2019 Teacher-Scholar Awards
College of Natural Science
Laura Chomiuk is an astrophysicist whose work centers on cosmic explosions: novae and supernovae. Her scholarly approach exemplifies the nest multiwavelength astronomy, using data from large radio arrays, a gamma-ray satellite and MSU’s SOAR telescope in concert with forefront physical models to understand how energetic shocks power the complex emission from novae and supernovae.
Chomiuk includes research training in her teaching and mentoring of astrophysics students. She founded the MSU Observatory Research Program, which engages a large, diverse group of undergraduates with research centered on MSU’s campus observatory; she has even guided some students in publishing articles on their research in top astrophysics journals as lead authors.
In the classroom, Chomiuk has revitalized the teaching of astronomy to undergraduates, turning her central course, Planets and Telescopes, into the cornerstone of the astrophysics major. Students learn to obtain data from a queued robotic observatory in the same manner as professional astronomers and to analyze it with forefront computing and programming techniques as a working introduction to data science. The class incorporates peer teaching and mentoring in a manner unusual in the physical sciences.
Chomiuk demonstrates leadership in educational initiatives outside the classroom. Her outreach programs at the observatory draw hundreds of people from a diverse community, and she leads efforts to collaborate with colleagues in different units to create new, innovative and engaging programs for the public. A recent program, for example, combined viewing a meteor shower with a program on nocturnal birds.
Chomiuk’s research and education practices have been recognized both internally and externally. At MSU, she received the Undergraduate Teaching Award and the Teacher-Scholar Award from the College of Natural Science; outside MSU, the National Science Foundation recognized her talents with a CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development) award, which allows junior faculty to pursue cutting- edge research while advancing excellence in education. She is also a Cottrell Scholar and a Scialog Fellow.
For her integrated research on novae and supernovae, creative teaching and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students and educational outreach to the community, Laura Chomiuk is a most deserving recipient of the Michigan State University Teacher–Scholar Award.
Sarah Nathel Douglas
College of Social Science
Sarah Nathel Douglas conducts highly innovative and recognized scholarship that enhances the effectiveness of special education for children with intellectual disabilities and autism. Her work is revolutionizing the way the field identifies and educates special education teams, that is, intentional collaborations among teachers, paraeducators, parents and peers to enhance the learning of children with intellectual disabilities. Douglas’s work demonstrates that high-quality special education “takes a village,” and her scholarship provides cutting-edge, evidence-based teaching mechanisms, curricular materials and assessment tools for effectively educating that village. The reach of her work extends beyond her top tier publications.
Douglas demonstrates a commitment to collaborating with school systems and parent communities across the United States by providing her online education to teaching teams for children with disabilities. In fact, her online training system is a foundation of MSU’s first fully online bachelor’s degree program, Early Childhood Care and Education, which reaches students across the globe.
As a former special education teacher, Douglas uses her experience and scholarship to prepare students to be effective educators in 21st century classrooms. Her excellent undergraduate, graduate and online courses utilize her online training system to develop skills and to educate students about mentoring and leading their own special education teams. She uses her application of NASA sensor technology to educate students in high-tech and effective child assessment that informs classroom instruction for children with autism, which includes connecting these children with peers in ways never thought possible.
In recognition of her work’s significance, Douglas was elected to the board of the Paraeducator Special Interest Group for the prestigious Council for Exceptional Children. She also serves as a mentor for MI-LEND, an organization connecting scholars with practitioners in special education to solve major challenges in the profession, expanding the reach of her work.
For her innovative research and revolutionary advancements in training special education teams and MSU students to lead in visionary ways, Sarah Nathel Douglas is most deserving of the Michigan State University Teacher–Scholar Award.
L. Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
L. Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie is a teacher and researcher with a commitment to community development and capacity strengthening. Her research focuses on international development, small farmers, poverty, food markets, farm input markets and policy issues, primarily in Africa. Her output has been above the norm in quantity and quality. Helped by grants of more than $20 million in research support from the National Science Foundation, Gates Foundation, World Bank and USAID, Liverpool-Tasie has published 30 peer-reviewed journal articles, five book chapters and more than 50 working papers and policy briefs.
Liverpool-Tasie’s commitment to teaching and research excellence has evolved into a portfolio of diverse, but tightly integrated activities. Her teaching reflects her ongoing research projects, and she has pioneered innovations for teaching core international development courses at undergraduate and graduate levels. The guiding principle in her classes is to enhance students’ appreciation for global issues by stimulating their desire to learn and to explore.
As one of her students noted, “Each week Dr. Liverpool-Tasie had an example from her research, her travels or her graduate students’ research to better inform the topics we were studying. The first few weeks of her class enhanced my ability to speak knowledgeably and appropriately with peers from around the world — just weeks into my sophomore year.”
Liverpool-Tasie’s creative strategies include an annual innovative, cross-cultural event with an instructor at a Ghanaian university. A topic is collaboratively taught at both institutions with jointly developed readings and a lecture introducing key concepts to both sets of students. Through a series of recorded activities shared across classes, the students then debate key issues around the topic.
Liverpool-Tasie fully engages with her MSU graduate students and mentees throughout the research process. She guides them from conceptualizing ideas to conducting research and then through dissemination of research outputs to academic and nonacademic audiences. She has served on 18 student committees, a third of them as major professor and has published 10 articles with students.
As a rising star with a passion for teaching, research and innovative capacity strengthening through mentoring, Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie is eminently deserving of the Michigan State University Teacher–Scholar Award.
N. Cecilia Martinez-Gomez
College of Natural Science
N. Cecilia Martinez-Gomez is a recognized world leader in the field of rare earth element metabolism in microbes. She conducts high-impact research on microbial biochemistry, emphasizing the understudied lanthanide elements, rare earth metals not previously understood as metabolically important in cells prior to her identifying their assimilation pathways. Her work aims to uncover new information about how microbes take up and use these elements to address the broader questions of how microbial lanthanide assimilation affects plant growth and whether microbes can be used to reclaim industrially important compounds.
Martinez-Gomez’s research is important because it could identify novel mechanisms of enzymes and metabolic pathways, which would allow the development of microbial strains or novel enzymes that could be used for cleaning polluted mining sites, lessening the toxicity of drinking water and improving plant health. Her scholarly leadership is recognized through funding from multiple National Science Foundation grants, including a CAREER award, and her election to the Council of Microbial Sciences of the American Society of Microbiology.
Martinez-Gomez’s scholarship has enabled the microbiology and molecular genetics department to resurrect the Microbial Biotechnology course, which focuses on metabolic engineering, synthetic biology and industrial applications of microbiology.
Committed to active approaches to learning, Martinez-Gomez has taught her students to conduct metabolic flux analyses using real experimental data, which gives them hands-on experience with the scientific principles underlying course material. She has also mentored numerous undergraduates in her lab, enabling them to contribute to research and to be listed as authors on published papers.
Martinez-Gomez’s educational efforts extend beyond campus in her outreach to elementary and high school students. Working with MSU’s microbiology club, Martinez-Gomez has developed a program with elementary schools across the greater Lansing area that shows children how to extract DNA from strawberries, enabling them to learn about the building blocks of life.
Martinez-Gomez’s enthusiasm for scholarship is evident in her research and how she teaches and mentors students at every educational level. For her commitment to research, students, her department and the community, N. Cecilia Martinez-Gomez is a most deserving recipient of the Michigan State University Teacher–Scholar Award.
College of Arts and Letters
Deric McNish works at the forefront of scholarship on inclusive and multidisciplinary teaching and learning. He is a leader in making the creative process accessible to people with disabilities and in applying theatre pedagogy to benefit English language learners. A teacher and scholar–artist, McNish is driven by the idea that accessible, performance-based pedagogy can help people succeed.
McNish’s research focuses on inclusive, interdisciplinary applications of theatre pedagogy, such as training actors with disabilities and employing theatre techniques in English as a second language classrooms. He received the 2017 Dudley Knight Award for outstanding vocal scholarship for his article, The Performance of Fluency, which introduced multidisciplinary teaching innovations. His book chapter, Training Actors with Disabilities, appears in “New Directions in Teaching Theatre Arts,” edited by Anne Fliotsos and Gail S. Medford.
Teaching and learning are the focus of most of the 13 conference presentations he has given since 2014. He continues professional artistic work as a dialect coach and an audiobook narrator. McNish is a senior editor of the International Dialects of English Archive. He is a member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association’s Teaching and Learning Committee, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Actors’ Equity Association and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.
McNish’s commitment to student growth and his teaching have been recognized by the 2018 AT&T Award in Instructional Technology for his dialects class, the 2017 Fintz Award for Teaching Excellence in the Arts and Humanities for his Disability in Performance course and the 2017 Innovation and Leadership Award for Faculty. McNish was selected for a fellowship with the 2018-19 Adams Academy for Instructional Excellence and Innovation. He has received grants from Creating Inclusive Excellence and the Center for Applied Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Arts and Humanities.
McNish’s service to MSU includes co-creating a faculty learning community, selecting and preparing commencement speakers and serving on the college curriculum committee for the College of Arts and Letters. He judges several theater competitions and serves as a respondent for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
For his commitment to teaching excellence and for scholarship that promotes innovative, inclusive and accessible teaching, Deric McNish is a most deserving recipient of the Michigan State University Teacher– Scholar Award.
Robert A. Montgomery
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Robert A. Montgomery is both a teacher and scientist, whose research seeks to understand how carnivores hunting prey have physical and detectable consequences on the landscapes where they reside and on the human communities with whom they share these landscapes. Specifically, he is interested in documenting the influence of life history and abiotic and biotic factors on individual carnivore/prey decisions and modeling how these decisions can scale-up to population-level consequences with relevance to management, conservation and policy.
Montgomery created the Research on the Ecology of Carnivores and their Prey, or ReCap, laboratory in which graduate students, undergraduates and research associates tackle animal conservation problems ranging from foxes and elk in the United States to giraffe and lions in East Africa.
Montgomery has taught a range of courses, from data science and conservation biology to public policy. His most innovative course, however, has been the experimental class, Snares to Wares, developed in collaboration with the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology. This class brought together students from diverse majors and offered them the opportunity to unpack global problems facing environmental sustainability, specifically the human and wildlife consequences of subsistence poaching in East Africa.
The course is related to Montgomery’s Snares to Wares initiative, Wire Snares to Art Wares, which works to remove wire snares used to trap animals for use in the creation of toys and sculptures, instead. This repurposing of such wires not only creates an alternative market for them, which helps keep them from poacher’s hands, but helps generate employment and revenue in area where poaching is often one of the few viable forms of employment.
Montgomery’s commitment to teaching extends to mentoring. Since 2014, he has mentored 27 students; of these students, nine have been from East Africa. Montgomery has defined “training underrepresented students so that the future of wildlife conservation leadership will be more diverse” among his goals. In counting students from seven different countries and a third of his mentees from overseas, Montgomery is well on his way to meeting his goal.
For his commitment to research, teaching and public service, Robert Montgomery is most deserving recipient of the Michigan State University Teacher–Scholar Award.