Fifteen faculty, staff and students within the Texas A&M University College of Science were recognized for recent outstanding accomplishments by Dean Valen E. Johnson at the college’s annual Faculty & Staff Meeting and Awards Presentation Tuesday (Oct. 27).
The ceremony, which honors college award recipients and serves as a forum for new faculty and staff introductions, was held virtually due to the ongoing pandemic from the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium inside the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy.
Angela Allen (mathematics), Joanna Goodey-Pellois (chemistry), Rupak Mahapatra (physics and astronomy) and Nicholas Suntzeff (physics and astronomy) were honored as recipients of The Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Awards in Teaching for 2020 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.
John Gladysz (chemistry) and Xuemei Yang (chemistry) 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.
Asha Rao (biology), Laura Matusevich (mathematics), Alyssa Brigham (statistics) and Nida Obatake (mathematics) 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 Lieu Jean (biology), Sherry Melton (chemistry) and Sara Thigpin (Dean’s Office) were presented with 2020 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.
Jean, a senior administrative coordinator I in the Department of Biology, has more than 20 years of service to the College of Science and 21-plus to Texas A&M. As personal assistant to both the Department Head and Associate Department Heads, she is responsible for most day-to-day administrative operations within Texas A&M Biology, including coordinating events and faculty searches, scheduling classes, collecting reports, and handling all new hire paperwork and award packets. Described as the glue that holds the department together and revered as a tireless advocate for its faculty, staff, and students, Jean is well-known and admired for her vast experience and insight, as well as her penchant for developing new ideas and initiatives to improve the overall working environment and collaboration among her coworkers. Her proven track record of excellence, dedication, and cheerful professionalism has resulted in many significant improvements during the past two decades, including database-driven systems for room reservations and enrollment management, all-digital faculty files, and various self-taught communications functions, such as web and print design, photography, and event-related video tributes. In addition to creating a semi-annual departmental newsletter, she helped inspire an annual tailgate event, creating the menu, doing all shopping and ordering, planning the music and games, and spending countless hours of her own time taking care of all related details to ensure a flawless occasion. “It is in the details where we see her care, appreciation, and commitment, which, in turn, inspires those around her to also show the same kind of dedication and care,” say her nominators. Regardless of task and whether or not it’s in her job description(s), Jean “is always willing to lend a helping hand to help those around her and to make the department feel more like a family than an office.”
Melton, an administrative coordinator II in the Department of Chemistry, has more than 13 years of service to the College of Science and Texas A&M. Since joining Texas A&M Chemistry in August 2007, she has managed all administrative operations and business tasks for Texas A&M chemist Emile Schweikert and his Center for Chemical Characterization and Analysis. Schweikert cites Melton not only as a model for her peers, but also as the top staff assistant he has worked with during his 50-year international career. For the past four years, Melton also has provided administrative support for Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Karen Wooley, from her 30-member research group to the Laboratory for Synthetic-Biologic Interactions she also directs. “Sherry has evolved into a true partner in the operational of my large and diverse teaching, mentoring, research, and service enterprise,” Wooley writes. “She is always eager to help, on top of routinely completing the tasks of essentially two full-time assignments.” Wooley describes Sherry as “absolutely critical” during the past year in the execution of two large projects vital to Texas A&M Chemistry, the College of Science and the broader national and international excellence and reputation of Texas A&M University — the biennial international scientific conference “Polymers for Advanced Technologies 2019” and Chemistry’s seven-year Academic Program Review. In the latter case, Melton stepped in to fill the combined gap left by staff departures and eliminated positions, dedicating significant time, knowledge and experience to the meticulously detailed tasks at hand. In December, she also assisted an ailing Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Marcetta Darensbourg in preparing an extensive, time-sensitive document. “Mrs. Melton suddenly showed up in my office and offered to help, demonstrating a level of excellence, knowledge, and wonderful positivity that was the medicine to make me well,” Darensbourg recalled. “She goes out of her way to be helpful, and her proficiency is far beyond her job description — she is indeed outstanding.”
Thigpin, manager for student success in the College of Science, has more than 10 years of service to the college and nearly 16 to Texas A&M. Beyond providing oversight for the college’s Undergraduate Studies team, her primary responsibility is helping Aggie science majors navigate their college experience, from selecting a major to choosing and pursuing a related career and all points in between. Thigpin’s many duties include general advising for current and prospective students, monitoring their academic progress, overseeing scholarship programs and related budgets, matching students with internal and external mentors, gathering and analyzing learning model data and outcomes, and working with departmental, university and external liaisons throughout all steps of the broader educational process. As evidence of the high esteem in which she is held across the Texas A&M campus by both colleagues and students alike, Thigpin serves on or chairs several college or university committees, including the Advising Administrators Group, while also advising a number of student-related committees, including the Dean’s Student Advisory Panel. In addition to spearheading the college’s Science Leadership Scholars Program since its inception in 2016, Thigpin has played a critical role in establishing the university-wide First Year Experience for all first time in college students. She was previously recognized with a 2016-17 President’s Meritorious Service Award, Texas A&M’s highest honor for staff. As her nominator observes, “It is certainly not easy to dedicate so much energy year after year toward student success, and I have seen some folks become jaded after a while. Not so in Sara’s case. She always shows the highest level of respect for our students and compassion for their often difficult circumstances. This is just one example of Sara’s integrity, which is demonstrated constantly through her actions.”
Victor Castillo (Dean’s Office) and Anuvab Das (chemistry) were honored with the college’s inaugural Dr. Judith Edmiston Mentoring Awards. Established in 2020 by 1984 Texas A&M biology graduate Dr. Mark D. Moore in tribute to Edmiston, a longtime professor at the University of Texas at Austin and former faculty member in the Texas A&M Department of Biology, the award recognizes faculty or staff members, graduate students, and junior or senior undergraduate students for their dedication, enthusiasm, accomplishments and contributions in mentoring undergraduate students. Each received a $500 check and a plaque of appreciation.
In addition to Dean Johnson and Texas A&M Science associate deans recognizing all award winners, Johnson delivered a State of the College Address, preceded by the heads of each of the college’s five departments (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, and Statistics) introducing their respective new faculty.
See additional high-resolution photographs from the event within the Texas A&M Science Flickr archive.
Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or [email protected]