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Three faculty honored with Eberly College of Science distinguished awards

14 May 2024

Three faculty members in the Penn State Eberly College of Science have been selected to receive awards related to their outstanding service contributions and mentoring work. Charlie Anderson, professor of biology and associate department head of research and faculty success, and David Hunter, professor of statistics, received the 2024 Distinguished Service Award, and Réka Albert, Evan Pugh University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Physics and Biology, received the 2024 Distinguished Mentoring Award.

The Distinguished Service Award was established in 1979 to recognize faculty and staff who have made significant and outstanding leadership and service contributions to the Eberly College of Science over a sustained period of time.

The Distinguished Mentoring Award was established in 2019 to honor faculty members in the college for their outstanding work in mentoring students, postdocs, and faculty. 

Charlie Anderson

Charles Anderson

Anderson was recognized for his significant contributions in various fields, such as plant science, and his dedication to sustainability. Currently, Anderson chairs the college’s Sustainability Council and previously chaired the biology department's sustainability committee from 2019-22. During the 2020-21 academic year, he brought together and co-chaired Penn State Carbon Negative, a group composed of faculty, students, and staff from across the University who were working toward a mission of reducing Penn State’s carbon emissions. Anderson and his team presented their ideas to Provost Jones; later, President Barron convened a Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce, on which Anderson served, and President Bendapudi endorsed a new climate goal: for Penn State to become carbon neutral by 2035.

“While his volunteer work with undergraduates as well as building a research community are exemplary, it is in the service of sustainability that Dr. Anderson’s service has been most compelling, uniting his scholarly expertise with his personal passion,” one nominator said.

David Hunter

David Hunter

Hunter was recognized for his service to the Eberly College of Science and Penn State as demonstrated by prior roles as the inaugural chair of the Next STEPS Committee and the inaugural director of the AI HUB as well as his pivotal role in the creation of the data science major. Crucially, Hunter supported the Next STEPS Committee during the revamping process of their signature workshop to produce top-quality presentations.

“Dave was an excellent head of this group because he understood when to have us all work on the same thing and when to split into subgroups to tackle items on a faster timescale,” a nominator said. “He also was able to moderate group discussions in a positive, friendly way.”

As director of the AI Hub, Hunter gathered a collaborative group of AI leaders from across the University and helped launch the inaugural AI Week, which brought faculty, staff, and students together to learn about the impact of AI in academia and beyond.

Réka Albert

Reka Albert

Albert was recognized by multiple nominators for the key role that she played in ensuring the success of those she has mentored. Since arriving at Penn State, Albert has published 115 papers, with over 80 of them featuring her trainees as first authors, advised 16 doctoral students across different disciplines, and been a mentor for female scientists. She developed two courses on network science and applications for undergraduate and graduate students, and she consistently extends her mentorship beyond her own research group.

“I would like to point out in closing that in an era that rightly calls for science to be made accessible to everyone, regardless of demographic, genetic, or personal characteristics, Réka leads by example,” one nominator said. “She has had been a mentor for students from all over the globe and with a correspondingly diverse array of personalities, and she gives the same level of generosity of time and mentorship to all her students.”

Nominators also said Albert has had a significant impact on many former trainees, both professionally and personally, and has helped them achieve success at various institutions such as the University of Mount Union and Merck Research Laboratories.