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COLLEGE STATION --

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 Wednesday (Sept. 20).

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.

Ricardo Eusebi (physics and astronomy), David Kerr (mathematics), Soon-Mi Lim (chemistry) and Thomas Wehrly (statistics) were honored as recipients of The Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Awards in Teaching for 2017 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.

Jennifer Marshall and Peter Brown (physics and astronomy) were honored with the college's Undergraduate Research Mentoring Awards. Established in 2014, the award recognizes faculty members and graduate students, respectively, for their dedication, enthusiasm, accomplishments, and contributions in mentoring undergraduate researchers. Each received a $500 check and a plaque of appreciation.

Sherry J. Yennello (chemistry/Cyclotron Institute), Sherry Melton (chemistry), Amir Nikooienejad (statistics) and Fatma Terzioglu (mathematics) were honored with the college's Leadership in Equity and Diversity (LEAD) Awards. Established in 2016, the award recognizes faculty members, staff members and postdoctoral research associates/students 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 Terry Junek and Curtis Lee (chemistry) and Kim Ritchie (statistics) were presented with 2017 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.

Junek, a technician II in the Department of Chemistry with more than six years of service within the college, is in charge of the chemical stockroom for the First Year Chemistry Program and all chemical operations in support of the general chemistry lecture and laboratory courses. For 2016-17, this organizational feat encompassed 12 rooms and 349 sections of three simultaneously offered courses featuring a combined enrollment in excess of 8,100 students. To put that in clearer terms, at any given time of the day (and, with growing enrollment, now including three of five evenings a week), there are up to 288 students in 12 laboratories on the 4th floor of Heldenfels Hall. Terry prepares chemicals and solutions for all of them, making sure that each lab for four different courses is properly supplied, secured, and supervised to ensure a seamlessly smooth and efficient operation. And each week means a new experiment in each laboratory. On top of that, Terry also has chemical demonstrations at the ready for up to 10 lecture instructors at their convenience throughout each semester -- a job previously handled by another individual that Terry simply assumed, with no complaints from her nor any of the instructors. In fact, Terry did it so well that she was asked to set up a parallel demonstration operation in the Chemistry Complex, meaning that instructors not teaching in Heldenfels can also benefit from her efforts. "It's a big job, and few of us even notice it is happening because, of course, it is done so well," says one of her supporting nominators. Beyond basic logistics and coordination, Terry's nominator says she has improved chemical inventory, organization, and storage procedures to ensure that the stockroom not only runs like clockwork, but also is a much safer working environment. Prior to her arrival, First Year Chemistry Program safety inspections were occasionally very good but never perfect. Under Terry's supervision, they are routinely perfect. As a researcher herself, she has proven beneficial across the board, helping to develop new experiments and practical lab exams and to validate procedures. Terry also supervises all stockroom student workers and serves as mentor to the other technician. "Her planning and organizational prowess motivates all of us to try and keep up with her," Terry's nominator says. "In a program of this size, staying ahead is really just keeping up."

Curtis Lee, facilities coordinator III in chemistry with more than 35 years of service to the college, arguably is as recognizable and revered as the historic building and campus landmark he has spent the better part of his career maintaining. To be more precise, Curtis is responsible for a sprawling labyrinth of buildings, the oldest of which was constructed in 1928. His nominator notes that Curtis' learning curve was steep when he took the job, but he attacked it from day one, quickly becoming the go-to person for building requests and oversight of countless major building renovation projects in the past four decades. Curtis expertly knows every nook and cranny of each wing of the massive Chemistry Complex, to the extent he likely sees them all in his nightmares, er, sleep! Each square foot is accounted and cared for in a department featuring 60 faculty, 60 staff, 60 postdoctoral associates, and 300 graduate students, each of whom relies heavily on Curtis for the upkeep of their personal work space. "When pipes burst, mechanical belts break, the heat goes out, or chemical spills happen, it's Curtis who is tasked with initiating and overseeing the repairs," says one of his nomination supporters, who credits Curtis' speed and proactive approach in responding to problems as the factor that sets him apart from other facility managers. "Chemistry employees are often unaware that the hallway outside of their office flooded over a weekend, until a smiling Mr. Lee checks in with them on Monday morning. On any given day, furniture and scientific instruments are moved, personal effects are mounted on walls, and locks are fixed. Knowing that Curtis is just a call away greatly enhances the morale in the department." Another longtime colleague writes, "It is always my great joy to see Ron Carter and Curtis Lee patrolling the halls of the Chemistry Department. There is great security and confidence in knowing they are on-call and troubleshooting everything in this massive and complex facility -- from plumbing, to moving sophisticated research equipment and instrumentation, to figuring out electrical failures, to planning renovations and faculty-staff needs, etc. . . . Curtis has a pride and dedication to his job that is evident in everything he does. Excellence is his goal, and it is my great honor to call him a friend and coworker in this department that we love so well."

Ritchie, a program director in the Department of Statistics, has nearly 12 years of service to the college -- the past 10 of which have been as the behind-the-scenes architect of one of the nation's largest and most prestigious online distance programs in statistics. Kim's technical expertise has helped Texas A&M Statistics launch two new master's degrees during the last decade -- the MS in Statistics in 2007 and the MS in Analytics in 2013. Her nominators describe the success of both of these programs as "nothing short of astonishing, due in large part to Kim's key role in operating and managing the technical side of things on a day-to-day basis." From backend servers and related infrastructure to frontline interfaces and navigation, Kim oversees all critical operations related to the department's online distance and certificate programs. You name it, she does it (pun intended), including procuring classroom and online technology, providing technical support for faculty and students, and handling marketing efforts and applicant screening. "The quality of our online programs, which Ms. Ritchie has been instrumental in building, is recognized by our rankings and enrollment," her nominators say. "In 2014, based on the quality of its graduate program, our department ranked in the top 5 statistics departments among public universities. We have over 500 students enrolled in at least one online statistics course." Kim enhances the educational environment for both online and on-campus students by keeping Texas A&M on the forefront of learning technologies, from the latest software applications to her input on departmental and university committees. She also trains, manages, and leads the graduate assistants in daily lecture recordings, publishing and uploading for online classes, and monitoring the Consulting class for distance students. Her nominators write, "To give an example of scope, Kim's team records between 20-to-30 lectures per week. We hear time and again from currently enrolled and former distance students about what a positive experience they've had with the programs. This quality of service and dedication is not only a positive reflection on our program and department, but also the university as a whole." Another co-worker says, "She's like a security blanket. She looks out for us and makes sure it doesn't blow up in our faces. . . . She is always prepared for the worst because she expects the best in herself."

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 before introducing Texas A&M President Michael K. Young, who recognized Distinguished Professors Marcetta Y. Darensbourg (chemistry) and Ronald A. DeVore (mathematics) as Texas A&M's newest National Academy of Sciences members. Young took questions from the audience before turning the podium back over to Aronson 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.

-aTm-

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

Hutchins Shana

  • Dean Meigan Aronson (right) and Association of Former Students Vice President Marty Holmes '87 (left) pose with 2017 Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Award in Teaching winners Soon-Mi Lim, senior lecturer in chemistry (above), and Thomas Wehrly, senior professor of statistics (below). Not pictured: Ricardo Eusebi, associate professor of physics and astronomy, and David Kerr, professor of mathematics.

  • Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Jennifer Marshall (center), pictured with Dean Aronson (right) and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Yvette Hester (left), earned the college's 2017 Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award, established in 2014 to recognize the important investment both faculty and graduate students make in the future of scientific research.

  • Hester (left) and Dean Aronson (right) congratulate physics and astronomy research scientist Peter Brown on his 2017 Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award.

  • Regents Professor of Chemistry and Cyclotron Institute Director Sherry J. Yennello (right) earns congratulations from Dean Aronson as the 2017 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 and Yennello congratulate Chemistry's Sherry Melton (above) as well as Mathematics' Fatima Terzioglu (below) and Statistics' Amir Nikooienejad (far below) as the 2017 LEAD Award staff and postdoctoral recipients, respectively.

  • The Department of Chemistry's Terry Junek (above, right) and Curtis Lee (below, left) as well as the Department of Statistics' Kim Ritchie (far below, left) earned congratulations from Dean Aronson as recipients of the college's highest awards for staff in 2017.

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