is very active in her local church and community service events. She is also a very talented singer and regularly sings gospel songs at local and regional church services.

Wells, an administrative assistant in biology, has 16 years of service to the college. The past 10 of those have been with the Biology Lower Division Program, where she manages daily operations for an administrative office that services almost 6,000 undergraduates each year. Wells is the key link among students, faculty, the public, laboratory technical staff, lab instructors, graduate teaching assistants and program administrators. Among other things, she is in charge of posting course syllabi, making sure exams are ready on the correct day and time, coordinating TAs to proctor exams, grading exams and entering grades onto eCampus and Howdy. This is a massive undertaking, given the many courses supported by this office, and Wells does it with great enthusiasm, competence and understanding. In addition to supervising staff and ordering all office supplies, Wells manages the copy load for seven different introductory-level biology courses -- lab and lecture exams that amount to more than 30,000 documents per year, each averaging eight pages. As her nominator explains, "When you consider that the Lower Division Biology office shares a copier with the First Year Chemistry Program with an even greater enrollment, coordinating this workload only succeeds if the individual managing this task is organized, diplomatic and diligent." One nomination supporter writes, "When I ask the teaching assistants what is right about the program during their end-of-year reviews, my TAs always say they appreciate and admire the efforts of Urania and the rest of the administrative staff. . . . Whenever someone needs something, they call Urania. Whenever something will not work, they call Urania to fix it. Whenever I need someone to fill in and teach a class, I call Urania. And whenever I need something important done on this floor and have it done correctly and in a timely fashion, I call Urania! She truly is one of the hardest working people I have ever met."

In addition to Dean Aronson and Texas A&M Science associate deans recognizing all award winners, heads of each of the college's five departments (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, and Statistics) introduced their respective new faculty. Aronson 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.

Click here to see additional photographs from the event.


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

Hutchins Shana

  • (From right:) Distinguished Professors of Chemistry Donald and Marcetta Darensbourg, pictured with Dean Aronson (left), earned the college's 2016 Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award, established in 2014 to recognize the important investment both faculty and graduate students make in the future of scientific research.

  • Dean Aronson congratulates chemistry graduate student Allen Lunsford on his 2016 Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award.

  • Astronomer Jennifer Marshall (left) receives congratulations from Dean Aronson as the inaugural faculty recipient of the college's Leadership in Equity and Diversity (LEAD) Award recognizing faculty, staff and postdoctoral commitment to enhancing the college's environment of mutual respect and diversity.

  • Dean Aronson congratulates the Cyclotron Institute's Paula Barton (above) and Lauren Heilborn (below) as the inaugural LEAD Award staff and postdoctoral recipients, respectively.

  • The Department of Biology's Jennifer Bradford (above, left), the Department of Statistics' Elaine James (below, left), and the Department of Biology's Urania Wells (far below, right) earned congratulations from Dean Aronson as recipients of the college's highest awards for staff in 2016.

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