Six members of the College of Science are among the 24 Texas A&M University faculty and staff set to be honored by the university and The Association of Former Students with 2017 Distinguished Achievement Awards.
The awards and their respective recipients from Texas A&M Science (which ties the previous record of six honorees set in both 2012 and 2005) are as follows:
Teaching (10 given university-wide)
Research (6 given university-wide)
- Dr. Paul E. Hardin, biology
- Dr. Casey J. Papovich, physics and astronomy
- Dr. Hongcai Joe Zhou ’00, chemistry
Graduate Mentoring (2 given university-wide)
- Dr. Yalchin Efendiev, mathematics
The university-level Distinguished Achievement Awards were first presented in 1955 and have since been awarded to more than 1,000 professionals who have exhibited the highest standards of excellence at Texas A&M.
The 2017 Distinguished Achievement Awards will be formally presented at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, April 24, during a ceremony in Rudder Theater. In recognition of their achievements, each recipient will receive a cash gift, an engraved watch and a commemorative plaque.
For more information about the awards, contact Kelli Hutka ’97 at The Association of Former Students at (979) 845-7514.
The Association of Former Students was established in 1879 and is the official alumni organization of Texas A&M University. The Association connects hundreds of thousands of members of the worldwide Aggie Network with one another and the university, and provides more than $11.7 million a year in impact toward university scholarships, awards, activities and enrichment for students, faculty, staff and former students.
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Brief biographies on each recipient as included in the official event program appear below:
James D. Batteas
James Batteas, professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering, joined the Texas A&M faculty in 2005. He earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. An author of nearly 100 publications, Batteas is an expert in materials chemistry of surfaces and interfaces, with research covering a broad range of fundamental surface and interfacial problems — including designing materials to harness energy and to control energy losses by reducing friction in machined interfaces — through studies of friction at the atomic scale. He teaches courses in physical and analytical chemistry at the undergraduate and graduate levels and has been involved in a number of educational innovations, including the complete revision of the physical chemistry lab curriculum. Toward this effort, he developed a new laboratory module on scanning tunneling microscopy designed to engage students in cutting-edge research techniques while introducing and reinforcing topics in physical chemistry, quantum mechanics, solid state chemistry, and the electronic structure of molecules and materials. In his 11 years at Texas A&M, he has trained and graduated 11 Ph.D. students and three master’s students while sponsoring 22 undergraduates on research projects in his lab. Most recently, he developed a week-long course on nanotechnology, offered as part of the Texas A&M Youth Adventure Program to engage 7th-10th grade students in STEM. A former student wrote that “his demonstrated teaching excellence and love for chemistry has been the catalyst for many students . . . to explore the exciting world of nanoscience.” A current student commented, “This being an 8 a.m. class, I thought it’d be harder to stay awake and absorb information. Thanks to Dr. Batteas and his enthusiasm, I never found myself falling asleep, and I was easily able to stay focused in class.”
Alan Dabney, associate professor of statistics, earned a Ph.D. in biostatistics from the University of Washington. Since joining the College of Science faculty in 2006, Dabney has dedicated himself to undergraduate teaching. His particular strengths are in transforming complicated material into easily accessible lessons and in developing inventive curriculum that can be used by other faculty. His innovative approach to teaching is exemplified by his creation of an educational video that features him on green screen with special effects as he presents statistics lectures to undergraduates. The video was so successful that Freeman Publishing secured his services for the production of a series of 35 similar video lectures on introductory statistics. Dabney has co-authored The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics, which presents introductory statistics material in a graphic novel format, effectively using unique visual techniques creatively to teach key concepts of statistics. In addition, he has published a computer simulation in the journal Teaching Statistics that can be used in the classroom to teach introductory statistics. He also was instrumental in the development of the new bachelor of science degree in statistics and, along with a faculty colleague, serves as co-advisor for all students in the new major. Dabney is the recipient of The Association of Former Students College-Level Award for Teaching, the Texas A&M Montague-Center for Teaching Excellence Scholar Award and the Eppright Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence. A former undergraduate student wrote this about working on statistics research with Dabney: “This was a formative experience for me, which revealed to me the excitement and creativity that exists in current statistics research — a perspective that is all too difficult to see when taking a typical introductory statistics class.”
Paul E. Hardin
Paul Hardin, University Distinguished Professor and holder of the John W. Lyons Jr. ’59 Chair in Biology, earned his Ph.D. in genetics from Indiana University. Following postdoctoral training at Brandeis University, he was a faculty member of the biology faculty at Texas A&M University as an assistant professor from 1991 to 1995. He then moved to the University of Houston as an associate professor with tenure and was later promoted to professor. He returned the faculty of the Texas A&M College of Science in 2006. Hardin’s research helped to establish the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a premier model organism for studying the circadian clock. He discovered the first circadian feedback loop in gene expression in the brain of the fruit fly, which established the mechanistic framework for circadian timekeeping in circadian transcription, interlocking feedback loops within the timekeeping mechanism, and the presence of circadian clocks in peripheral tissues. Each discovery has profoundly affected science’s understanding of the role of the human clock in health and disease. In recognition of his contributions to the field of rhythms research, Hardin received the Aschoff-Honma Prize from the Honma Life Science Foundation in Japan. He served as president of the world’s premier society for the research of circadian biology, the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms. He also belongs to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Genetics Society of American, and the Society for Neuroscience. He has authored more than 96 publications and been cited more than 6,500 times. “In many ways, the history of Paul’s work is the history of where the field has gone,” a colleague from Dartmouth University wrote. “The successful prosecution of this effort has propelled Hardin into the top ranks of chronobiologists in the world today.”
Casey J. Papovich
Casey Papovich, professor and co-holder of the Marsha L. ’69 and Ralph F. Schilling ’68 Chair in Experimental Physics, received his bachelor’s in physics from The College of William and Mary and his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. Before joining the faculty of the College of Science in 2008, he was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, led scientific results from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, and was awarded NASA’s Spitzer Prize Postdoctoral Fellowship. He is a recognized expert in extragalactic astrophysics with a focus on galaxy formation and cosmology. Papovich was one of the pioneers using deep imaging from the Hubble Space Telescope to measure the growth of stars in galaxies over the history of the universe. He is a frequent user of the world’s largest ground-based telescopes, and he has led large programs with NASA’s space-based observatories. Papovich’s recent work has important implications for many aspects of subsequent galaxy evolution — one of the major science objectives of the next generation of space telescopes. His work is helping to define the observing plans for these $5 billion-level projects — an indicator of his global impact. As of January 2016, he has authored or co-authored more than 190 highly cited peer-reviewed publications. For three consecutive years, he has been listed among Thomson Reuter’s Highly Cited Researchers, a distinction reserved for the top one percent of cited researchers.
Hongcai Joe Zhou ’00
Hongcai Joe Zhou, professor of chemistry, materials science and engineering, and holder of the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry, earned his doctorate from Texas A&M University under the direction of F.A. Cotton. After completing a postdoctoral position at Harvard University, he served on the faculty of Miami University. In 2008, Zhou returned to Texas A&M and in the short time since has developed a truly exceptional, internationally recognized research program. He ranks among the top three U.S. and top five worldwide researchers in the field of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). Known as a pioneer in ligand design and synthesis, he also is an expert in kinetic control of MOF preparation. Zhou has received a Research Innovation Award from Research Corporation, an NSF CAREER Award, a Cottrell Scholar Award from Research Corporation, the Miami University Distinguished Scholar-Young Investigator Award, the Faculty Excellence Award from Air Products, and the U.S. Department of Energy Hydrogen Program Special Recognition Award. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Zhou has published 216 peer-reviewed papers and was recognized as a Highly Cited Researcher by Thomson Reuters in 2014, 2015 and 2016 — the only chemist in The Texas A&M University System who has achieved this distinction. As one supporter states, “Professor Zhou has demonstrated an outstanding ability to execute world-class research and attract major research funding. There is no question but that his contributions have had a major impact on the field of materials chemistry.”
Yalchin Efendiev, professor of mathematics and co-holder of the Richard E. Ewing ExxonMobil Chair in Computational Science, joined the faculty of the College of Science in 2001. He earned his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from California Institute of Technology and previously served as a research associate for Chevron Petroleum Technology Company and as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Minnesota. He is the director of the Institute for Scientific Computation at Texas A&M and the Numerical Porous Media SRI Center at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Efendiev played a leading role in the development and analysis of the multiscale finite-element method to help solve multiscale problems, which involve physical processes acting on different time and length scales. As such, they encompass many important applications but pose extremely difficult computational challenges. Along with the development of the multiscale finite-element method, he has made pioneering contributions to the application of this technique to porous-media fluid flow, including groundwater remediation and oil-recovery modeling. Efendiev’s work has been recognized nationally and internationally through awards and honors, including being named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society and receiving the Fraunhofer Bessel Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. As a graduate advisor, Efendiev has had 22 Ph.D. students who have graduated under his supervision since 2004, and he currently is a chair for six more. His nominators wrote, “. . . he is a great mentor to many junior people — Ph.D. students, postdoctoral associates and young researchers within his sphere of influence. He has always encouraged them to strive for more accomplishments and never hesitated to give assistance, suggestions and encouragement.”
Contact: Shana Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or [email protected]