2002 CUR Fellows Award Recognizes Excellence in Undergraduate Research

The Council on Undergraduate Research announces its CUR Fellows Awards for 2002. The recipients are Thomas J. Wenzel, Charles A. Dana Professor of Chemistry at Bates College, and Joseph A. Gallian, Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Professor of Mathematics at The University of Minnesota Duluth. With these Fellows Awards, CUR celebrates individuals who exemplify the ideals of CUR. The awards will be presented at the 9th National CUR Conference at Connecticut College on June 21, 2002. Each CUR Fellow will receive an award of $1000 and will present an inspiring talk about his research with undergraduates.

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. Gallian and Wenzel this year, but in recognizing them, we also recognize and encourage the many other faculty who are striving for the same goals.

CUR President Michael Nelson said upon announcing the award: "Professors Wenzel and Gallian are role models for science faculty. They have achieved a professional nirvana by delicately balancing teaching, research, university citizenship, and personal life into a productive and rewarding career. CUR is a much stronger organization because of the dedication and enthusiasm of Tom and Joe."

Dr. Elaine Hoagland, CUR's National Executive Officer, commented: "The word, "inspiration" exemplifies the CUR Fellow. Both Professors Wenzel and Gallian 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.
Biographical Sketches
CUR Fellows 2002

Joseph A. Gallian
Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Professor of Mathematics
University of Minnesota Duluth

Professor Gallian received his B.A. from Slippery Rock College in 1966. Since receiving his PhD from Notre Dame, he has spent nearly his entire career at the University of Minnesota Duluth. His has won numerous awards for teaching, has published scores of research articles on combinatorics and related fields in top mathematical journals, and is an author of several mathematics textbooks. He has received funding for 27 years from the National Science Foundation and also has had steady funding from the National Security Agency. He has served on 23 national committees, including three terms on CUR's Council. He was a founder of CUR's Mathematics and Computer Science Division.

According to his peers, Dr. Gallian has been the major force behind undergraduate research in mathematics in the United States. He recognized early on that undergraduates are capable of original investigations in mathematics, and armed with success stories from a pioneering summer program, founded a movement within mathematics.

Dr. Gallian has influenced literally more students than one can count. Joe has an uncanny gift for selecting deep mathematical questions that undergraduate students can successfully solve in a summer research experience. Unlike some other undergraduate research mentors, Dr. Gallian's philosophy is to develop independence in his students, and he rarely co-authors works with them. His own undergraduate students have published more than 90 papers in prestigious journals and 69 have gone on to graduate school. Forty-six of Dr. Gallian's REU students have earned PhDs, 39 of them coming from Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, Chicago, and Princeton.

Dr. Gallian knows how to develop camaraderie within what is sometimes a lonely and competitive intellectual field. Former students cite Gallian's endless energy and wisdom, his ability to create an atmosphere of "relaxed cooperation", and his encouragement to publish. He fosters a lifelong network among his students. The kayaking field trips during his summer REU program at Duluth are legendary. Colleagues from all around America have called the program at Duluth the "gold standard" for REUs in mathematics.

Joe not only continues to run the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program in Duluth, but also organizes national conferences for leaders of undergraduate research programs in mathematics. He regularly presents mini-courses in how to involve undergraduates in mathematics research with his colleagues. Joe shepherded the idea for an endowed national prize for undergraduate research through the three major professional mathematics societies, leading to the Morgan Prize for research by an undergraduate. For years he has helped organized an undergraduate poster session at the American Mathematical Society/Mathematical Association of America joint meeting, with prizes from CUR leveraging further prizes from the two mathematics societies.

To quote from his letter of nomination for the award,

"Joe's … persistence and success stories led to a change in attitudes at NSF; the spawning of a huge number of undergraduate research programs and journals; and most importantly, to large numbers of mathematicians embracing - and rejoicing in - the fact that research done by undergraduates CAN alter the landscape of prevailing knowledge."

Thomas J. Wenzel
Charles A. Dana Professor of Chemistry
Bates College

As stated in his letter of nomination, "It is difficult to imagine a faculty member who better exemplifies the qualities celebrated by the CUR Fellows Award. … In Tom Wenzel we have a model teacher-scholar: a dedicated, creative teacher of science and nonscience majors alike, a prolific and highly respected investigator in the field of chirality and liquid chromatography, and an educator who brings these two vocations together in ways that encourage and inspire students to pursue careers in science." One could add that Tom is a model CUR member-leader as well. Having served as President, he did not rest but came back into the organization as councilor and is now in the process of invigorating the CUR Quarterly and contributing his wisdom to CUR in many other dimensions. For Tom, CUR is his primary societal affiliation because his life is devoted to its mission.

In both introductory and advanced courses, Dr. Wenzel challenges students to think as scientists and to apply their knowledge to open-ended problems. He has become an outspoken advocate for "problem-based" learning methods in which students design research questions to address real world problems in course laboratories. His innovative approaches are recognized nationally, and disseminated through training workshops and regular publications in such journals as Analytical Chemistry and Environmental Science and Technology. Tom's work in this regard was recognized with the J. Calvin Giddings Award, given to one individual each year from the Analytical Division of the American Chemical Society. Tom was only the third recipient of this award to work entirely at a primarily undergraduate institution.

Dr. Wenzel brings students into his lab fulltime in the summer, where they co-author papers and participate in a rich intellectual life with scientific colleagues around the world. Many have gone on to PhD's in chemistry and related fields, eventually working in both industry and academia. The quality of Tom's research has itself been recognized, as illustrated by a recent invitation to give a plenary address at an international conference in his specialty field of chirality, invitations to chair national symposia, and his consistent success in receiving peer-reviewed funding from NSF and numerous foundations and corporations. One of his Bates College peers said of his work, "Tom has seamlessly linked his scholarly work with his teaching of undergraduate students in such a way as to greatly enhance both the productivity of his research program and the learning accomplished by his students. His research informs and supports his teaching and his teaching is largely based upon the same principles of scientific investigation as is his research."

Tom has taken a leadership role at his own institution, serving as Department Chair and also as Chair of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He has promoted interdisciplinary research and has included high school teachers in his research program. He strives to involve women and under-represented groups in his programs, and counsels them on professional opportunities.

But let's let Tom's students have the last word on his accomplishments. One wrote to CUR, "To say that my entire academic life was strongly influence by Professor Wenzel would be a monumental understatement. He was the single greatest influence on my earning a BS in chemistry. … He made me feel respected as a female student. In his classes, chemistry is not a static field, … it is a dynamic subject area with many opportunities for exploration and discovery. I remember learning about brown smog and nuclear reactors and thinking, 'Wow, I never knew this was chemistry!' … The inspiring part of Professor Wenzel's cooperative style group teaching was that he was just as anxious to hear our results as we were to collect data and present our findings. He participates in the learning process, right alongside students."

Another student wrote, "Dr. Wenzel always encouraged me to excel and accomplish more than I ever would have dreamed I could. In the three years since I graduated from Bates, I have kept in touch with Dr. Wenzel. He is still a wonderful source of career advice and encouragement. He has been the inspiration for me to consider the prospect of teaching in the future…."

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