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Faculty and Staff Awards

2020-21 College of Science awards: Celebrating excellence in research and administration

By Srila Nayak

The College of Science gathered virtually on April 22 to recognize academic, administrative and teaching excellence at the College's 2020-21 Combined Awards Ceremony – a merge of our annual Faculty and Staff Awards and Teaching and Advising Awards events.

The first half of the ceremony celebrated excellence in research and administration, and the second half the ceremony focused on outstanding teaching, advising and mentoring.

In the Faculty and Staff Awards portion of the evening, the College recognized outstanding scholarship and research across the fields of basic and applied science that have led to important breakthroughs and new knowledge in the mathematical, physical and life sciences. The impact of these research activities resonates well beyond Oregon State University and has earned global acclamation and the recognition of peers in the wider scientific community.

Dean Roy Haggerty delivered welcome remarks to the audience of faculty, staff, family and friends of the College of Science. He took the opportunity to acknowledge the immense contributions of Professor Virginia Weis and Professor Jerri Bartholomew, former heads of the departments of integrative biology and microbiology. He also congratulated mathematics Professor Malgorzata Peszynska, 2020 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Rebecca Vega Thurber, the new Emile Pernot Distinguished Professor of microbiology.

The excellence in research and administration awards were announced and presented by Vrushali Bokil, associate dean of graduate studies and research in the College of Science. These were followed by the excellence in teaching and advising awards at the end of the ceremony.

Hearty congratulations to these award-winning faculty and staff who were recognized for their outstanding achievements.

Milton Harris Award in Basic Research

Chong Fang

Chemistry Professor Chong Fang

Chong Fang, associate professor of chemistry, received the Milton Harris Award in Basic Research for his exceptional contributions in the field of experimental physical chemistry. The Fang group has significantly improved the capability of femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS), a state-of-the-art ultrafast spectroscopic technique that provides structural information during chemical reactions with high temporal and spectral resolution.

Fang’s research provides a map to better interpret and understand the experimental and theoretical capabilities of FSRS, yielding insights into a wide range of chemical reactions. Some of his significant contributions include utilizing FSRS technology to accomplish the first study of the chemical reaction dynamics of aqueous aluminum nanoclusters and a closer look at electronic dynamics to advance the next-generation fluorescent-protein-based biosensors.

Since 2012, Fang has published nearly 60 peer-reviewed journal articles based on his work at OSU, including several in high impact journals such as PNAS, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Annual Review of Physical Chemistry and others. He has received five consecutive grants from four NSF divisions, including an NSF CAREER Award.

“His publication record is astounding, and his ability to inspire students, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, is also remarkable,” said Wei Kong, professor of chemistry.

Fang has received the Inaugural Robin Hochstrasser Global Young Investigator Award, the OSU Promising Scholar award and the OSU Impact Award for Outstanding Scholarship among other honors.

F.A. Gilfillan Award

Michael Freitag in the lab

Biochemistry Professor Michael Freitag

Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics Michael Freitag was honored with the F.A. Gilfillan Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Science. The Gilfillan award honors a faculty member in the College whose scholarship and scientific accomplishments have extended over a substantial period of time.

A renowned molecular geneticist with a sustained and broad impact, Freitag was elected an AAAS Fellow in 2018 for contributions to fungal genetics and genomics, “particularly in the dissection of fungal centromeres and chromatin function, including the invention or use of cell biological tools to interrogate cell polarization.” Additionally, he been named a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and has received the 2014 Beadle and Tatum Award, given by the worldwide fungal research community to just one scientist every other year “in recognition of outstanding and original research using Neurospora as a model organism.”

His ground-breaking discoveries on fungal epigenetics and chromosome structure research appeared in Nature, Science, PNAS and other prestigious journals.

“In his 14+ years at OSU (since 2006), his impact has grown tremendously through building a fantastically productive, internationally-recognized research program, through developing and collaboratively sharing new technologies, and through professional service and leadership,” said Andrew Karplus, Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry.

Dean's Early Career Achievement Award

Felipe Barreto

Biologist Felipe Barreto

Assistant Professor of integrative biology Felipe Barreto received the Dean’s Early Career Achievement Award. Barreto is an evolutionary geneticist who combines cutting edge high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies, genomic and bioinformatic analysis, and organism-scale experiments to provide novel insights into fundamental evolutionary questions and hypotheses.

He has made several important contributions to enhance understanding of reproductive isolation and hybrid breakdown, which are key questions in biology, as well as to the genomic basis of adaptation to thermal stress, which is critical for understanding the effects of global climate change.

Barreto has been the lead investigator on some of the most important work regarding the coevolution and co-adaptation of mitochondrial and nuclear genes, and his research has appeared in top journals, including PNAS and Nature Ecology & Evolution.

“Dr. Barreto’s publications have made many strong impacts in the field of evolution and more broadly in the biological sciences. He is also a gifted teacher and mentor who genuinely values the importance of educating and training future generations of scientists and scientific professionals,” said Dee Denver, professor and head of integrative biology.

Inclusive Excellence Award

Heather Masson Forsythe in front of a red background

Biochemistry graduate student Heather Masson-Forsythe

Heather Masson-Forsythe, a graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, received the Inclusive Excellence Award for her vital contributions to many equity and justice and outreach programs that have brought recognition not only to the biochemistry department but also to Oregon State.

She is the co-host of the popular Corvallis live radio show and podcast “Inspiration and Dissemination” and conducted interviews of graduate students across OSU to highlight their unique paths to graduate school. Masson-Forsythe is the founding member of the Equity, Justice and Inclusion Group in biochemistry and has worked toward making the department more welcoming and inclusive, raising awareness about mental health and other issues of inequality, brainstorming ideas for cultural change, and bringing these ideas to those with power to implement.

She is very active on TikTok, creating videos that have been watched tens of thousands to a million times where she answers questions from followers who are interested in becoming scientists or becoming more scientifically literate.

“Heather has been the mover and shaker for many equity and justice and outreach programs,” said Elisar Barbar, professor and head of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

College of Science Distinguished Service Award

Megan Wilson

Integrative biology graduate student Megan Wilson

Megan Wilson, graduate student in the Department of Integrative Biology, received the College of Science Distinguished Service Award. In her time at OSU, Wilson has supported and mentored six undergraduate students by incorporating undergraduate volunteers into her Ph.D. research and as a mentor in the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates and SURE Science programs.

Additionally, Wilson has worked as an OSU teaching assistant, putting in extra effort to make the Principles of Biology courses accessible for blind students.

Wilson’s service has also advanced equity, justice and inclusion in the department. She chaired the Equity, Justice, and Inclusion (EJI) Committee (part of the Integrative Biology Graduate Student Association) from 2018-19. In her tenure as chair, the committee was effective in growing collegiality among graduate students and even motivated the creation of a faculty EJI committee.

“Megan has provided outstanding service contributions to improve the quality of educational and research experiences within the COS for undergraduates, increase the amount of EJI work done within IB, and build the reputation of the College within the Corvallis and Newport communities,” said Erin Abernathy, postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Integrative Biology.

Champion of Science Award

Rusty Root

Rusty Root, Chemstores

The Champion of Science Award went to Rusty Root and Sierra Hansen, manager and store keeper at Chemstores ,respectively, in the Department of Chemistry. Root and Hansen, who have continued to work in their Gilbert Hall offices every day of the pandemic, have managed all incoming package deliveries and mailings for the College of Science.

Furthermore, they were early leaders in the pandemic, making more than 3000 gallons of hand and surface sanitizer for the Corvallis campus, Athletics, Housing and Dining, Hatfield and many extension offices.

Sierra Hansen

Sierra Hansen, Chemstores

To date, they have supplied dozens of customers with hundreds of sanitizer requests across campus, often at large scale. They have also led the effort to install Covid-safe protocols, built 21 partitions (sneeze-guards) for seven departments and personal protective equipment for Chemistry and Science.

“Rusty and Sierra have my sincerest thanks for cheerfully serving as indispensable frontline workers who have helped keep our operations going and protected many lives, said Dean Haggerty.

Disease Mechanism and Prevention Fund

Marilyn Mackiewicz standing in front of a grey backdrop.

Marilyn Mackiewicz, assistant professor of chemistry

The Disease Mechanism and Prevention Fund (DPF) awards went to Marilyn Mackiewicz, assistant professor of chemistry, and Adrian Gombart, professor of biochemistry and biophysics. The donor-supported award supports research into the mechanism, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease by faculty within the College of Science.

Adrian Gombart

Biochemistry Professor Adrian Gombart

Mackiewicz received a DPF award to carry forward her project on improving contrast agents in imaging techniques to screen and diagnose breast cancer. Gombart will utilize his DPF award to investigate how anti-infection agents can influence Alzheimer’s disease amid a growing interest in the possible role of infections in causing Alzheimer’s.

Science Research and Innovation Seed Awards (SciRIS)

The SciRIS-ii program provides funds to establish partnerships, accelerate project development, generate data and manuscripts, and foster proposal submissions. Three SciRIS-ii awards went to science faculty Chong Fang, Kyriakos Stylianou and Oksana Ostroverkhova.

Chemistry Associate Professor Fang’s project will apply cutting-edge spectroscopic techniques to reveal the working mechanisms of the jellyfish Phialidium sp. (phiYFP), which has a fluorescent yellow protein with the potential to be developed into biosensors.

Kyriakos Stylianou

Assistant Professor of chemistry Kyriakos Stylianou

Assistant Professor of chemistry Stylianou's project aims to develop novel metal-organic frameworks that can be used to filter out water contaminants such as fluoride, chloride, arsenic, chromate anions and heavy metal ions.

Oksana Ostroverkhova

Professor of physics Oksana Ostroverkhova

Physics Professor Ostroverkhova's project will advance research on fundamental physics properties in newly discovered 2D materials to guide technological advances and better design of spintronic and valleytronic devices.

Read more about the SciRIS-ii and DPF awardees and their projects.

Gladys Valley Award for Exemplary Administrative Support

Tresa Bowlin

Tresa Bowlin, integrative biology

Tresa Bowlin, main office staff in the Department of Integrative Biology, received the Gladys Valley Award for outstanding job performance and dedication.

Bowlin has demonstrated an exceptional job performance during her tenure in the department, and especially in the previous year as she has provided tremendous selfless support to the integrative biology (IB) community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her superb organizational skills were essential to IB’s successful research resumption plan during the pandemic by supporting faculty, scientists and students in the department who were conducting crucial long-term field research that required travel.

“Tresa brings a remarkable blend of kindness, efficiency and a willingness to bravely dive into new challenges that has been essential to helping IB successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dee Denver, professor and head of the Department of Integrative Biology.

Please read about the winners of the 2020-21 graduate and undergraduate teaching and advising awards.