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C. I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching

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The C. I. Noll Award is presented annually to an outstanding faculty member within the Eberly College of Science. Nominations are accepted from alumni, faculty, and all students. Faculty may also nominate themselves or another faculty member. The award is designed to recognize a faculty member who has had a positive impact on students. One award will be given to a tenure-track faculty member and one award will be given to an instructional teaching faculty member or lecturer.

Nominations for 2019 are now being accepted. To nominate a faculty member, please complete this online form.

Deadline: September 9

Questions? Please contact Lynne O'Cain at lmo11@psu.edu.


2018 Award Recipients

Santhosh Girirajan and Christopher Palma are the 2018 recipients of the C. I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Dr. Santhosh Girirajan joined Penn State as an assistant professor in 2012 in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Department of Anthropology and was promoted to associate professor in 2018. Prior to that, he was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle. He earned his doctoral degree in human genetics from the Medical College of Virginia of the Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008 and completed his medical training at Bangalore University, India in 2001.

The primary focus of research in the Girirajan lab is to understand the genomic basis of heterogeneity associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and intellectual disability, using high-throughput genomic and molecular approaches, quantitative assays in model systems, and computational methods. Dr. Girirajan has trained over 40 undergraduate students in his lab. So far, undergraduate students have contributed as first authors on major research papers, performed thesis research in the lab, and have received awards at various levels in the University, including the Erickson Discovery grant, Summer Research Fellowship, and nominations to represent Penn State for the Goldwater Scholarship. Several of his students have taken up successful career paths, including medical school, graduate school, physician’s assistant school, or industry.

Dr. Girirajan has received several honors recognizing his research and teaching excellence, including the Basil O’Connor Award from the March of Dimes foundation, the Young Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Foundation, and the Daniel R. Tershak Memorial Faculty Teaching Award from Penn State. He has published more than 70 peer-reviewed research papers in reputed journals such as Nature, Nature Genetics, New England Journal of Medicine, Genetics in Medicine, Nature Communications, and The American Journal of Human Genetics.

Dr. Chris Palma earned a bachelor's degree in astronomy and astrophysics with a concurrent major in physics from Penn State in 1994. He received a master's and Ph.D. degree in astronomy from the University of Virginia, where his astronomy teaching career began. Early on at UVA, Dr. Palma taught a cosmology summer course and lead a K-12 class field trip.

In 2001, Dr. Palma returned to Penn State as a postdoctoral fellow and soon after became one of the first employees of the Eberly College of Science’s Outreach Office. He began teaching “Penn State In-Service Workshops in Astronomy,” which are summer courses for K-12 science teachers. He has directed this program since 2002.

To understand how to better teach teachers, Dr. Palma began studying inquiry-based and evidence-based pedagogy. Because of his continuing work with science teachers at the K-12 level, he was part of a team that won and successfully completed a seven-year, $9 million award from the National Science Foundation to study astronomy learning in the middle grades and to provide professional development for K-12 science teachers. Dr. Palma led the development of a new workshop curriculum in astronomy for science teachers. He also co-developed a course at Penn State for undergraduate students who intend to teach elementary school or middle school. This course represented a culmination of more than 15 years of continuous learning about pedagogy in astronomy.

Given his expertise in this area, Dr. Palma was tasked with developing a new major in the department, partly aimed at students who might want to pursue K-12 teaching or informal science education, among other possible interests. In Fall 2013, the new “Planetary Science & Astronomy” major launched at Penn State, and several dozen students have graduated from this major since that time.

Click here for a list of former recipients of the C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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