Celebrating Faculty of Science successes

Annual awards ceremony offers opportunity for reflection on our incredible faculty and staff.

News Staff - 02 May 2016

The annual Celebration of Excellence offers an opportunity for reflection on the incredible depth and talent of faculty and staff in the Faculty of Science, people playing a key role to ensure that we are leaders in teaching and research. This year's award nominees received a new trophy, constructed in the Department of Chemistry Machine Shop. With no beginning and no end, the mobius strip adorning the physical trophy symbolizes a metaphor for the eternal link between teaching and research. Eight faculty and staff members were recognized this year.

Research Award: Darren Grant (physics)

As Canada Research Chair in Astroparticle Physics, Darren is one of the leaders on a key experiment tackling some of today's most interesting problems in physics. He designs new astroparticle physics detectors and develops new data analysis techniques, applying these tools to understanding ghostly neutrinos and searching for ubiquitous dark matter. His role in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory was a key piece that enabled the analysis proving that neutrinos oscillate-a discovery of crucial importance that earned the SNO collaboration not only the Nobel Prize for Art McDonald but also the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Darren's participation in both the SNO and IceCube collaborations have been key components in establishing a world-leading astroparticle physics program here at the University of Alberta.

Research Award: Eric Rivard (chemistry)

Eric's research field of inorganic chemistry drives fundamental discoveries that have led to the development of polymerization catalysts for industrial polyethylene systhesis, petroleum cracking, key components of cell phones and fast computers, medical imaging agents, anti-cancer drugs, and many other revolutionary inventions. His exemplary record of providing outstanding research experience for undergraduate students also deserves particular note. Eric's rapid ascension in his field is garnering him a growing international reputation, capturing the attention of world leaders of main group chemistry, including statements like "Eric Rivard is the brightest and most accomplished young chemist working in the general area of molecular main-group element chemistry."

Graduate Mentoring Award: Mark Lewis (mathematical and statistical sciences, biological sciences)

Mark is a renowned math biologist who is highly sought after by prospective graduate students, and he is ideally positioned to teach his students the value of interdisciplinary awareness. It is clear that he leads by example, albeit an ambitious one to follow. Rather than simply assigning research projects, he works with each student to help them find their own tailor-made topic ideally suited to their background and interests. He encourages his students to pursue interesting research rather than hunting for an easy publication. His students comment that he creates an infectious and engaging lab culture of rigour and creativity and is interested in the holistic development of the individual. He is noted as a constant source of inspiration who provides his students with an example of not only a successful career but also a fulfilling life.

Service Award: Maribel Jiles (Office of the Dean)

Having efficient processes for admitting, monitoring, advising, evaluating, and graduating undergraduate science students is essential to managing workloads and providing students with timely decisions. Maribel has increased the efficiency of our operations, ensuring that we have not only the most up-to-date information needed to best inform and advise students but that we are also able to build credibility amongst our students and staff. With Maribel's guidance, we were the first unit on campus to automate our Academic Standing process. She makes the Faculty of Science on example of how we might affect broader change at the institutional level. Her innovations and ideas go beyond day-to-day expectations, placing the Faculty of Science at the forefront of student services.

Service Award: Bob Luth (earth and atmospheric sciences)

Bob has served two terms as Associate Chair (Undergraduate), a term as Associate Chair (Graduate), a stint as a Provost's fellow, a term as Associate Vice-Provost (Academic Programs and Instruction), and most recently a term of Vice-Provost (Academic Programs and Instruction.) In the words of his colleague and former Acting Chair in EAS Rob Creaser-Bob is an endless source of administrative wisdom, and he has developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the U of A's administrative and governance processes. Bob has been a consistent voice for both quality and change when required and is a tireless advocate for student interests. His commitment to departmental service has been immense, and his record is unmatched.

Excellent Teaching: Sean Graves (mathematical and statistical sciences)

In the words of his Chair Arturo Pianzola, the outstanding comments written by Sean's students demonstrate that he is a powerful communicator and a gifted teacher and knows how to motivate his students to strive for excellence. He has shown continuous dedication to not only university students but also to mathematics students of all ages and abilities including via the International Mathematics Competition as well as teachers through the Math Fair and future educators, most recently developing a new course focused on mathematical reasoning for elementary teachers. Through his role coordinating the Decima Robinson Support Centre for Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, Sean and his team of TAs help upwards of 2000 students a month. Arturo reiterates that any person who spends time with Sean perceives there is an intrinsic beauty within mathematics, a magic of sorts. The fear that many students have for mathematics vanishes.

Innovation in Teaching: Vincent Bouchard (mathematical and statistical sciences)

Vincent truly exemplifies what it means to be a creative innovator in teaching. He was one of the earliest adopters for the Blended Learning approach in the development of the new calculus stream, Calculus for the Physical Sciences. Echoing Arturo Pianzola and Associate Chair (Undergraduate) Gerda de Vries works, Vince emphasizes an interactive, collaborative learning environment, challenging the students to become independent learners and questioning researchers, and placing the responsibility of presenting course content on the students themselves. In his own words, "there is nothing more exciting than figuring out how to solve a problem and yourself and deducing a generally theory from examples." Vincent is the quintessential example of what it means to be an innovator in the classroom.

Kathleen Klawe Prize in Excellence in Teaching of Large Classes: Sadaf Ahmed (computing science)

Sadaf consistently receives excellent USRI evaluations, with her students consistently reiterating that they appreciate her care and attention to their learning needs. One such student evaluation said, "she was absolutely amazing, definitely one of the greatest instructors I've encountered. She treats everyone with respond and is not intimidating at all, very approachable, and is very passionate about computing science. Sadaf has also recently spent time with blended learning and has flipped an aspect of CMPUT 174. Paul Lu, Associate Chair (Undergraduate) notes he is struck by the breadth and depth of Sadaf's commitment to her students, that she has tackled something bold and well beyond the comfort zones of fellow professors, a classroom management and pedagogical challenge that she has tackled with energy and commitment.