Learning Through Research

The Council on Undergraduate Research announces its CUR Fellows Awards for 2004. The recipients are Andrea R. Halpern, Professor of Psychology at Bucknell University, and Jerry R. Mohrig, Herman and Gertude Mosier Stark Professor in the Natural Sciences and Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at Carleton College. With these Fellows Awards, CUR celebrates individuals who exemplify the ideals of CUR. The awards will be presented at the 10th National CUR Conference at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse on June 24, 2004. Each CUR Fellow will receive an award of $1000 and will present an inspiring talk about her/his research with undergraduates. The 2004 awards are sponsored by LI-COR Biosciences.

The CUR Fellows awards are presented biennially to CUR members who have developed nationally respected research programs involving undergraduates. Awardees have established outstanding records of obtaining funding for their work and for their students, and have published 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 on their campuses and across the nation. In sum, they are leaders and role models for countless faculty and students.

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. Their students look to them 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 human knowledge. CUR honors Drs. Halpern and Mohrig this year, but in recognizing them, we also recognize and encourage the many other faculty who are striving for the same goals.

CUR President Jill Singer said upon announcing the award: "Andrea and Jerry are dedicated faculty that have balanced the demands of teaching, research, and service and have placed mentoring undergraduates as a primary focus of their professional lives. They reflect the ideals of CUR and their accomplishments serve to inspire all of us. Andrea and Joe are outstanding CUR members and worthy recipients of this Award."

Dr. Elaine Hoagland, CUR’s National Executive Officer, commented: "The word, "inspiration" exemplifies the CUR Fellow. Both Professors Halpern and Mohrig live up to the ideals of their profession, and to the core values of CUR. CUR is honored to have them as members, colleagues and friends."

The mission of the Council on Undergraduate Research is to support and promote high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship. CUR believes that faculty members enhance their teaching and contribution to society by remaining active in research and by involving undergraduates in research. CUR provides information on the importance of undergraduate research to state legislatures, private foundations, government agencies, and the U.S. Congress.

CUR Fellows Awards Recipients for 2004

andreaAndrea R. Halpern
Professor of Psychology at Bucknell University

Following her undergraduate education at Brandeis University (1978) and receiving her Ph.D. at Stanford University (1982), Dr. Andrea R. Halpern accepted a faculty appointment at Bucknell University, where she remains today. Throughout her 22-year career at Bucknell, she has distinguished herself at every level of academic work. She is a leader in the study of cognitive and biological aspects of music perception and has published over 30 articles and book chapters on the topic. Her sabbaticals, at the Montreal Neurological Institute and University of Montreal and later at Harvard University, have focused on the brain mechanisms of auditory imaging and the neuropsychology of music perception. An eminent cognitive psychologist from outside of Bucknell noted that, "Her ability to focus her research in such a way as to point out its generality and its importance to more traditional areas of investigation is testament to her knowledge of the broader issues in psychology as well as the unique demands of the psychology of music." Another colleague describes her work as having "… impact far beyond the immediate realm of music with implications for the general understanding of perception, imagery, cognitive aging and the underlying brain mechanisms." Dr. Halpern has been Consulting Editor for the journal Memory and Cognition and, over the years, has provided peer review of articles for over 15 other prominent journals related to her research interests.

Dr. Halpern’s work has always involved undergraduates. She has individually mentored over 65 students since 1983. Her students write passionately about their work together. One student, now in her faculty appointment, noted: "Hardly a day passes when I cannot recognize some aspects of Dr. Halpern’s influence in my professional development. Perhaps the greatest testament to her exceptional mentorship is that I actively embrace opportunities to mentor undergraduate students at [my College], hoping that I can inspire them in the way that Dr. Halpern inspired me." Another writes, "One of her finest qualities as a mentor is her strong encouragement of research areas that interest the student, even when these areas are peripheral to her own research area. … Dr. Halpern’s ability to genuinely support and guide students as they devise their own research questions is a quality that is rare in the research world but is essential to the production of good future scientists." Another former undergraduate writes simply, "My experience working with Professor Halpern changed me as a student, a researcher and a person."

Beyond Bucknell University, Dr. Halpern has been a national leader of the undergraduate research movement. She was a charter member of the Psychology Division of CUR as well as Chair of that division from 1993-1996. She has been a facilitator of CUR’s Proposal Writing Institute from 2000-2003. She has published in the CUR Quarterly. Dr. Halpern has also acted as a consultant to the National Science Foundation regarding their Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) and served on the Psychology panel for NSF's Graduate Fellowship program from 1990 - 1993, and chaired it from 1993 - 1995.

Dr. Halpern has been awarded a number of extramural grants to support her research with undergraduates. These have included grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes on Aging, The Pew Foundation and McDonnell-Pew Program in Cognitive Neuroscience.

Dr. Halpern is an accomplished scholar whose teaching, research supervision, and service activities reflect a significant commitment to the academic enterprise and specifically to the training and encouragement of undergraduate students as researchers.

jerryJerry R. Mohrig
Herman and Gertude Mosier Stark Professor in the Natural Sciences and Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at Carleton College

Jerry Mohrig received his B.S. in chemistry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder. After teaching at Hope College for three years, he joined the faculty at Carleton in 1967 and taught there until his retirement in 2003. Jerry is now the Herman and Gertrude Mosier Stark Professor in the Natural Sciences, Emeritus.

Perusing Jerry’s Curriculum Vitae one cannot help but be impressed by both the breadth and depth of his interests and achievements. By themselves, the numbers are impressive: two national teaching awards, greater than 90% co-authorship by undergraduates on his independent research publications, the co-author of five books, funding from the major agencies in chemistry, and service to the Chemistry community in many capacities, including three terms as chair of the Committee on Professional Training of the American Chemical Society, membership on the Chemistry Advisory Committee for the National Science Foundation, and service on many national advisory boards. He was a consultant to the NSF on the development of the RUI Program and to the NIH on the AREA program. He was also a founding member of CUR and served as its president from 1983 to 1987. Still, it is the devotion expressed in the letters supporting his nomination that shows the measure of his impact on the lives of students.

Although teaching is not formally a part of the award, his role as teacher/mentor rapidly comes to the fore as his greatest strength. Letters from three students, all currently faculty members, tell of his ability to inspire, both in the classroom and the research laboratory. The 140 students that chose Jerry as their research mentor is a testament to that ability. It is clear from these letters that his style is to use research as a vehicle for students to develop as independent scientists at an early stage of their careers. Each former student tells a story of how Jerry gave him or her a project and then used it to challenge the person to excel.

One former student says of him "With excellent examples and a message of inspiration, Jerry made me want to stay a second summer to become the researcher he and I both knew I could be," while another says "… more importantly Jerry gave me the confidence to work in an area that, at the time anyway, did not appear to be my strongest suit … he treated me as an equal partner in the project from the beginning." A third student echoed these themes in saying "He is masterful at gently encouraging students to fulfill their potential. … I think that Jerry’s great strength as an educator is his ability to work with students in a way that allows them to develop self-confidence."

One quotation describes, perhaps, the goal of all mentors: "He is completely in touch both with his students and with the broader needs of chemistry, and when he advises his students, they come to realize that they too can have an impact on the field that they chose. So often they do have an impact because Jerry sincerely believes in them and lets them know it."