Learning Through Research

The Council on Undergraduate Research proudly announces the winners of its first two CUR Fellows Awards. They are Mary Allen, a biologist at Wellesley College, and Julio Ramirez, a psychologist at Davidson College. The awards will be presented at the 8th National CUR Conference at The College of Wooster on June 22, 2000.

Over the past 25 years CUR has championed collaborative research among undergraduates and their faculty mentors. CUR conferences, publications, and mentoring activities have helped countless faculty members establish and sustain research programs at primarily undergraduate institutions nation-wide. With these Fellows awards CUR celebrates the research that it promotes and applauds individuals who exemplify the ideals of CUR.

The CUR Fellows awards, to be presented biennially, recognize CUR members who have developed nationally respected research programs. Awardees have established outstanding records of obtaining funding for their work and for their students, and publishing research findings with undergraduate coauthors. They reach out to students of all backgrounds, incorporate research activities into the courses they teach, and lead efforts to institutionalize research. In sum, they are leaders and role models for countless faculty and students at primarily undergraduate institutions.

The nominees for our award have many common personality traits. They are compassionate, nurturing mentors gifted in helping undergraduates develop their research talents and skills. They are looked to by their students not just as advisors, but also as trusted friends. They have an enormous impact on the careers of their students as they contribute to the body of scientific knowledge.

Upon hearing of the CUR Fellows Award, NSF Division Director of Undergraduate Education Normal L. Fortenberry commented: "It is essential that we provide recognition to those faculty who have excelled at integrating research and education. By identifying individuals who are exemplars of the term "research mentor", the CUR Fellows Awards provide much needed peer validation and encouragement as well as allowing honored Fellows to serve as existence proofs and resources to the broader scientific community."

Mary Allen and Julio Ramirez are the first of what promises to be long list of CUR Fellows - talented leaders who have been enormously influential and can now be widely appreciated.

maryallenMary Allen received her B.S in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and her Ph.D. in microbiology at the University of California, Berkeley. Allen joined the faculty at Wellesley College in 1968 and rose through the ranks to become full professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. She currently holds the Jean Glasscock Chair in Biological Sciences.

Allen's research at Wellesley on the biochemistry and environmental physiology of cyanobacteria is nationally recognized and has resulted in 30 publications, 17 of which have undergraduate co-authors. A total of 70 undergraduate students have done senior honors thesis research in her lab. Allen was awarded the Wellesley College Pinanski Prize for excellence in teaching in 1986 and the American Society of Microbiology Carski Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award in 1995. In the words of her colleagues, "Dr. Mary Allen is the epitome of college teachers."

Allen funded her lab continuously with external grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Research Corporation. Allen led efforts to obtain one of Wellesley’s three Howard Hughes Medical Institute grants and NSF support for a long-running summer research program in her department. Further, Allen has helped to extend the model of involving undergraduates in research to the social sciences through an NSF Award for the Integration of Research and Education.

One of Allen's past students said, "The most inspiring and helpful aspects of Dr. Allen have been her incredibly positive attitude, her enthusiasm for her field and her genuine interest in her students." Another student, now with a Ph.D., recalled that Mary "instilled in me the lesson that I can do anything that I dream possible."

Julio Ramirez
received a B.S. degree in psychology at Fairfield University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in biopsychology from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Ramirez joined the department of psychology at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., in 1986 and, in 1998 he was named Davidson's first R. Stuart Dickson Professor. Ramirez and his students investigate recovery of function after central nervous system injury with an emphasis on recovery from Alzheimer's disease.

Ramirez' work at Davidson has resulted in 19 research publications - nine with undergraduate co authors - in the last 13 years. Over that relatively short time 85 students have worked with Ramirez. He has received more than $2 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Pew Charitable Trusts to support biomedical research and education at Davidson. In 1989, Ramirez was named North Carolina Professor of the Year and also was honored as a National Gold Medal Professor of the Year.

Ramirez's gifts as a scholar-teacher are remarkable and his infectious energy touches many people beginning with his research students and extending into the community. His deep compassion led to his development of the science outreach component of "Love of Learning," a program that allows gifted minority high-school students from Mecklenberg County to spend summers in his laboratory.

One former student said, "Julio has been a combination of teacher, parent and friend to me for the past 13 years, and my life has been wonderfully enriched because of it." Another former student said, "Julio has been instrumental in helping me shape my academic career and embodies all the ideals one would wish for in a mentor."