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2021-22 College of Science awards: Celebrating excellence in teaching and advising

By Grace Peterman

On February 22, the College of Science gathered to recognize academic, administrative and teaching excellence at the 2021-22 Combined Awards Ceremony. The first portion of the ceremony celebrated research and administrative achievements, while the second highlighted outstanding teaching, advising and mentoring. 

The College celebrates the Teaching and Advising Awards winners below for their deep commitment to engaging with the student experience and application of mentoring and advising expertise to ensure student learning and success within and beyond the classroom. Effective teaching, advising and mentorship are the very heart of the College of Science’s identity as a robust and thriving community of students and scholars. Driven almost exclusively by students’ nominations, these awards are an opportunity for our community to express gratitude and appreciation for each other. 

2022 Teaching, Advising and Mentoring Award Winners

Olaf Boedtker Award for Excellence in Academic Advising

Rachel Palmer, a woman with long hair, smiling.
Integrative Biology Advisor Rachel Palmer

Rachel Palmer, integrative biology advisor, won the Olaf Boedtker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising for her tireless support, efforts and advocacy on behalf of undergraduate students. This award was established in 1988 in honor of Olaf Boedtker, a professor in the Department of Physics who served as Head Advisor in the College from 1973 to 1987. While at Oregon State, he provided exceptional service to students and to the College.

Several students nominated Palmer for this award, praising her dedication and ability to connect and encourage students to achieve their goals.

One student nominator wrote of Palmer: “Right off the bat, Rachel came across as a very happy-go lucky person. She has always been extremely kind and caring at every meeting, treating me as an equal adult and even cracking some jokes that set me at ease. She has always been able to answer every question I had, no matter how specific or vague. I can absolutely tell she wants to help me and set me on the best path possible. Rachel pays mind to each and every student as an individuaPassionate, inspirational, dedicatedl and she really knows her stuff!”

Another student had similar feedback for Palmer: “Rachel has made the beginning of my journey towards my Bachelors of Science in Zoology a wonderful experience even through uncertainty. She really goes above and beyond the call of duty, you would not think an advisor could be such a hero.”

“I admire how easily Rachel has helped me find a class schedule that works so well," wrote another student nominator. "She asks important questions, listens to your expectations and executes. One thing she does well is helps me find classes that work well together as far as content.”

Additional nominees for the Olaf Boedtker Award included:

  • Cody Duncan, advisor for integrative biology
  • Allison Evans, instructor of microbiology
  • Jen Olarra, advisor for biology
  • Kari Van Zee, senior instructor of biochemistry and biophysics

Loyd F. Carter Award for Outstanding and Inspirational Teaching (Undergraduate)

Kyriakos Stylianou, a man with a beard.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kyriakos Stylianou

This year’s Loyd Carter Award for Outstanding and Inspirational Undergraduate Teaching in Science goes to Kyriakos Stylianou, assistant professor of chemistry.

Every year since 1946, the Loyd F. Carter Award has been presented to two outstanding College of Science faculty members: one for undergraduate teaching and one for graduate teaching. The purpose of the award is to encourage and recognize effective and inspirational teaching. The final selection is based solely on student nominations and voting.

Stylianou’s students describe him as passionate, inspirational and dedicated. “This man is so incredibly intelligent but also one of the humblest people you will ever meet,” one student said.

“He has to be one of the best professors I have had here at OSU,” said another student nominator. “Walking into CH 233, I was super nervous. I heard it was the hardest of the chemistry series. With everyone feeling the burnout of virtual learning, he made sure to make his class engaging and put everything he had into every class.”

Many students praised the learning atmosphere Stylianou creates in his classes and his attentiveness to student needs. “He cares very much about his students and wants to see them succeed. He devotes a significant amount of time inside and outside of class to give them the opportunities and resources they need to be successful in his class, and beyond. He never tries to beat around the bush, always gives you an honest answer, and just wants to see the best in people. The jokes and wise-cracks in class always help to lighten the mood as well.”

Additional nominees for the Loyd F. Carter undergraduate award included:

  • Daniel Myles, senior instructor of chemistry
  • Devon Quick, senior instructor of integrative biology
  • Marita Barth, instructor of chemistry
  • Malcolm Lowry, assistant professor of microbiology
  • Nathan L. Kirk, senior instructor of integrative biology
  • Paul Cheong, associate professor of chemistry
  • Phil McFadden, associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics
  • Scott Geddes, instructor of chemistry
  • Stacey Vaughn, instructor of mathematics

Loyd F. Carter Award for Outstanding and Inspirational Teaching (Graduate)

James Molyneux, a man with a beard.
Assistant Professor of Statistics James Molyneux  

This year’s Loyd F. Carter Award for Outstanding and Inspirational Graduate Teaching in Science goes to James Molyneux, assistant professor of statistics.

Students nominating Molyneux described him as caring, uplifting and welcoming, and praised his ability to adapt during the pandemic. "He consistently encouraged me and my cohort during the transition from COVID to campus, to keep up our spirits in one of the most difficult academic years of our lives," said one student. "Without him, I would not have gathered the courage to continue moving forward. He is brilliant in the classroom as a professor and a loyal mentor and advocate for our success."

Another student said the following of Molyneux: "He excels at making statistics, a subject which is generally taught dryly and without much passion, relevant to grad students' research and our daily life. He uses timely examples and highlights the nuance of stats, in a way that makes it fascinating instead of frustrating. He was always available for extra help or assistance outside of class, and always seemed willing to discuss other topics than just the class material! He is supportive and compassionate with graduate students, and was the best stats teacher I've had so far at OSU! He also made sure the class content was accessible to students in multiple ways by recording both Zoom and in-person classes, and making the lecture notes easily available. His high-energy and engaging teaching style was apparent in both the in-person and online class I took with him, which I have found to be a rare occurrence in a remote setting!"

Thomas Sharpton, associate professor of microbiology, was also nominated for the Loyd F. Carter graduate award.

Frederick H. Horne Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching Science

Liz Gire, a woman smiling.
  Associate Professor of Physics Elizabeth Gire.   

This year’s Frederick H. Horne Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching Science goes to Liz Gire, associate professor of physics.

This award honors Fred Horne, who served as Dean of Science at Oregon State from from 1986 to 1999. Fred passed away in 2021, a renowned researcher, scholar, teacher and leader.

Fred exemplified the values of our college, embracing a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in science. He was instrumental in establishing two programs that encourage students of color to pursue and continue their education in science, math and engineering: Science and Math Investigative Learning Experience (SMILE) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

The purpose of this award is to recognize sustained excellence in teaching science by honoring a faculty member in the College of Science who has repeatedly demonstrated exceptional instructional qualities and has had a significant impact on students over a period of not less than five years.

Liz Gire has earned this award through her tireless dedication to support the holistic student experience. A plethora of students and colleagues wrote at length in support of Gire's nomination. One student nominator said, "Her level of dedication to the genuine support and inclusion of the students in her courses is something I’ve never seen in an educator before. She backs that up with her skill and experience in education and communication that makes difficult content still accessible and enjoyable to learn. She takes every opportunity to build others up, whether that be her students, her teaching team, her research partners or the many people in our department who aren’t any of those things, but still know they can come to her because she is the type of person who will help however and whenever she can."

Another student nominator said, "Liz is a wonderful professor because she is a master at reading the atmosphere of a classroom. Sure, part of this is an intuition that comes from experience, but more importantly, she takes time to ask questions. Each student is expected to grab a small white board and marker at the beginning class. Later when Liz looks out and says, 'write down something that you know about angular momentum' she can measure students’ level of confusion and use student responses to guide the classroom discussion. This makes everyone much more willing to participate in class because they know that she honestly cares for their well-being and success."

Congratulations to all the winners and all the nominees!