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C.I. Noll Award Presented to Hanna-Rose and Hopkins

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18 November 2008
Hopkins-John 2008
Hopkins-John 2008

John Hopkins (left) Wendy Hanna-Rose(right)

Wendy Hanna-Rose, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and John Duff Hopkins, senior instructor of physics, are the 2007 recipients of the C.I. Noll Award. Sponsored by the Alumni Society of the Eberly College of Science at Penn State University, this award recognizes faculty members who have taken a special interest in students and who, through their interaction with students, have had a positive impact on them. Instituted in 1972 and named in honor of Clarence I. Noll, dean of the college from 1965 to 1971, the award is the highest honor for undergraduate teaching in the college. Winners are chosen by a committee of students and faculty members from nominees suggested by students, faculty members, and alumni.

John Duff Hopkins began his teaching career at Penn State in 1999 as a physics instructor, after an almost 20-year career as a successful high-school physics teacher. Based on his outstanding teaching record and service to the Eberly College of Science Department of Physics, he was promoted to senior instructor in 2004 and continues to be an integral member of the department who is contributes especially to its educational missions. Hopkins primarily teaches Physics 101, a course designed as a general elective for non-technical majors, a group of students with vastly different knowledge backgrounds and interests. According to Richard Robinett, associate department head of physics, "Given the nature of his audience, John has done a great job in engaging the students as evidenced by his student reviews." He has developed out-of-class activities in which students perform their own experiments to explore physical principals that underlie normal everyday activities. Student comments about Hopkins's teaching include such statements as "he finds ways to entertain while teaching about what could be boring materials" and "he cares about his students' growth and about their ability to grasp the nature of scientific reasoning."

In addition to Hopkins's teaching role, he administers the daily management of introductory courses for both PHYS 213 and PHYS 214, and he implemented new grade-tracking software and web-based lecture demonstrations. "His expertise and abilities in computer-related issues have allowed us to make huge strides in the modernization of our entire introductory course effort," states Robinett. Hopkins is also a mentor, co-author of lab manuals, and frequent presenter at national meetings such as the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Wendy Hanna-Rose joined the faculty at Penn State in 2001 as assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology after performing postdoctoral research on the vulva development of C. elegans, a species of microscopic worm, at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She earned her doctoral degree in microbiology and molecular genetics at Harvard University in 1996 after having been a Wilson Scholar at Anderson University, where she obtained her undergraduate degree in biology, graduating summa cum laude. In addition to winning the C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching, Hanna-Rose was the 2004 recipient of the Tershak Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award and the 2002 March of Dimes Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Award.

Hanna-Rose is one of the first Penn State faculty members to use C. elegans as the model organism for her research. Her lab is studying the formation of the egg-laying organs in these see-through worms, which are found in soil across many parts of the world. She currently is mentoring five graduate students in her lab and has directed the independent-study research of over a dozen undergraduate students who have moved on to careers in science and medicine. Their research will help to define how the cells build the exterior structure of the animals' reproductive organs, which developed in just one day.

In addition to her research, Hanna-Rose teaches a broad level of molecular biology courses, introductory freshman seminars, and graduate-level lectures. She currently serves as a mentor to the Women in Science and Engineering Research program (WISER) and was chair of the Cell Biology Session for the 16th International C. elegans Meeting at the University of California at Los Angeles. She also served on the search committee for a new head of the department.

When commenting about Hanna-Rose's excellence as a teacher, a former student said, "she encourages students to critically think about the logic behind experimental designs and not to passively read the information." Another student commented, "She is always ready to answer questions and to further promote reasoning. Her approachability and passion for the material make her an excellent mentor and teacher."

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