2016 School of Biology Annual Awards

The School of Biology annually gives several undergraduate and graduate student awards recognizing excellence in academic achievement, research, teaching, and service.


Biology Faculty Award
Banafsheh "Bonnie" Shoai & Alexandra "Alex" Huhman

Cherry L. Emerson Research Award
Lily Tran

John H. Ridley Award
Morgan LaMarca

Williams-Walls Award
Katelyn England & Shelby Gantt

Virginia C. and Hershel V. Clanton Jr. Scholarship
June Moon

Leddy Family Scholarship
Melissa Johnson

College of Science Research Award
R. Zane Wolf



Best Graduate Student Paper
Cody Clements (Hay lab) & Lava Rishishwar (Jordan lab)
Honorable mention: Miguel Rodriguez (Konstantinidis lab)

Best Undergraduate Mentoring
Eryn Bernardy (Hammer lab)
Honorable mention:  Po-Yi Ho (Fan lab) & Marcus Bray (Glass lab)

Overall Graduate Student Excellence
Miguel Rodriguez (Konstantinidis lab) & Samit Watve (Hammer lab)
Honorable mention: Will Overholt (Kostka lab)



Dr. David W. Garton, Senior Lecturer in the School of Biology, is a recipient of the Geoffrey G. Eichholz Faculty Teaching Award, in recognition of his outstanding teaching of core and general-education undergraduate courses.

For more than 10 years, Garton has had primary responsibility for teaching BIOL 4401, Experimental Design and Statistical Methods. Over the years, he has redesigned the course to incorporate problem-based learning methods and an active learning style. No longer a lecture-based experience, each class period is dominated by small-group problem solving sessions.

Typically, he assigns students sets of data or an experimental set-up, and the students select and apply the appropriate statistical method to test their hypotheses.

In addition, Garton adopted Learning Catalytics, a Web-based assessment tool that enables immediate feedback on “right” or “wrong” approaches to a problem. Used in class, the tool improves students’ confidence in applying analytic methods, as well as Garton’s own teaching effectiveness by identifying the concepts that are difficult for students to grasp.


Dr. Chrissy Spencer, Senior Academic Professional in the School of Biology, is the recipient of the Innovation and Excellence in Laboratory Instruction Award, in recognition of her innovative approach to the genetics lab courses BIOL 2345 and BIOL 2355. These are core lab requirements for biology majors, and Spencer has transformed them from traditional or inquiry-based labs into a project-based format.

In the project-based format, students work in teams to propose and complete a research project involving key elements central to genetics work, such as DNA isolation and gel electrophoresis.  Over the semester, students learn basic lab skills and improve their understanding of genetics concepts. In addition, they get to practice every aspect of the scientific method, from asking a question and designing the experiment to collecting data, analyzing results, and presenting the results. 


Dr. Mark Hay, Regents Professor in the School of Biology, is the recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Research Author Award, in recognition of his highly impactful publications. He is an experimental ecologist who is revolutionizing marine conservation and management and the founder of the field of marine chemical ecology. For the past four decades, he has led scientific expeditions to remote regions to study the processes and mechanisms that control the organization, function, and sustainability of natural ecosystems.

Recently, his work has enabled scientists to “listen” to the conversations of marine organisms, carried out with chemical signals. Hay is learning to treat marine environmental collapse by understanding the chemical communication of critical marine organisms.

A skilled science communicator, Hay has shared his discoveries with various non-expert audiences, including village chiefs in Fiji. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times. BBC, NPR, and many more global media outlets. For being at the forefront of conservation science, Hay received the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award from the Explorers Club in 2015.

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