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2021-22 College of Science awards: Celebrating excellence in research and administration

By Mary Hare
The Faculty and Staff Awards honor outstanding scholarship and research across the fields of basic and applied science that have led to important breakthroughs and the creation of new knowledge.

The College of Science gathered yesterday on February 22 to recognize academic and teaching excellence of our esteemed faculty and staff at the College's 2021-22 Combined Awards Ceremony. The first half of the ceremony celebrated exceptional research and administration, while the latter half recognized stellar teaching, advising and mentoring.

"I am always inspired by this opportunity to honor our outstanding colleagues together and to celebrate the privilege of collaborating at a land grant university that prizes research, scholarship and learning," said Dean Roy Haggerty.

The Faculty and Staff Awards honor outstanding scholarship and research across the fields of basic and applied science that have led to important breakthroughs and the creation of new knowledge. The impact of their contributions has resonated far beyond Oregon State University, bringing honor to our College and global recognition from the broader scientific community.

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Physics Professor Davide Lazzati

Milton Harris Award for Basic Research in Science

Davide Lazzati, professor and department head of physics, received the Milton Harris Award for his outstanding work in the field of high-energy astrophysics. His well-funded and productive research endeavors have helped boost OSU's core astrophysics community to the top of its field.

This award was endowed by G. Milton Harris, a Portland native who received his bachelor’s degree in 1926 from OSU and his Ph.D. from Yale University. He was a pioneer in polymer, fiber and textile science and was the founder and for many years president of Harris Research Laboratories, which later became part of Gillette. The purpose of the Milton Harris award is to recognize exceptional achievement in basic research by honoring an outstanding faculty member in the College of Science.

"It was Dr. Lazzati's work that offered the correct interpretation of the signal and which has helped reshape our understanding of the most powerful events in the universe"

Lazzati's work drew considerable attention in 2017, when a historic merger of two massive neutron stars produced gravitational waves followed by a burst of gamma rays and, subsequently, other forms of light. It was an event that shocked the astrophysical community, but one that had been correctly predicted by Lazzati's computational astrophysics group several months before the merger occurred.

His team was the first to realize that a binary neutron star collision produces narrow beams of electromagnetic waves called Short Gamma-Ray Bursts that can be detected as brief bursts of luminosity in our own galaxy. This phenomenon, he argued, is repeated in all binary neutron mergers, even when their beam of radiation is off-axis and points away from earth.

"It was Dr. Lazzati's work that offered the correct interpretation of the signal and which has helped reshape our understanding of the most powerful events in the universe," said Distinguished Professor of Physics Janet Tate, who nominated him for the award.

Since 2010, Lazzati's work has been supported by more than 2.2M from NASA, the National Science Foundation and other agencies, as well as an NSF Early Career Development Award which he received in 2012 while at NC State University. In 2021, he received Oregon State University's Impact Award for Outstanding Scholarship.

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Physics Professor Heidi Schellman

F.A. Gilfillan Award for Distinguished Scholarship

Professor Heidi Schellman received the Gilfillan Award, which honors faculty members in the College of Science whose scholarship and scientific accomplishments have extended over a substantial period of time, especially faculty whose research careers have had a significant impact on his or her field.

Born in 1893, Gilfillan’s career at OSU spanned over 60 years as a student, professor of chemistry, acting president and Dean of the College from 1939 to 1962. The award was established by his family to honor his life, service and contributions to the College, university and the field of pharmaceutical chemistry.

Schellman’s distinct contributions to experimental particle physics date back to the 1980's. A highly respected leader in a subfield in which women have even lower representation than in physics generally, Schellman has been a cornerstone of the department; serving as chair for seven years, and amassing more than 4.4M in funding since 2015 alone. Per Tate, "as one colleague put it, 'her CV is simply exhausting!'"

Schellman's research focuses on the interactions of neutrinos - tiny particles that may be the reason that matter itself exists. Neutrinos are the most abundant particle in the universe, although few people know of their existence - let alone are able to study them.

Serving several leadership positions for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), an international collaboration of 1400 scientists, Schellman has helped several projects to launch a neutrino-scattering apparatus that they hope will help answer fundamental questions concerning the origin of matter and black hole formation.

Schellman has amassed nearly 700 peer-reviewed publications and an h-index of 113 from her contributions to several well-known scientific collaborations, risen to important leadership positions, and mentored many successful young scientists. She was recognized in 2015 by the American Physical Society’s Division of Particles and Fields with their Mentoring Award.

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David Hendrix, associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics 

Dean's Early Career Achievement Award

Computational biochemist David Hendrix received the Dean's Early Career Award, which recognizes exceptional achievement in research and education of faculty no more than four years beyond the tenure date. With joint appointments in biochemistry and computer science, Hendrix' interdisciplinary skills have led to collaborations hat have enhanced research in the College and university.

His research at OSU has focused on applying deep learning approaches to RNA biology, working with collaborators to bring his computational expertise to address biological research questions. Among other innovations, Hendrix has pioneered the use of deep learning in cancer detection based on gene expression data, an approach now gaining in popularity.

"There is more to it than his excellent programming skills. In Dave's hands, the full complexity of biological information emerges"

"There is more to it than his excellent programing skills," said microbiology professor Steve Giovannoni. "In Dave's hands, the full complexity of biological information emerges. As evident from his success, he is solving fundamental problems that have practical real-world impacts on diverse issues."

Since arriving at OSU in 2013, Hendrix has published 24 papers and brought in over $5.9M in funding from the NSF, NIH and USDA. In 2019, he received OSU's University Mentoring and Professional Development Award. On the education side, Dave has created student-centered resources including an open-access bioinformatics textbook. He also helped develop the graduate biological data science minor.

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Marilyn Mackiewicz, assistant professor of chemistry 

Inclusive Excellence Award

Marilyn Mackiewicz, an assistant chemistry professor, received the Inclusive Excellence Award for her extensive commitment eliminating barriers to success in chemistry for students of all backgrounds. In the one year since she was hired at OSU, she has implemented creative tools to improve retention while meeting students at the level they're at.

A 2022 NSF CAREER awardee, Mackiewicz has found the time to develop a “Strategic Doing” process to identify impactful projects that can enhance Gilbert Hall and LPSC as welcoming and inclusive spaces, including a redesign of the Gilbert entryway and the LPSC corridor to showcase research, teaching faculty, emeritus faculty, and alumni.

Mackiewicz has also deeply embedded inclusive excellence in her research and teaching, developing novel courses for undergraduate chemistry majors that explore Careers in Chemistry and Transferable Skills for Chemists. These courses integrate transferable skills development in support of improving the diversity needed in our 21st-century workforce.

Marilyn's potential as a leader has been recognized beyond OSU. The American Chemical Society recognized her work in advancing diversity with the 2020 Northwest Regional Stanley Israel award. She has been invited to present on inclusive leadership practices at Queens University and the plenary at the Women’s luncheon of the 2021 Society of Environmental Toxicology Conference.

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David Maddison, professor of integrative biology

Distinguished Service Award

Integrative biology professor David Maddison received the Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes a faculty, staff or student member whose outstanding contributions helped to support and sustain the quality and effectiveness of our College.

"There must be very few individuals with David's stature who bring the same prolific focus and creative problem solving to their service work."

"He is a true 'servant leader' and he is extremely effective, including at thankless tasks that take a lot of time and attention," wrote Professor Benjamin Dalziel in his nomination letter. "There must be very few individuals with David's stature who bring the same prolific focus and creative problem solving to their service work."

In addition to maintaining an internationally regarded evolutionary biology research program, Maddison also serves as chair of the IB 'space committee' where he coordinates office and research space for the entire department. As part of this duty, he took the initiative to build an interactive digital map to help facilitate fair and effective allocation of space for each faculty member.

He has also taken a lead role facilitating the Cordley Hall renovation, working with architects to communicate the department's needs and helping ensure that faculty's needs are met. "David is the hero of IB's journey with the remodel of Cordley Hall," said Dalziel.

"It is a bit disturbing to imagine where we would be without David's brilliant service work on IB's most strategically important challenges," he said.

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Malgo Peszynska, professor of mathematics

Champion of Science Dean's Award

The Champion of Science Dean's award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated excellence and extra effort that goes beyond what is requested, and the highest quality performance. The award is modeled, including its name, after the President’s Beaver Champion Award, and was presented by Dean Haggerty to applied mathematician Malgo Pesznska.

"Her record of engagement and leadership leaves no doubt that colleagues from Oregon State University, the nation and the world all recognize and seek to engage with her energy and expertise."

Supported by two National Science Foundation awards, Peszynska and her team have combined computational mathematics with geophysical mechanics of hydrate behavior, developing new mathematical models and results to study the transport and evolution of methane gas under the influence of changing sea temperatures, the warming of permafrost, and the huge range of length and time scales for key elements of the geophysical process.

"Her record of engagement and leadership leaves no doubt that colleagues from Oregon State University, the nation and the world all recognize and seek to engage with her energy and expertise," said Haggerty.

Her success has been recognized with numerous awards, including her selection as a 2020 fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for “outstanding contributions to multidisciplinary mathematical and computational modeling of flow and transport in porous media.” In 2021, she received the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Geosciences Career Prize, awarded every two years to outstanding senior researchers in the field.

Gladys Valley Award of Exemplary Administration Support

The Gladys Valley Award recognizes outstanding job performance and dedication by a College staff person to their department and to the College of Science. This year it awarded jointly to Tony Reyna, business manager for the biochemistry and biophysics department; and Cindy Kent, executive assistant to professors Bruce Menge and Jane Lubchenco.

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Tony Reyna, business manager for the biochemistry and biophysics department

Joining the biochemistry department over five years ago, Reyna is particularly appreciated for his willingness to go above and beyond the scope of his job responsibilities to ensure the office ran smoothly despite numerous trying circumstances. Several nomination letters expressed appreciation for his 'can-do attitude' and ability to solve the most strenuous problems without complaint.

"I personally appreciate Tony's service not only for performing the jobs of two people without complaints, but mostly for his gentle, accepting and understanding attitude," wrote Elisar Barbar, head of the department. "I cannot think of anyone else who worked harder and delivered better than Tony did, and of no one else who is more deserving."

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Cindy Kent, executive assistant to professors Bruce Menge and Jane Lubchenco

For more than 21 years, Cindy Kent has worked with Wayne and Gladys Valley Chairs Jane Lubchenco and Bruce Menge to ensure that their joint lab and research powerhouse continues to run smoothly. She also acts as confidential assistant to Lubchenco, who is currently serving as Deputy Director for Climate and the Environment.

"She routinely interacts with everyone from an individual with ‘the’ answer to climate change or an oil spill to heads of state, executives in philanthropy or civil society, members of Congress, alumni, and prospective students," according to the nomination letter. "Cindy has been an invaluable member of the group, and serves as the glue that helps everyone function effectively and efficiently."

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Stephanie Bollmann, senior faculty research assistant 

Outstanding Faculty Research Assistant Award

Stephanie Bollmann received the Outstanding Faculty Research Assistant Award for her outstanding job performance and contributions to the success of Michael Blouin's lab in the integrative biology department. This award is given to an individual each year who has chosen a career as a Faculty Research Assistant (FRA), Senior Faculty Assistant (SFRA) or Research Associate (RA) and has a record of outstanding job performance and contributions.

Bollmann has been working in the Blouin lab for seven years, with wide-ranging duties including project management, DNA/RNA and protein bench work, fish sampling and resource management. She has published regularly, single-handedly tackling large projects despite challenging circumstances.

"In particular, the work on the fitness of hatchery and wild salmon has had a big impact on hatchery management in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest," Blouin wrote. "Stephanie was an essential part of those publications. She has had a huge role in the success of my lab."

Known for her particular skill in bioinformatics, Bollmann's expertise is sought by other labs and collaborators. She also mentors high school students in the summers under the Saturday Academy program to help awaken their interest in science. "She is a relentlessly upbeat, positive, "can-do" person and the students respond to this," wrote Blouin. "I believe Stephanie's commitment to lifelong learning is partly what keeps her so enthusiastic about her work."