June 7, 2002

Four faculty win Senate teaching awards


The 2002 Academic Senate Distinguish-ed Teaching Awards honor four UC Davis faculty members – Richard Grosberg of evolution and ecology, Douglas McColm of physics, Anita Oberbauer of animal science, and Francisco Samaniego of statistics – for achievements in undergraduate instruction.

The awards were announced during an Academic Senate Representative Assembly meeting June 5. A luncheon in honor of the winners will be held at a later date.

All four recipients teach lower-division courses with high enrollments and a variable mix of student ability – one of the most challenging teaching situations. All were noted for their ability to motivate and engage students in their subjects.

Richard Grosberg

Grosberg, professor of evolution and ecology, is "a phenomenally successful instructor at all levels," said Michael Turelli, professor and chair of evolution and ecology, in nominating the faculty member for the award.

Student and peer evaluations rave about Grosberg’s teaching, Turelli said. His student evaluations for lower division Introductory Biology (BIS 1B) and upper-division Introduction to Evolution (EVE 100) were "phenomenal," Turelli noted.

Grosberg also regularly conducts graduate seminars on topics from the origin and evolution of metazoans to metamorphosis and morphological innovation. In his research program, where he focuses on the evolution of self- and nonself-recognition in marine invertebrates, he supervises independent research at every level, from high-school students to postdoctoral scholars. During the past five years, he has mentored seven post-docs, six doctoral students, nine undergraduates and one National Science Foundation Young Scholar in high school.

Grosberg is director of the Center for Population Biology and faculty chair of a new $2.6 million NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research training grant to UC Davis in invasion biology, which will support students in their education and research.

Douglas McColm

McColm, senior lecturer in the Department of Physics, teaches lower-divison courses in introductory physics and upper division courses in atomic physics. The lower-division classes are often large and made up of students with varying backgrounds, expertise and interests, including many non-physics majors, making effective and inspiring teaching a real challenge.

Despite these challenges, McColm consistently receives high student evaluations. In one recent evaluation, 90 percent of students said they would recommend the course to others, according to nomination materials.

"He motivates students to think about basic concepts and become enthusiastic about the basic science," said physics department chair Winston Ko.

McColm also has developed courses to suit students required to take physics as a prerequisite for other majors. He introduced examples from other disciplines into his class and changed the sequence of topics so that students would get a balanced course even if they took only one or two quarters.

McColm joined UC Davis in 1966 and will retire on July 1 this year, with the teaching award capping an excellent career, Ko said.

Anita Oberbauer

Whether undertaking an unusually heavy teaching load, developing new classes or mentoring students, animal science professor Oberbauer typically goes above and beyond the call of duty, according to her faculty colleagues.

Each year she teaches a high-enrollment undergraduate course about the biology of companion animals, as well as animal-genetics or animal-management courses for more advanced undergraduate students. With a colleague, she also has revised and taught a new graduate course on cancer genes and cellular proliferation. Lectures for numerous other courses bring her teaching load well above that expected for her position.

And when the animal science department, traditionally focused on agricultural animals, decided to include companion animals in its teaching program, Oberbauer took the initiative to develop the necessary new coursework.

In addition to maintaining an active research program focused on growth and development of animals and genetic disorders of dogs, she supervises graduate students and is an advisor to more than 30 undergraduate students. Colleagues remark that many female students, particularly, look to Oberbauer as a professional role model and mentor.

Students consistently rate her as an excellent teacher, and one animal science alumna notes that Oberbauer teaches with "wit, amazing intellect, and insightful interpretations." Now working as an academic researcher, this former student added that having Oberbauer as an instructor "had a profound influence over my academic achievements, and her involvement throughout my education has been the driving force behind my success as a scientist."

Francisco Samaniego

Samaniego, professor of statistics, has been getting rave reviews for his statistics courses for 30 years, often from students who describe themselves as "not liking math."

He has been praised as a clear and engaging instructor who puts considerable time and effort into preparing his classes, answering emailed questions, and mentoring students.

"He’s got a great sense of humor, he’s very articulate and he’s very organized," said Jane-Ling Wang, chair of the statistics department.

Samaniego teaches some introductory statistics classes of up to 300 students with a wide range of ability and commitment to the subject. He gets consistently high evaluations, even when his students find his courses tough.

Samaniego served as director of the Teaching Resources Center from 1992 to 1998, developing initiatives such as the Summer Institute on Technology in Teaching and an overhaul of teaching assistant training.

In 1994 he organized a survey of faculty teaching load, showing that the average faculty member at UC Davis spent more than 30 hours a week on teaching activities – much of it in preparing classes.

By Andy Fell, Sylvia Wright and Pat Bailey
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