College of Natural Science honors 2017 Alumni Award winners

  • Apr 24, 2017
  • alumni, Faculty, Award
  • Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Research, Integrative Biology, Microbiology, Physics & Astronomy

More than 80 individuals were in attendance at the MSU College of Natural Science (NatSci) annual Awards Program to acknowledge alumni, faculty and students for outstanding achievements and excellence. The event was held April 21 at MSU’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.

(L to R): Richard Hill, Meritorious Faculty Award winner; John Woolham, Outstanding Alumni Award winner; and Jason Pratt, Recent Alumni Award winner, pose with NatSci Dean R. James Kirkpatrick

(L to R): Richard Hill, Meritorious Faculty Award winner; John Woollam, Outstanding Alumni Award winner; and Jason Pratt, Recent Alumni Award winner, pose with NatSci Dean R. James Kirkpatrick following this year's NatSci Alumni Awards dinner.

John Woollam (M.S., physics, ’63; Ph.D., solid state physics, ’67) received the Outstanding Alumni Award; Jason Pratt (M.S., microbiology and molecular genetics, ’05) received the Recent Alumni Award; and Richard W. Hill, professor of integrative biology, received the Meritorious Faculty Award.

Woollam, an internationally known expert in ellipsometry, is a George Holmes Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He also holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Case Western Reserve University. He is founder and president of the J.A. Woollam Co., a university spin-off that has emerged as a worldwide leader in the production of spectroscopic ellipsometry instrumentation. His most recent research is on biomaterials at interfaces, especially protein attachment to various surfaces. Woollam has worked on thin films for spacecraft chemical, mechanical and thermal protection from the space environment of atomic oxygen, ultraviolet radiation, and particulate and chemical contamination.

Pratt, a microbiologist who is the manager of beer education at Chicago-based brewer MillerCoors, was recently named to Crain’s Chicago Business “40 Under 40” list.

He joined Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee in 2007, and from 2008-2012, he was yeast and fermentation scientist at MillerCoors, where he helped develop the platform for their flavored malt beverages, including Redd’s Apple Ale and Henry’s Hard Soda. He is only the 11th individual worldwide to earn the title of Master Cicerone, the beer world’s version of a sommelier. He also has several publications and presentations to his name and is the holder of one U.S. patent.

Hill, who served as associate chair of MSU’s zoology department from 1996-2009, was at one time one of the world's experts on the energetics of small mammals and birds. In the early 1990s, he switched his focus to marine biology, which he continues to study today. His legacy is clearly his students. For the past 45 years at MSU, Hill has impacted them in the areas of research, education and how to become better members of society. He is the first author and primary organizer of one of the most widely used undergraduate physiology textbooks—Animal Physiology. He is also an author of a compact introduction to biology—Principles of Life.

In addition to these honors, several NatSci graduate and undergraduate students were recognized for their outstanding contributions this past year.

Connie Rojas, a graduate student working toward a dual Ph.D.—in integrative biology; and ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior—received a Tracy A. Hammer Graduate Student Award, which is given to outstanding graduate students in support of their professional development.

Four students received the Dan Bolin Undergraduate Student Award, which is presented to outstanding juniors in the College of Natural Science in recognition of their leadership qualities, community service and academic abilities. The 2017 recipients are: Adjoa Kusi-Appiah, human biology; Hannah MacDonald, Earth science; Randi Rice, physiology; and Audrianna St. Germain, physiology.

Dean’s Research Scholars (DRS) and Beckman Scholars—both incoming and outgoing—were also acknowledged. These scholarship programs provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to participate in research—which is critical to students’ future success.