On April 30, faculty, staff and students attended the 26th annual Celebration of Excellence for the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station held at Neilson Dining Hall.
According to executive dean Bob Goodman, this signature event acknowledges contributions that meet carefully-considered criteria, including creativity, original work and ideas, innovation, effectiveness, integrity, leadership, impact, community engagement and excellence. The award ceremony was presided over by dean of academic programs, Laura Lawson.
Following are the 2019 Excellence Award recipients along with excerpts from the presentation:
INTERNATIONAL EXCELLENCE AWARD
Yair Rosenthal – Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences
Rutgers benefits greatly from professor Rosenthal’s effort to develop robust international research and educational programs. His accomplishments range from organizing large international field research expeditions, to development of sustained research partnerships, to linking Rutgers with international exchanges of students and faculty. His international partnerships have resulted in publications in the highest ranked science journals. Somehow he keeps up all this international work while publishing about a dozen papers a year. Rutgers University, and SEBS in particular, is extremely lucky to have Yair Rosenthal as a representative of the university on the international stage. Given this sustained effort spanning two plus decades, Yair richly deserves this SEBS recognition of International Excellence. He is an example to us all.
OUTREACH EXCELLENCE AWARD
Douglas Zemeckis – Cooperative Extension of Ocean County, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, NJAES
Marine and Coastal Resources programming for Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension (RCE) is conducted by Dr. Douglas Zemeckis who works throughout Monmouth, Ocean, and Atlantic Counties. While still early in his career here at Rutgers, Doug’s outreach efforts in both fin fish and shell fish industries (commercial and recreational) have already spanned the state, region, and the eastern seaboard. Utilizing a creative blend of in-person and distance education technologies, Doug has been able to expand his outreach to new and underserved audiences, bringing in the marine industries and outreach resources under a larger umbrella than ever before. He is recognized within the industries he serves and in the professional societies and organizations within fisheries as an up-and-coming leader reaching recreational, commercial, residential enthusiasts, and municipal officials, among others. For improving the knowledge and management of marine and coastal resources resulting in a more sustainable and heathier Barnegat Bay, we recognize Dr. Douglas Zemeckis with the 2019 Outreach Excellence Award.
RESEARCH EXCELLENCE AWARD
Jeff Boyd – Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology
Jeff Boyd, the 2019 recipient of the SEBS Research Excellence Award, has established himself as an expert in microbial biochemistry and physiology. At Rutgers he has developed a vibrant research program at the interface between chemistry and biology, that focuses on understanding how critical cellular components of pathogenic bacteria coordinate to produce a living organism with a robust and responsive metabolism, i.e. his works decipher how they function. Currently, his research focuses on two opportunistic pathogens and leading causes of nosocomial infections: the Gram-positive bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus and the Gram-negative bacterium, Salmonella enterica. In addition, he is using Bacillus subtilis as a model. He is interested in how they process intracellular metals: how metals kill microorganisms, how microorganisms detoxify them, and how microorganisms use them for efficient metabolism. Jeff’s scholarship takes advantage of his expertise in biochemistry, physiology, and molecular genetics and is providing seminal contributions to our understanding of how bacteria use metals in metabolism and how they synthesize metal cofactors, processes that are essential for life on Earth. His scholarship addresses key questions relevant to medicine, microbial pathogenesis, and biotechnology and has attracted international attention. Boyd’s work is supported by the Johnson and Johnson Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and two major grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) and the National Science Foundation. His scholarship is recognized by a prestigious NSF Career Award in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Indeed, he is indeed a rising star in the field of microbial biochemistry.
STAFF EXCELLENCE AWARD
Camille Cennamo – Office of Planning and Budgets
The Office of Planning and Budgets manages a wide range of tasks from financial budgeting, fiscal reporting, strategic recruitment planning, space management, renovations and capital improvements. Camille provides superior consistent service through her exceptional support not only for the OPB but for the School and the NJ Ag Station. Camille has been influential in promoting and attaining an excellent working relationship with all administrators throughout the School, Ag Station and Institutional Planning & Operations. She is well respected by all who have worked with her and relied on for her expertise in solving problems. If attitude makes the difference in getting tasks done and making them fun, Camille is the essence of great attitude. She inspires everyone around her with her disposition, dedication and caring; she is reliable and eternally upbeat. Her demeanor, work ethic, and consistent results all epitomize the word “professional” in all her endeavors. The Office of Planning and Budgets wholeheartedly acknowledges the leading role she plays in generating, a positive, collaborative work environment and we are delighted to present Camille with a 2018 Staff Excellence Award.
George Ziemienski – Department of Plant Biology
George Ziemienski, research farm manager at Adelphia, is an excellent staff member who supports and exemplifies the mission of NJAES. He provides guidance to faculty who conduct research there, and leadership and direction to staff and students. He operates the farm as a premier turfgrass breeding and agronomic research entity. George served NJAES and specifically the Plant Sciences since 1978 when he was hired as a technician after graduating from Cook College. In 1996 he was named farm supervisor and in 2017 was promoted to farm manager. He has given an exemplary effort in maintaining financial, regulatory, and employee records and communicates well with all staff, researchers and stake holders at Adelphia. George has been very creative in helping faculty develop new research equipment and fallow cover crop systems to conserve soils in rotation with turf plots and spaced plant nurseries. No staff member cares more about Rutgers, SEBS/NJAES than George.
TEACHING EXCELLENCE AWARD
Carol Bagnell – Department of Animal Sciences
Carol invests her time and energy in training the next generation of scientists, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She is a superb reproductive physiologist who interweaves her original research and ideas such as her “lactocrine hypothesis” throughout her Animal Reproduction lectures along with the most recent scientific discoveries. Innovative approaches such as her “sow watch club” allow students to gain hands-on experience and apply the physiological principles they learn in class. In addition, she is respected for her integrity and leadership in the SEBS community, serving several terms as the chair of the Department of Animal Sciences and as the graduate program director of Endocrinology and Animal Biosciences. She is the perfect example of what excellence in teaching should be, and she continuously makes every effort to support the success of her students even after they leave Rutgers. In summary, Carol is the ultimate role model for all who strive to successfully to integrate teaching and research activities at a major research institution such as Rutgers. Her complete dedication to helping all students and colleagues she encounters achieve more than they thought possible makes her a most deserving candidate for this award.
Xenia Morin – Department of Plant Biology
Xenia Morin is a superb teacher. She has developed a series of innovative courses, most recently an Honors Course: Feeding the World. Xenia has worked very hard these past five years to build a program, develop new courses, teach these courses or recruit others of us to teach them or co-teach them. She is very diligent and committed to this, The student evaluations of her teaching are very strong and supportive and are evidence of Xenia’s hard work and commitment to teaching. One thing that makes Xenia a strong winner is her use of innovation in course development and execution. Xenia has tried many ways to engage the students, with traditional and non-traditional methods. She has a number of group activities and exercises that strengthen the concepts and push them to look further on certain topics. Xenia has identified about a dozen areas where we needed new course offerings and she has worked hard to design them and then pilot them through CEP and the other approval processes to make them real and to ensure their place in the schedule of classes.
TEAM EXCELLENCE AWARD
Evaluation of Breakfast After the Bell in New Brunswick Public Schools
The goal of this project was to evaluate a new program in the New Brunswick Public Schools, called “Breakfast After the Bell,” which is the practice of serving breakfast to students after the first bell of the school day rings. This project works towards achieving RCE’s goals of ensuring healthy lifestyles, helping to provide healthy futures for youth and communities, and improving nutrition. This team’s work has resulted in changes in school breakfast practice and policy that will have an immediate and direct impact on students attending New Brunswick Public Schools.
Genesis Arteta – Edward J. Bloustein School
Dale Caldwell – New Brunswick Board of Education
Cara Cuite – Department of Human Ecology
Gina Pope McKeon – Department of Nutritional Sciences
Jennifer Shukaitis – Department of Family and Community Health Sciences
Wendy Stellatella – Department of Human Ecology
ALPHA ZETA HONOR SOCIETY AWARDS
There are many reasons to be proud of the long history and traditions of excellence at the School and the Experiment Station. The honors and service Fraternity of Alpha Zeta is one of these reasons. The George H. Cook chapter was founded in 1922, in only the second year of the New Jersey College of Agriculture. Since then, the brothers of the Fraternity of Alpha Zeta, for many years now including women as well as men, have represented the best and the brightest examples of what it means to be a successful and involved undergraduate at our School.
Each year students in Alpha Zeta honor select individuals for their contributions to our academic community. This year’s winners were introduced by Dianamaria Custis and included:
BARBARA MUNSON GOFF TEACHER OF THE YEAR
Peter Kahn – Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology
Peter Kahn, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, has been a member of the faculty since 1976. Among the many honors he’s received in his long Rutgers career is the 2018 Clement A. Price Human Dignity Award for his “distinguished leadership for over 40 years advancing social responsibility and forging intercultural collaborations, including the global Bosnian Student Project.” He’s served as the local coordinator for the Bosnian Student Project, a volunteer relief effort that placed students—whose education had been disrupted by the wars in the former Yugoslavia—in high schools and colleges throughout the U.S., including placing 17 students here at Rutgers. The university provided tuition scholarships while Professor Kahn, with help from colleagues, raised funds to cover all other expenses, plus found host families. For his extraordinary humanity, Kahn has won the admiration of his peers and the Rutgers community, and the gratitude of many young scholars from that region. He’s taught thousands of students over the course of the past four decades and is deeply humbled to receive this award.
ALPHA ZETA STUDENTS OF THE YEAR
Francesca Buchalski – Freshman Award
Josee A. Westrich – Sophomore Award
Katherine Fafara – Junior Award