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Senate, federation present annual awards

By Dave Jones on May 6, 2011 in University News



Faculty Research Lecture

  • Margaret Ferguson

Distinguished Teaching Awards: Undergraduate

  • Jay Rosenheim
  • Dean Tantillo
  • Charles Walker
  • Gergely Zimanyi

Distinguished Teaching Awards: Graduate and Professional

  • Carol Erickson
  • John Scott

Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Awards

  • Neal Fleming
  • Ross Thompson
  • Amparo Villablanca
  • Jeffrey Williams


Excellence in Teaching

  • Ali Dad-del
  • Sam Nichols

Excellence in Research

  • Marilyn Townsend


AWARDS RECEPTION, for all of the recipients, Academic Senate and Academic Federation.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 11

  • 5:30 p.m. — Light refreshments and hors d’oeuvres
  • 6 — Welcome and awards presentation

WHERE: Ballroom A, Activities and Recreation Center

RSVP: People planning to attend are asked to make reservations by contacting Bryan Rodman, (530) 752-3920 or


"Missing the Maidenhead: Cultural Debates About the Hymen," by Margaret Ferguson, distinguished professor of English

WHEN: 4 p.m. Friday, May 27

WHERE: Ballroom B, Activities and Recreation Center

This program is free and open to the public. Seating is limited; for more information, contact Mary White, (530) 752-1696 or

Professor Howard Day to receive the Charles P. Nash Prize

Dateline staff

The Academic Senate calls them “distinguished.” The Academic Federation uses the word “excellence.” Either way, these two organizations are once again recognizing the best of the best within their ranks.

The senate each year presents Distinguished Teaching Awards and Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Awards. The federation honors its members for Excellence in Teaching and Excellence in Research.

In addition, the senate has chosen the English department’s Margaret Ferguson, who already holds the title “distinguished professor,” as the recipient of the 2011 Faculty Research Lecture Award. See separate story.

All of the recipients, Academic Senate and Academic Federation, are due to come together for an awards reception on Wednesday, May 11. Ferguson is scheduled to deliver her lecture on Friday, May 27. See box for details.

Here are the rest of the award recipients:


Distinguished Teaching: Undergraduate

• Jay Rosenheim, professor of entomology — He “excels in teaching from all perspectives — the diversity and types of classes taught, the innovative strategies developed to engage students and convey complex information, and the clarity his methods bring to the students,” Professor Diane Ullman wrote in her nomination letter. One student said Rosenheim can make a lecture hall of 500 feel like a 20-person discussion group. Said another: “His statements and questions were thought-provoking and his examples entertaining. He really seemed to understand what you needed to do to get students to think and learn the material instead of just memorizing.”

Dean Tantillo, associate professor of chemistry — Professor Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague, in her nomination letter, described Tantillo as a committed and caring teacher. Students agree, consistently giving him high marks. He is equally respected for promoting undergraduate research in his laboratory. He has mentored Henry “Hoby” Wedler, a blind student, and together they have worked to develop tools to help other visually impaired students in their chemistry studies. Tantillo has helped to develop courses for the designated emphasis in pharmaceutical chemistry, and this quarter he is teaching the same subject in Taiwan, in the Education Abroad Program.

Charles Walker, professor of history — “Professor Walker is, quite simply, an infectious lecturer. Funny, unpretentious and accessible, he welcomes students in,” Professor David Biale wrote in nominating this specialist in Latin American history, and, more specifically, Peru. But this is not to say his classes are “easygoing.” Instead, Walker challenges his students to think deeply about Latin American history in a way that connects to their own lives and to the issues facing the region today. As a result, Biale wrote, Walker’s office hours are famously jammed with students wanting to discuss the material from class as well as current events from Latin America.

Gergely Zimanyi, professor of physics — His students describe him as passionate and enthusiastic, inspiring — and funny, too. Some label his lectures as “stand-up physics,” with jokes, asides and candy tossed to students for asking questions. He often opens his courses as “Professor Morpheus,” in dark glasses and a long, flowing black coat, inviting students “to choose the red pill or the blue pill,” as a commitment to the intellectual journey ahead. These strategies not only entertain, they also engage the students, encouraging them to discuss and think critically about the material. He has mentored many undergraduates and included them in his research on solar cells.

Distinguished Teaching: Graduate and Professional

• Carole Erickson, distinguished professor of molecular and cellular biology — Erickson has also been a leader in graduate studies both in the College of Biological Sciences, where she serves as executive associate dean, and across the campus, as chair for several years of the Graduate Group in Cell and Developmental Biology, and principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health predoctoral training grant. In her own research program at UC Davis, Erickson has trained 24 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, all of whom are now either faculty members at leading institutions (including UC Davis), leaders in biotechnology or nongovernmental organizations, or pursuing postdoctoral research.

John Scott, professor and chair of political science — “I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition,” Professor Walter Stone wrote in support of Scott’s nomination. Scott’s field of study is political theory, especially the work of 18th-century writers such as Rousseau and Hume. Scott works closely with students on their academic writing skills, and provides mentorship and guidance to all the graduate students in his subfield in the department. His students have published in leading journals both as co-authors with him and as individual authors. “He holds his advisees accountable, while providing the resources they need to succeed in a highly competitive environment,” student Michelle Schwarze wrote.

Distinguished Scholarly Public Service

• Neal Fleming, professor of clinical anesthesiology — Recognized for his work with the Rotary Club offshoot Rotaplast International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating untreated cleft lip and palate deformities in children throughout the world by 2025. He has served as a volunteer anesthesiologist with Rotaplast for more than a decade, and served on the board for two terms. He has campaigned persistently to offer senior residents in anesthesiology the opportunity to participate in this program as part of their professional education.

Ross Thompson, professor of psychology — “Few academics have made such important contributions to public policy for children,” three of his colleagues wrote in nominating Thompson. The internationally acclaimed developmental psychologist has worked to translate his work for policy makers, writing on the implications of developmental research on issues such as divorce and custody policy, welfare reform, child care and grandparent visitation rights. He has worked for several years with the California Department of Education to develop preschool learning standards that predict school readiness.

Amparo Villablanca, professor, Frances Lazda Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine — For more than 20 years she has been actively engaged with diverse communities, striving to reduce mortality from heart disease — the leading cause of death among women in the United States. With community partnerships, she presents the Heart Care Education and Awareness Forum annually, with special outreach to Latinas and African-Americans, who are at especially high risk for heart disease. She also has been active at the state and national levels, in research and health care policy.

Jeffrey Williams, professor, Daniel B. DeLoach Chair in Agricultural Economics — Recognized for his service (eight years overall, the last three as chair) on the California Inspection and Maintenance Review Committee, which advises the governor and the Legislature on matters relating to the smog inspection program. His analysis of 150 million inspection records contributed to legislation to strengthen the smog check program (contributing to cleaner air) and to save vehicle owners up to $100 million annually (by eliminating tailpipe tests for newer autos with reliable on-board diagnostic systems).


Excellence in Teaching

• Ali Dad-del, lecturer in mathematics — Beyond his regular teaching assignments for his department, Dad-del leads freshman and Davis Honors Challenge seminars on the history of mathematics, and teaches robotics in the COSMOS program for high school students. His outreach efforts also include mentoring in MURPPS, or Minority Undergraduate Research Participants in Physical Sciences. “He is the best person I know to lecture a freshman calculus class of 250, and the best I know to conduct an interactive class of 20 high school kids,” Professor Abigail Thompson wrote in nominating Dad-del.

Sam Nichols, lecturer in music — He teaches a range of courses, from music theory to composition, orchestration and electronic music. Project work drives his teaching, professor and department chair Christopher Reynolds wrote in his nomination letter, noting how Nichols’ approach is “immensely satisfying for the students.” In one project — a realization of David Tudor’s Rainforest IV — the students in Nichols’ electronic music class built a series of installations, amplified them and invited an audience to “play” them — by banging on them, scratching and hitting them, or otherwise causing them to vibrate.

Excellence in Research

• Marilyn Townsend, Cooperative Extension specialist, Department of Nutrition — She is recognized as much for her research and programs to prevent obesity, as she is for her considerable efforts to improve program assessment, according to Judith Stern, a distinguished professor of nutrition, who nominated Townsend. In working to prevent obesity, Townsend focuses on improving the diets and physical activity of low-income children and families, with special attention given to low-literate participants of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food assistance and education programs.


Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,