2010 Distinguished Professors Share Commitment to Undergraduate ResearchOGDEN, Utah – An ornithologist, neuroscientist and chemist at Weber State University, all strong practitioners of undergraduate research, have been named the 2010 Presidential Distinguished Professors.
Zoology professor John Cavitt, psychology professor Lauren Fowler and chemistry professor Edward Walker were selected by WSU’s Board of Trustees. They will formally receive their awards at the university’s spring commencement exercises April 23.
Each professor will receive a cash prize of $16,000, payable over four years, which may be used to further professional academic goals. Honorees also will retain the Presidential Distinguished Professor title throughout their tenure with the university. Upon retirement from WSU, “Emeritus” will be added to the end of the title. The professors also will be featured on the Honor Wall for Presidential Distinguished
Professors located on the second floor of the Stewart Library in the west atrium.
Funding for the annual recognition program was made possible by a generous gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. The program was established in 2006 as a way to recognize outstanding WSU faculty members who demonstrate the highest quality of teaching, scholarship, research and community service.
“It is a pleasure to recognize such an exceptional group of distinguished professors,” said President Ann Millner. “While they represent different disciplines on campus, they share a strong commitment to teaching, scholarship and excellence. All three recipients have made lasting contributions to the university.”
“This year’s honorees demonstrate their commitment to undergraduate research and engaging students in learning opportunities beyond the classroom,” said Provost Michael Vaughan. “We are very grateful to this donor for recognizing the important role faculty play in the lives of our students and the vitality of the campus.”
Faculty members are nominated by current or past WSU colleagues, administrators and/or students. Nominees are screened and evaluated by a selected group of senior faculty and academic administrators appointed by the provost. The finalists are recommended by the president of the university to the Board of Trustees for approval.
It’s not pejorative when someone says zoology professor John Cavitt’s research is “for the birds.” It’s simply a testament to Cavitt’s work as one of the world’s leading shorebird biologists and a noted expert on the Snowy Plover in particular.
Since joining the faculty in 1999, Cavitt has published a dozen articles on his research in peer-reviewed journals. Along the way he has engaged nearly 100 students in research opportunities, which seems appropriate given he has served as the Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at WSU since 2004.
As director, Cavitt has promoted student research opportunities across campus and served on national committees and organizations such as the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR). He submitted a successful bid to host the 2010 CUR National Conference at WSU, garnering more national attention to WSU’s commitment to undergraduate research.
Cavitt and his student researchers have received more than $850,000 in grant money from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Utah Division of Water Quality, as well as several private sources.
In 2004, Cavitt and his colleague Ron Meyers were awarded a National Science Foundation grant to host minority college students from across the nation, and lead them in a study of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.
Working with several WSU professors from a variety of disciplines, Cavitt has helped establish an exchange program with Universidad Autónoma de Nayarit in Mexico.
Closer to home, he has served as president of the Utah Ornithological Society, and currently serves on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Regional Advisory Council, the board of directors for the Friends of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and councilor for the Association of Field Ornithologists.
Students affectionately refer to psychology professor Lauren Fowler as “Dr. Brain,” because of how excited she gets about studying the mind.
Since joining the faculty as a neuroscientist in 1999, Fowler has taught more than 11 different courses in the psychology department and mentored hundreds of students.
Fowler is a pioneer of service-learning and community-based research at WSU. Students in her classes are regularly assigned to community projects, and Fowler often works side-by-side with them in the field. Her classes have engaged in service projects with the Utah Highway Patrol, Davis and Weber counties’ sheriff departments and an award-winning collaboration with the Ogden City Tip-A-Cop program.
Fowler’s research agenda has focused on circadian rhythms and the effects of shift work and fatigue on individual’s job performance. For the past five years, Fowler has worked closely with Hill Air Force Base on a community-based research project studying predictors of fatigue and effective fatigue countermeasures in an applied setting.
From 2003-2005 she served as a senior consortium research fellow for the Department of Defense, and in 2009 began consulting with the Air Force Air National Guard Safety Office.
Fowler has twice received National Science Foundation grants to fund undergraduate research opportunities for students from across the country. These students spent 10 weeks of their summer conducting research and learning how to disseminate their findings at professional conferences.
Fowler has served as a CUR councilor since 2004, and in 2007 she was elected to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research Board of Governors. This past year,
Fowler became the first WSU faculty member to receive a Utah Science Technology and Research award.
As a student at WSU, chemistry professor Edward Walker enjoyed undergraduate research. Upon his return as a member of the faculty, he became the mentor, engaging his students in research projects.
During his 29 years at WSU, Walker has continually demonstrated his dedication and love of teaching. His course curriculum brings applied chemistry into his classroom, showing students “real-world” applications of chemistry.
Shortly after arriving at WSU, Walker played a major role in designing and implementing the chemical technician associate degree program. Through the years, Walker’s natural curiosity has lent itself to his active research agenda, which includes plenty of hands-on opportunities for students outside the classroom.
His research into natural products and their potential as new drug products has been extensive, leading to a landmark discovery of the active ingredients in cranberries that help prevent bladder infections.
Walker is now recognized as a world leader in bacterial anti-adherence mechanisms and in the compositional analysis of fruit juices.
Walker has more than 80 peer-reviewed published articles and issued patents.
In the early 1990s, Walker worked to establish the “Center of Excellence for Chemical Technology.” Nearly two decades later, the Center for Chemical Technology on the WSU Ogden campus remains a vibrant resource for numerous Utah companies.
Walker and his students continue to work with local business and industry to help them develop analytical methods or solve manufacturing problems.
He is a recipient of the Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology in recognition of his extensive community service and research accomplishments.
Visit weber.edu/AcademicAffairs/presidential_program.html to learn more about the award and past recipients.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.
Lauren Fowler, psychology professor
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