2008 CUR Fellows Award Recognizes Excellence in Undergraduate Research

The Council on Undergraduate Research announces its CUR Fellows Awards for 2008. The recipients are Paula Dehn, Professor and Chair of Biology, Canisius College and John Gupton, Professor of Chemistry, University of Richmond. With these Fellows Awards, CUR celebrates individuals who exemplify the ideals of CUR. The awards will be presented at the 12th National CUR Conference at the College of Saint Benedict in June, 2008. Each CUR Fellow will receive an award of $1000 and will present an inspiring talk about her/his research with undergraduates. The 2008 awards are sponsored by
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. Dehn and Gupton this year, but in recognizing them, we also recognize and encourage the many other faculty who are striving for the same goals.
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.




Dr. Paula Dehn received her B.A. with honors in zoology from DePauw University in 1973 and her Ph.D. in Biology from the University of South Florida in 1980. Drawing on her experience as an undergraduate researcher at DePauw University, one that led to her first refereed manuscript, Dr. Dehn’s career has been guided by the overarching principle of engaging undergraduates in research as a pedagogical tool.

She began her teaching responsibilities at the University of Texas at San Antonio where she quickly gathered a research team that would go on to present their research findings at national meetings and publish peer-reviewed literature. She was later recruited as Department Chair by Canisius College. As Chair, she brought to the Department a vision of providing undergraduates the opportunity of conducting research in a laboratory environment that could be sustained throughout their curriculum. Dr. Dehn was well suited for guiding the Department through this curricular change. As an experimental toxicologist, her research spanned various aspects of cell biology, physiology, ecology and analytical chemistry. From the perspective of one of her former students, this type of curriculum showed students how research and their courses of study work hand-in-hand.

To support this vision, Dr. Dehn cajoled colleagues, recruited high-quality faculty and aggressively pursued external funding for research, mentoring and curricular purposes. With funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA, NIH, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the private sector, Dr. Dehn’s focus of incorporating her research and the research of her colleagues into the curriculum became reality. At the time she joined Canisius College, fewer than ten students in the Biology program presented their research at the national level or published their research findings in over a decade. Today, that is not the case. Since 1992, almost 200 Biology students have presented their research at national or international meetings and 40 have co-authored manuscripts.

Dr. Dehn’s impact goes far beyond her home institutions. Along with service to discipline-specific professional societies, Dr. Dehn has been involved in the Texas Academy of Science (of which she is a Fellow), Sigma Xi and CUR. For the latter, she has served as Canisius College’s Institutional Representative for over 15 years, as Chair and Councilor for the Biology Division and as co-organizer and facilitator of CUR’s Proposal Writing Workshop.

Dr. Dehn has made a career transforming lives by supporting the development of a curriculum that hooks students on science through their research experiences. A recurring theme in Dr. Dehn’s career is the impact she has had on all students, several of whom were on the verge of leaving the program prior to their research experience with her. Dr. Deanna Conners was one of these students. After graduating from Canisius College in 1995, she pursued graduate studies and is currently a postdoctoral associate with the University of Georgia’s Institute for Ecology. Dr. Conners sums up this impact as follows: "Now that I am a teacher and a mentor, I recognize that it is fairly easy to take an exceptional student and turn them into a successful researcher who will go on to do great things, but it can be very difficult to take an average student who hasn’t had many educational opportunities in the past and turn them into a successful and productive researcher. Paula’s devotion to all students is truly remarkable in that she takes the time to listen and learn about their unique interests as a teacher and as a friend then, draws out their potential to the fullest by providing them with exciting research opportunities."




Dr. John Gupton received a BS degree in Chemistry from the Virginia Military Institute in 1967, and both MS and PhD degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1969 and 1975, respectively. His professional career started with an industrial position at CIBA-GEIGY Co, where he was a Senior Chemist for three years. In 1978, Dr. Gupton joined the University of Central Florida as a junior faculty and moved through the ranks to become a Professor of Chemistry in 1986. Following 5 years as Department Chair and Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, he moved to the University of Richmond in 1999 where he is currently the Floyd and Elisabeth S. Gottwald Professor of Chemistry. As the Chair of the Chemistry Department at the University of Richmond (2001-2005), he played an important role in the design of the new Gottwald Science Center – a state-of-the-art science building designed to offer outstanding undergraduate research opportunities. His philosophy about undergraduate research reflects his outstanding teacher/scholar character and is summed up in his own words: "It is the research advisors’ role to provide a project which is important and worth doing, but is doable in the context of the institution’s environment." Over the last 29 years, Dr. Gupton has mentored the research work of 103 undergraduates and has published 93 peer-reviewed publications, with approximately 70% of them coauthored with undergraduate students. His high level of scholarship was evident from the start of his academic career, as indicated by a former colleague at the University of Central Florida who said "John quickly demonstrated, even with a heavy teaching load, that one could simultaneously be a stimulating teacher and have a viable, productive research program at a predominantly undergraduate institution."

Dr. Gupton’s area of expertise is synthetic organic chemistry. His "trinity of goals" centers around three relevant themes: (1) developing and understanding new and novel reactions of vinylogous iminium salts; (2) modifying these vinylogous iminium salts with unique substituents and understanding the resulting reactivity; and (3) applying this information to the preparation of biologically important compounds. Dr. Gupton’s passion for undergraduate research is also reflected in the classroom, where he teaches a challenging and sometimes daunting subject, sophomore organic chemistry. As expressed by one of his former research students "It is interesting to note that the Gupton research group consisted not only of chemistry majors but also biology students, a fact I can only attribute to his ability to inspire students." That passion has also inspired many of his students to pursue successful graduate careers in Chemistry or other postgraduate work at major research universities. A former member of his group, now an industrial PhD chemist, wrote that his undergraduate research experience inspired him to choose Chemistry as his professional discipline and said "John gently encouraged me to explore some of the exciting opportunities that lay beyond undergraduate research." Undergraduates under Dr. Gupton’s mentorship have received a number of important awards, including two prestigious NSF predoctoral fellowships and a DOE fellowship.

Over his career, Dr Gupton has been able to secure 28 grants totaling $2.1 million dollars from private and federal funding agencies, including the Dreyfus Foundation, Petroleum Research Fund, Research Corporation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Gupton’s research accomplishments are highlighted by a colleague of his who wrote "…that John has attracted this support given his career positions in predominantly undergraduate institutions is even more impressive." He has also taken numerous leadership roles to support undergraduate research endeavors. He was a CUR councilor from 1985-1993, and served terms as Secretary (1990-1991) and Chair of the Chemistry Division (1991-1993). Also, he was the Chair of the Orlando ACS subsection in 1981.

Dr. Gupton has received many awards and honors including the outstanding graduate student paper award presented at the annual meeting of the Georgia Academy of Science (1969), the University of Central Florida University Wide Annual Award for Excellence in Research (1985) and Teaching (1991), the University of Central Florida College of Arts & Science Annual Award for Excellence in Research (1985) and Teaching (1991), Invited Speaker Gordon Research Conference on Heterocyclic Compounds (1991), Camille and Henry Dreyfus Scholar/Fellow (1991 and 2001), and the University of Richmond Distinguished Educator Award (2005). More recently, the American Chemical Society announced professor John Gupton as the 2008 recipient of the very prestigious national award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution. However, Dr. Gupton’s accomplishments are best summed up by a colleague who wrote: "While his list of accomplishments is indeed remarkable, what is more impressive and inspiring is being able to observe the interactions John has with his research students. I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do this on a routine basis."



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