Santhosh Girirajan, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and of anthropology at Penn State, was presented with the C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society during an event held on October 5, 2018. Credit: Nate Follmer
Santhosh Girirajan, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and of anthropology at Penn State, has been honored with the 2018 C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society. 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. Students, faculty members, and alumni nominate outstanding faculty members who best exemplify the key characteristics of a Penn State educator, and a committee of students selects the award winners from the group of nominees.
Girirajan was presented with the award during an event held on the University Park campus on October 5, 2018. He was selected to receive the award for his passion for teaching and devotion to his students.
“I have never met a professor who is so invested in his students doing well,” said one student nominator. “He truly cares about helping them be successful in class and in life.” Another student spoke of his core teaching philosophy, which prioritizes learning over grades, “His end goal was true learning, and he took great care in seeing this through.”
Girirajan has also trained over 40 undergraduate students in his lab, which primarily focuses on understanding the genetic changes that lead to neurodevelopmental disorders. 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. His students have gone on to medical school, graduate school, physician’s assistant school, and have taken positions in industry. Girirajan also served as a mentor for the Summer Research Opportunities Program and McNair Scholar students.
“I believe that teaching should not just be restricted to course materials and grades, but should also enable students to think, stimulate curiosity, and push beyond their comfort zone,” said Girirajan. “I take it as a great responsibility to help students realize their own abilities and influence their perspectives on future career paths and life in general.”
Girirajan has received several honors recognizing his research and teaching excellence, including the Basil O’Connor Award from the March of Dimes foundation in 2014, the Young Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Foundation in 2014, and the Daniel R. Tershak Memorial Faculty Teaching Award from Penn State in 2015.
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, Richmond, in 2008 and completed his medical training at Bangalore University, India, in 2001.