Fifteen faculty, staff and students within the Texas A&M University College of Science were recognized for recent outstanding accomplishments by Interim Dean Valen E. Johnson at the college’s annual Faculty-Staff Meeting and Awards Presentation Wednesday (Oct. 3).
The ceremony, which honors college award recipients and serves as a forum for new faculty and staff introductions, was held in the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium inside the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy.
Charles Folden III (chemistry), Lewis Ford (physics and astronomy), Kathryn Ryan (biology) and Natarajan Sivakumar (mathematics) were honored as recipients of The Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Awards in Teaching for 2018 for their commitment to education and contributions to their respective disciplines. Each honoree was awarded a framed certificate commemorating the occasion and a $2,000 check from The Association of Former Students.
J. Maurice Rojas (mathematics) and Leo Alcorn (physics and astronomy) were honored with the college’s Undergraduate Research Mentoring Awards. Established in 2014, the award recognizes faculty members and graduate students, respectively, for their dedication, enthusiasm, accomplishments, and contributions in mentoring undergraduate researchers. Each received a $500 check and a plaque of appreciation.
Derya Akleman (statistics), Jennifer Bradford (biology), Ananya Dasgupta (biology), Sarah Cantu (physics and astronomy), Taylor Hutchison (physics and astronomy) and Katelyn Stringer (physics and astronomy) were honored with the college’s Leadership in Equity and Diversity (LEAD) Awards. Established in 2016, the award recognizes faculty members, staff members and postdoctoral research associates/students who have displayed commitment to enhancing the college’s environment of mutual respect and diversity. Each received a $500 check and a plaque of appreciation.
Staff members Shana Hutchins (Dean’s Office), George Kim (Cyclotron Institute) and Steve Shoemake (statistics) were presented with 2018 Outstanding Staff Achievement Awards. Established in 1995, the award commends the dedication, enthusiasm and accomplishments of staff throughout the college. Each received a plaque and a $500 check, also funded by The Association.
Hutchins, communications manager for the College of Science, has more than 27 years of service to Texas A&M University, including 15-plus with the college. She originally was recruited from another Texas A&M academic college to fill one of Texas A&M Science’s inaugural two communications positions created in 2000 by Joe Newton as then-interim dean of science. Hutchins serves as the primary writer and spokesperson for one of Texas A&M’s core colleges and the fundamental science backbone of the campus. In addition to oversight for all college-level marketing and communications efforts, her direct responsibilities include media relations, all social media, website maintenance, and email marketing/news distribution. During the past 15 years, Hutchins has seen and done it all, from types of subject matter and mediums, to skillsets performed in execution of the day-to-day required of a communications team. Her nominator describes her as “one of the most dedicated, hard-working individuals I know,” adding that her “dedication to her craft as a marketer is matched only by her steadfast devotion to the College of Science’s mission to be the standard-bearer of research and education for Texas A&M. She wholeheartedly believes that the students, faculty and staff are among the very best at this university, and in every decision she makes, her first priority above all else is to ensure that they receive the recognition she feels they deserve.” As her longtime boss, Dr. Newton echoed that sentiment, stating “Shana is not a scientist, but she has the ability to work with people in all walks of life, both learning their subject matter well enough to convey that knowledge at levels ranging from very lay person-oriented, to in some cases at a highly sophisticated scientific level.” Another nomination supporter, who describes Hutchins’ press releases as “the perfect combination of science and human interest,” summed things up as follows: “My litmus test for this award has always been — how critical is this person to the success of the college and university? The answer is that Shana is essential. It is hard for me to imagine anyone as talented and dedicated in this position who would impact the college as much as Shana.”
Dr. Kim, an accelerator physicist in the Cyclotron Institute with 30 years of service to the college, is described by his nominator as a lynchpin in the overall operation of the Cyclotron Institute and, by extension, the core of Texas A&M University’s accelerator-based nuclear science and technology program. He originally came to Texas A&M in 1998 as a postdoctoral student working with Texas A&M physicist Robert Tribble, but once his extraordinary talents were realized, the rest, as they say, became history. As the institute’s senior accelerator physicist, Kim handles most of the beam tuning for its workhorse K500 superconducting cyclotron as well as its original K150 cyclotron that was recently recommissioned, thanks in large part to Kim’s technical expertise and hard work. Semi-non-technically speaking, his primary job is to calculate the optimum optics at which beams should be delivered to ensure their highest possible quality and, in turn, the most accurate experiment result — critical factors when you’re testing anything from the next big defense satellite to a key piece of technology tied to global communications. “We would not consider building a new beamline or putting a piece of equipment in an existing beamline until George designs the optics,” his nominator said. In 2017 alone, more than 10,000 hours of beam were delivered to experimenters — a significantly higher amount than similar cyclotrons, such as the one at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory upon which Texas A&M’s Cyclotron Institute was patterned. Because the cyclotron operates 24/7, so too does Kim, who is often called upon to work overtime, through the night and on weekends to support the experimental program. When the beam goes away for any number of reasons, he will come in, regardless of the day of the week or time of night, and work long hours to get it back. Professors, graduate students, and external collaborators alike laud Kim for his tireless work ethic, his dedication to team, and his unique ability to find a way to deliver a beam at any energy level or frequency, including some previously thought impossible. As evidence of the high esteem in which he is held, Kim previously was recognized with a certificate of appreciation for career contributions to one of the nation’s pioneers of nuclear science, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Shoemake, a client technologies analyst II in the Department of Statistics, also has more than 15 years of service to the college — arguably double, in light of the fact that he is responsible for providing desktop and server-level computing support for Texas A&M Statistics faculty and staff as well as those within the Dean’s Office. Described by his nominator as “the best IT staff person who has ever worked for me,” Shoemake brings an exceptional level of information technology competence and technical skill in tandem with great interpersonal skills and a mindset of outstanding service to others. “Steve is a very warm, thoughtful and truly pleasant person in a demanding work environment,” one nomination supporter writes. “His exceptional positive attitude helps to create an ideal work environment within the Department of Statistics.” From day one in the job, Shoemake has been a champion of updating infrastructure and implementing virtualization technologies to improve efficiency and save money for both his department and college. The many innovations he has introduced through the years range from designing a new Microsoft-standard backup and disaster recovery program, to implementing a deployment server to provide better control and image-creation capabilities for critical desktop operating systems in the three classroom laboratories that underpin one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious online distance programs in statistics. More recently, Shoemake configured software that enables IT staff to monitor and fix issues before they become serious problems and helps gauge server and individual system health. For Shoemake, it’s no coincidence that both the job and the job title start with “client” — a word his nominator says Shoemake defines far more broadly than his department or even his college and university. He is known and revered for his willingness to serve, helping those in and outside the college and taking on additional duties and clients as the college has expanded by leveraging resources and seeking out training in order to master additional skills. “The depth of his technical expertise, the commitment to his job, and the outstanding customer service he delivers to all his clients demonstrates clearly how much more service he renders than his original job title requires,” one colleague said. “I believe he serves as an example of excellence to all staff across the College of Science.”
In addition to Interim Dean Johnson and Texas A&M Science associate deans recognizing all award winners, Johnson delivered a State of the College Address, followed by the heads of each of the college’s five departments (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, and Statistics) introducing their respective new faculty. A reception honoring all award winners and new faculty and staff held in the foyer of the Mitchell Institute concluded the afternoon’s festivities.
See additional photographs from the event within the Texas A&M Science Flickr archive.
Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or [email protected]