Each year, the University of Utah recognizes the achievements of exceptional faculty members in teaching, research, mentorship and service. Below are the honorees for this year.
Calvin S. and JeNeal N. Hatch Prize in Teaching
The Hatch Prize is intended to recognize aspects of teaching such as “increased learning by students, unusual motivation and stimulation of students to seek greater learning, evidence of unusual concern for students, development of innovative methods, introduction and inventiveness of new courses, noteworthy expertise in a given field of study, effectiveness of presentation and other exemplary contributions to university education.” Dr. Clement has excelled at all of these. I have known students who switched their major to history on the basis of taking a single class with her. One student said to me, “I had no idea that history could be like this!” I replied, “Neither did I!” She is my lodestar when it comes to teaching—she exemplifies the best that the university has to offer.
Community Engaged Teaching & Scholarship Award
Public Service Professor
Distinguished Teaching Awards
Physics can be a challenging subject. Professor Tabitha Buehler is committed to breaking down these barriers. Her approach is evidence-based and responsive; she designs curriculum and methodology based on literature, assesses learning effectiveness in real-time and makes changes to advance her approach. A major element of her success lies in purposeful effort to promote a supportive and inclusive learning environment for her students. All of her classes, including her introductory sections with up to 200 students each, are welcoming and low-pressure. She is clear about her expectations and her students have opportunities to engage with questions and other feedback in multiple ways. Dr. Buehler has inspired thousands to look to the stars; on our campus she is among the brightest.
Tim is one of the most creative teachers I know. Every year he uses the famous chocolate factory episode of “I Love Lucy” to illustrate how cells make and process proteins. I guarantee that students remember how proteins are processed long after that first day of medical school! His teaching blends a caring student-centric attitude with the goal of helping students learn to think critically. He has the perfect balance between ease and focus, humor and seriousness. Not surprisingly, this approach has proven to be extremely popular with students and faculty. He is a fantastic case-based learning facilitator and his groups never want to give him up, to the point where I’ve seen actual petitions to keep him as facilitator. His teaching evaluations for his didactic teaching and facilitation are consistently outstanding.
Anyone who has taken a class from Professor Sigman can testify to his unique ability to make chemistry exciting and fun. I would not hesitate to rank the two classes I took from him amongst the hardest of my undergraduate career, but they were also the most joyful and engaging. Professor Sigman fosters an environment in which students are supportive of one another rather than competitive. His classes are filled with jokes, laughter, and students working collaboratively through problems on the board. He keeps his classes relevant by filling them with examples from current scientific literature, and he keeps them entertaining by occasionally uncorking chemicals that (quite literally) smell like goat. As a result of his efforts and his presence, students are more engaged in Professor Sigman’s classes.
Professor Julio C. Facelli is an exemplary scientist, leader and educator who has advanced the principles of diversity and interdisciplinary excellence at the University of Utah over the past 37 years. He led the development of the university’s extensive and successful research computing infrastructure as a campus-wide resource. He is an exceptional educator and mentor who has measurably enhanced diversity in the field of informatics. His work has substantially grown cross-campus interdisciplinary scientific collaborations linking biomedical research with advanced computational methods.
Professor Liu has established himself as one of the top researchers in the nation and in the world. In addition, he has established a strong record of teaching and an outstanding record in PhD graduations. He has done major service as a department chair. This record of outstanding performance on all fronts surely qualifies Professor Feng Liu as a Distinguished Professor.
I consider Professor Minteer to be an exceptionally talented individual who has had a real influence and impact on how we think about electrochemistry, especially bioelectrocatalysis. In fact, I consider Professor Minteer to be among the very best in this area, not only in the United States, but indeed, worldwide. I also consider Dr. Minteer to be among the very best electrochemists of the “next generation.” In my view, what sets Professor Minteer’s work apart is the rigor and fearlessness with which she approaches both the electrochemistry AND the biology of these processes. This is refreshing since most people involved in these areas are proficient in one both not both.
Professor Moreira has an international publication record and ambitious plans for research in the field of late antique and early medieval studies. She has brought excitement into the classroom through her longstanding commitment to undergraduate and graduate students in her courses. Her exemplary leadership in the Department of History, including a five-year term as chair, has steered faculty and students through turbulent times. For all of these reasons, I very enthusiastically support her achievements as merit-worthy of the status of Distinguished Professor.
Dr. Summers is an outstanding, world-renowned research scientist that has made and will continue to make breakthrough findings in ourunderstanding of insulin action, regulation of glucose homeostasis and lipid metabolism. He is without doubt one of the top leaders in this field and his cutting-edge research program provides the framework by which other laboratories have and continue to follow.
Distinguished Research Awards
Jon Chaika studies a branch of mathematics called ergodic theory. Ergodic theory seeks to understand the long-term behavior of a dynamical system, such as a closed physical system, using a tool from mathematics called a measure. An example of the systems he is interested in is given by a point mass traveling a polygon. This point mass travels in a straight line until it hits a side. When this happens the point mass obeys the rule of elastic collision: the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflections. When all the angles of the polygon are a rational number of degrees, a given trajectory only travels in finitely many directions. This is not true if there is at least one angle that is not a rational number of degrees. Understanding the behavior of this family of systems, especially when all the angles are rational numbers of degrees, is surprisingly connected to other areas of math, like geometric topology and algebraic geometry. Jon studies this family of systems in both the case when all the angles are rational numbers of degrees and when they are not.
Mary Elizabeth Hartnett, M.D. is a vitreoretinal surgeon and scientist. She holds the Calvin S. and JeNeal N. Hatch Presidential Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Utah and an adjunct professor at the University of Utah departments of Neurobiology and Pediatrics. Dr. Hartnett is the founder and director of Pediatric Retina at the John A. Moran Eye Center and principal investigator of the Retinal Angiogenesis Laboratory holding two R01s to study age-related macular degeneration and retinopathy of prematurity, leading causes of blindness worldwide.
Kobus Van der Merwe is the Jay Lepreau Professor in the School of Computing and a Director of the Flux Research Group at the University of Utah. He joined the University of Utah in 2012 after 14 years at AT&T Labs-Research. He does networking systems research in a broad range of areas including network management, control and operation, mobile and wireless networking, network evolution, network security and cloud computing. He is the PI and Director of the POWDER project (Platform for Open Wireless Data-driven Experimental Research), an NSF-funded mobile and wireless research testbed.
Kathi Mooney is a Distinguished Professor and holds the Louis S. and Janet B. Peery Presidential Endowed Chair in the College of Nursing. She is also the Co-Leader of the Cancer Control and Population Science program at Huntsman Cancer Institute. Dr. Mooney pioneered and achieved international and national distinction for her research to develop and test innovative, person-centered, home-based models of cancer care. Her research focuses on health care delivery and value-based cancer care, integrating methods from the fields of innovation, clinical oncology, clinical trials, community-based research and public policy.
Dr. Solomon’s research includes the use of environmental tracers to evaluate groundwater flow with the aim of sustainable management of fresh-water resources. He has pioneered the use of dissolved gases including helium-3, CFCs and SF6 to evaluate groundwater ages, travel times, location, and rates of recharge of groundwater resources. He constructed and currently operates one of only a few labs in the world that measures noble gases in groundwater. His research results have been documented in more than 150 journal articles, book chapters and technical reports.
In his 12 years at the University of Utah and HCI, Dr. Tavtigian has obtained five new NIH R01 grants, renewed the R01 that he was originally awarded while at IARC, and served as Chair of the NCI Cancer Genetics Study Section. He is also a member of the Steering Committee for the Utah Genome Project and sits on three international sequence variant interpretation working groups
Early Career Teaching Award
Besides providing individual encouragement that reaches beyond the classroom, Professor Lowey-Ball presents a safe, respectful classroom environment in which students are encouraged to discuss, interact and challenge ideas presented. Lectures are lively, organized and easy to follow, yet contain spontaneity based on student questions. Lectures, office hours, and outside conversations are extremely informative, and demonstrate how knowledgeable and accomplished Professor Lowey-Ball is as a scholar. She also promotes individual creativity, academic excellence, personal responsibility and enthusiasm of learning in her classroom. Along with an encouraging, positive classroom environment, Professor Lowey-Ball is open to feedback, self-aware of teaching her style, and therefore is continually working to be a better professor, despite her already extremely successful career.
Professor Noriega successfully crafts his courses in a way that meets students at their level of understanding, while still challenging them through the course lectures and assignments. It is fundamental to Professor Noriega’s classroom philosophy that students are provided core concepts in lecture and are then asked to apply these concepts to more challenging scenarios via homework or laboratory assignments. This technique is not designed to confuse or frustrate students, but to engage their critical thinking skills. Subsequently, students are rewarded for their correct application of the concepts rather than simply producing the correct answer. When needed, Prof. Noriega will volunteer extra time to host supplemental instruction, and provide tutorials for using software in order to support his students learning experience, regardless of their starting point.
Dr. Seegert is one of those professors who touches your life far beyond the walls of a classroom or time at university. The pandemic changed education for me drastically and I found it hard to connect with the material like I had before from behind a screen. Dr. Seegert created a course that acted as a lifeline for me amongst the chaos. Our class required us to put time and care into our community applying the theories and perspectives we’d learned. Ultimately, Dr. Seegert taught me how to approach life and its many obstacles with care, respect, intention and kindness. She asks so much of us because she was willing to do the work herself, and she knows, sometimes better than ourselves, what we are capable of.
Professor Wright became a trusted educator and dedicated mentor as soon as I began her courses, the content and structure of which are unparalleled, engaging in a series of topics and with a range of contemporary artists that give her lectures a life of their own. I never once felt that she was stuck in a rhythm or that material was being recycled. Her detailed and thoughtful presentations made my education feel relevant, applicable and intertwined with the beating heart of the world at large. She’s breaking political, social, and cultural expectations for art educators that inhibit learning, and replaces them with thoughtful opportunities to become artists who coexist with the lifeblood of humankind.
Dr. Zasowski has dedicated time and effort to making sure every undergraduate in the department has an opportunity to succeed. Dr. Zasowski came up with a flagship mentor program to provide students’ academic support, while also providing much needed academic related jobs for students. Dr. Zasowski won the Cottrell award for this program, providing funding for the first couple years. These types of improvements to the department show Dr. Zasowski’s ability to identify areas where students need more support, and then more importantly, the ability to actually do something to address issues.
Presidential Public Impact Scholars Award
Ken Golden is a brilliant expositor and a passionate advocate for public awareness of our changing climate and the critical role of mathematics in climate modeling. He has given over 40 invited public lectures since 2008, and over 500 invited lectures since 1984. His public lectures emphasize the rapid and significant loss of Arctic sea ice, and how mathematics is helping us predict the future of the Earth’s polar marine environment. Dr. Golden is among the rare group of top-level mathematical scientists who is able to reach to the broader public about one of the central issues of our time. There is no doubt in my mind that we will see more of this outstanding work from Dr. Golden in the future, as the depth and relevance of his work shall continue to grow even more.
“She has a drive to get every detail right, she cares about the beauty and precision of language, and she tries to express ideas to make the audience feel smart rather than impressing the reader with how smart but impenetrable the author is. I suspect that this is why she’s been so successful in placing op-eds in national publications. Her writing is designed to enlighten her readers as well as to persuade them.”
Dr. Litchman’s program of research emphasizes the social context of chronic disease management across the lifespan. Her research examines online environments to understand the influence of peer support on health outcomes, and diabetes management in the “real-world.” Her recent work highlighted the underground exchange of diabetes medications and supplies, resulting in national media attention and the passing of House Bill (HB) 207 in Utah, illustrating the real and immediate impact of her work. HB 207 created an incentive for health benefit plans to reduce the required copayments for insulin and created a program that allows Utahns to purchase insulin at a steeply discounted price. She provides the voice of the profession and nursing visibility on influential boards.
My work is interdisciplinary and of interest to both regional and national audiences. From my work on cultural appropriation to the history of the transcontinental, I make complex cultural conversations or historical material easily accessible to a wider public. Likewise, my archival digital work uses the digital humanities to build a greater sense of community engagement with regional history. My mapping projects have already inspired other poets laureate, such as Joy Harjo, the U.S. poet laureate, to create archives for their own communities.