NatSci faculty members honored with 2016 MSU Awards
- Feb 2, 2016
- Faculty & Staff, Research, Chemistry, Physics & Astronomy, Plant Biology
Four faculty members from the College of Natural Science (NatSci) will be honored at the 2016 MSU Awards Convocation Feb. 9. The awards recognize outstanding contributions to education and research.
Milton Smith, professor of chemistry, and Mark Voit, associate dean of the College of Natural Science and professor of physics and astronomy, received William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Awards (formerly Distinguished Faculty Awards). They were among 10 MSU faculty members honored with Beal Awards. The new honorees bring the number of faculty honored since the award was established in 1952 to 531.
A creative chemist, Milton “Mitch” Smith’s research addresses a broad array of basic and applied problems in science, ranging from how to synthesize molecules more efficiently to the development of cost-effective methods for energy conversion and storage. His most significant contribution to date is his work in catalytic transformations of carbon–hydrogen bonds, which are present in virtually every organic molecule. This catalytic method has greatly expedited the production of boronic esters, an important class of compounds widely utilized in chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
More recently, to address the imminent world energy crisis, Smith is investigating new strategies for ammonia production as a means for energy storage and transportation.
As a teacher, Smith engages students in active learning. He has taught both large undergraduate courses and specialized graduate-level classes and received excellent student evaluations. Believing firmly that research is an essential component of a well-rounded university education, he regularly mentors undergraduate researchers in his laboratory.
Mark Voit’s research falls within the broad and vibrant area of astronomy that seeks to understand the formation and evolution of the large-scale building blocks of the universe. In particular, his work on the thermodynamic properties of the hot (X-ray emitting) gas in groups and clusters of galaxies has led to a very influential conceptual picture demonstrating the diagnostic power of mapping the spatial distribution of the entropy of this gas. His work has shown that many of the otherwise puzzling properties of the intergalactic medium (IGM) can be explained by the short cooling times (much less than the age of the universe) in the central regions of many groups, clusters, and massive galaxies. Voit and his colleagues have developed a new conceptual model in which the regions?of the IGM where the cooling time is less than about 10 times the dynamical (sound-crossing time), thermal instabilities will develop, leading to the formation of dense, cool clouds that can rain down onto the galaxy to fuel star formation and feed black holes. These ideas are generating extensive interest within the astronomical community.
As well as being an outstanding and innovative teacher at both the introductory and graduate levels, Voit is co-author of the leading introductory textbook in astronomy and astrophysics, “The Essential Cosmic Perspective (sixth edition),” which has been praised for its structure in starting at the?Big Bang and working forward in time and downward in scale, a “top-down” view considered well timed with the growth of cosmology into a precise science.
Lars Brudvig, assistant professor of plant biology and Richard Lunt, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, received Teacher-Scholar Awards.
Lars Brudvig’s research uses extensive field surveys and mechanism-oriented experiments to understand how humans impact ecosystems and their biodiversity; he then develops effective restoration measures to mitigate negative human impact through ecosystem restoration. His work covers a variety of ecosystems, including grasslands in the Midwest and pine forests in the southeast. Brudvig’s research has made important advances in predicting ecosystem restoration outcomes and the integration of restoration and landscape ecology, each of which is critical to achieving restoration at the large, landscape scales over which biodiversity conservation typically occurs.
Brudvig’s classroom is a model for student-centered, inquiry-based learning, where students develop as independent learners through innovative classroom instruction and engagement in field research. Specifically, students actively practice science, such as modeling, working with data, and hypothesis testing. His educational approach has proven successful among his students, who note that his courses “will continue to impact the rest of my education and pursuit of a career in science.”
Richard Lunt, who holds a joint appointment in the MSU College of Engineering, brings a deep passion for renewable energy research and education to MSU. A pioneer in renewable energy and energy efficient technologies, Lunt has developed exceptional excitonic materials for applications in enhancing solar harvesting and building efficiency. His research is expanding the possibilities for seamless deployment of energy harvesting systems, efficient light emitting systems, and the potential of excitonic electronic device functionality. His creative merging of the principles of chemistry, materials science, physics, and engineering has made all of his efforts possible.
Lunt’s commitment to student education is exemplified in the 30-plus undergraduate students he mentored in sustainable energy technologies in his research laboratory and though the Student Planning of Advanced Retrofit Technology Applications (SPARTA) group. Lunt’s ultimate goal is to captivate students in STEM by fostering scientific excitement and allowing students to see themselves as important contributors to solving science’s and engineering’s?grand challenges.
“I want to congratulate our college’s winners of this year’s university-level awards,” said R. James Kirkpatrick, NatSci dean. “These awards are a testament to the commitment and dedication of our faculty members and teaching assistants to excellence in everything they do: research, teaching and commitment to student success.”
For more information on the awards convocation and a complete list of award recipients, visit -- http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2016/recognizing-exceptional-researchers-educators-and-community-members