2017 Graduate Student Teaching Award
Unlike many PhD candidates who focus solely on research, Cassie Dresser has wanted to teach since arriving in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2013. In fact, she’s been teaching throughout her academic career. As an undergraduate at Hartwick College in New York, she was a tutor. As a master’s student at Central Michigan University, she was a teaching assistant. Before starting her PhD, she worked as an environmental educator at a state park in Michigan. Here, she’s been a lecture assistant, a teaching assistant, and now head TA. She excelled when given the rare opportunity to be the sole instructor of a 200-level course, and she is one of the first graduate students to complete UT’s Certificate in College Teaching program. Dresser has not only sought to improve her own teaching but also enhanced the teaching of other TAs in her department by researching and sharing best practices and by developing research-based scientific literacy coursework.
2017 Excellence in Teaching
Elizabeth Shussler, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is described by her students as excited, enthusiastic, and committed to their success. “Beth must engage students at all levels, and she is wildly successful,” a colleague said. She finds ways to “really engage her students in learning how to do science, rather than just memorizing what science has already learned.” Schussler has been a pioneer in using active learning techniques—everything from clickers and Learning Catalytics to small-group discussions—to keep students engaged during large science lectures. She serves as director of teaching and learning for the Division of Biology and has been instrumental in improving biology courses at UT. She received the 2016 UT Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award and the 2012 College of Arts and Sciences Junior Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.
2017 Research and Creative Achievement—Professional Promise
Assistant Professor Karen Lloyd of the Department of Microbiology investigates a critical yet poorly understood subject: microbial diversity. Microbes are some of the most abundant organisms on the planet, and Lloyd’s work is expanding our knowledge of them. She focuses on microbes that are adapted to the Arctic Ocean and other sub-seafloor environments. Lloyd’s research into microbial response to climate change and the role of microbes in global nutrient cycles may yield insights into biotechnology and our understanding of how life could exist on other planets. Lloyd has authored 20 journal articles, some in prestigious publications like Nature and ISME, and has established herself as an independent principal investigator and mentor. She has received $3.6 million in external funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Simons and Sloan Foundations. Her expertise is in such demand that she’s had to turn down invitations to participate in conferences and workshops so she can devote more time to research.
2017 Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year
Gladys Alexandre, professor and associate head of the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology, is passionate about helping students build research careers. In her 12 years at UT she has mentored 52 undergraduates, giving them opportunities to be listed in peer-reviewed publications and sponsoring summer research fellowships and honors research grants. These students have gone on to receive MS degrees in microbiology and enter medical schools. Since 2014, she has been the principal investigator and director for the National Institutes of Health–funded Program for Excellence and Equity in Research, which seeks to increase the number of underrepresented students receiving PhDs in biomedical and behavioral sciences. She is a prolific writer and presenter whose work is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Science Alliance.