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Lopez, Mydlarz among five UTA recipients of 2017 UT System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards

Two College of Science faculty members are among five University of Texas at Arlington educators honored with 2017 UT System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards for excellence in the classroom.

Ramon Lopez, professor of physics, and Laura Mydlarz, associate professor of biology, were among five UTA faculty members who were named recipients of the 2017 award. The 2017 honorees were recognized at a dinner on August 23 in Austin.

Lopez is a highly regarded space physicist and a passionate advocate for enhancing the quality of K-12 science education and increasing diversity in STEM fields, he is co-director of UTA's UTeach Arlington teacher preparation program. Lopez is a Fellow of the American Association of Physics Teachers and recipient of the American Geophysical Union's 2016 Space Physics and Aeronomy Richard Carrington Award, which is given to a single honoree for significant impact on students' and the public's understanding of science. He is the author or co-author of more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, as well as the popular science book, Storms from the Sun.

"It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by a UT System Regent's Outstanding Teaching Award, and it is also gratifying to know that several UTA faculty were selected among the winners this year," Lopez said. "It shows the dedication of our faculty to excellence in education, and I am thrilled to have so many like-minded colleagues on campus."

Lopez received the UTA Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring for 2016-17. He was the 2012 recipient of the APS Edward A. Bouchet Award, which seeks to promote the participation of under-represented minorities in physics by identifying and recognizing a distinguished minority physicist who has made significant contributions to physics research. He was awarded the SACNAS Distinguished Scientist Award in 2010, given to members for their dedication to science, education, and mentoring who continue to serve as role models for the next generation of minority scientists. In 2002 Lopez received the APS Dwight Nicholson Medal for Outreach, which honors humanitarian service.

He has consulted with school districts and education agencies across the country to improve standards in science education. He co-chaired the writing team that produced the Next Generation Science Standards, which provides content standards for K-12 science educators.

Lopez earned a Ph.D. in Space Physics from Rice University in 1986. Prior to joining UTA, he worked as a research scientist and administrator at the University of Maryland at College Park, as director of Education and Outreach Programs with the APS, as professor and physics department chair at UT El Paso and as physics professor at the Florida Institute of Technology. In 2007, he came to UTA.

Mydlarz joined the Department of Biology in 2007. She is passionate about leaving her mark with her students. Mydlarz is one of the key faculty members driving the new innovative ASSURE program. Achieving Success in Science through Undergraduate Research and Engagement is an immersive, inquiry-guided early-stage undergraduate research program designed to introduce students to the principles guiding modern research activities. Through this program, Mydlarz taught students critical-thinking skills and knowledge of the world of research.

"I am so honored to receive the UT System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award," Mydlarz said. "I take teaching and mentoring students very seriously and am proud of the progress I have made in my own teaching and in shaping teaching in the Department of Biology. I enjoy interacting with students and creating an intellectual environment in the classroom where textbook concepts can be linked to real life issues.

"I have learned so much from my students, especially how to communicate more effectively and engage them in the material. I am committed to including timely examples from our changing world to teach basic concepts and ensure that our students are aware of their environment and how a changing world affects everything from health care, disease and environmental issues, especially my own passion for coral reefs."

Mydlarz was the recipient of the 2016 President's Award for Excellence in Teaching and a recipient of the Fort Worth Tech Titans Award, given to an outstanding university program that promotes STEM education in North Texas. Mydlarz helped establish COREEF (Community Outreach for Enhancing Ecological Fundamental) to encourage students to present to and engage K-12 students in learning about the importance of the world's oceans and the threats to marine environments. She is a gifted educator who brings her research expertise and passion for science to the classroom, and is praised for her approach to mentoring and providing students with a service-learning experience.

Mydlarz earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in Marine Biology from Florida Atlantic University in 1996 and 1998, respectively, and received her doctorate in Marine Science from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2004. She did postdoctoral work in ecology at Cornell University from 2004-06 before joining UTA in 2007. Much of the research in her lab focuses on coral immunity and disease.

With Lopez and Mydlarz receiving the UT Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award this year, the College of Science now has 15

Ramon Lopez, left, and Laura Mydlarz
current or former faculty members who have been recognized with the prestigious award since it was established in 2008.

"We're all extremely proud of Dr. Mydlarz and Dr. Lopez for their dedication to excellence in teaching and for their efforts to improve science education," College of Science Dean Morteza Khaledi said. "We are fortunate to have faculty in the College of Science who stress the importance of great teaching and frequently take leadership roles in seeking out effective and innovative ways to educate students."

Other UTA recipients for 2017 include: Carla Amaro-Jiménez, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, College of Education; Kathryn Hamilton Warren, senior lecturer in English, College of Liberal Arts; and Robert L. Woods, Distinguished Teaching Professor, mechanical and aerospace engineering, College of Engineering.

The prestigious recognition highlights select educators who maintain the highest caliber of excellence in their teaching and deliver the highest quality of undergraduate instruction in classrooms, labs, in the field and online. Honorees are nominated based on recommendations from department chairs, deans and committees. Each recipient is awarded $25,000.

"The five honorees this year are truly outstanding colleagues," UTA President Vistasp Karbhari said. "Through their teaching they provide transformational experiences to our students, setting each on a path of enquiry and discovery that results in enhanced development of knowledge and of student success. They epitomize teaching excellence and, in doing so, join a distinguished list of winners from prior years. I'm extremely proud of each of them and of the impact they have on our students both in and out of the classroom.

"Each year, the honorees raise the bar of accomplishment, inspiring all of us to do even more to assure the very best educational experience for our students. Excellence in teaching, quality of instruction and dedication to student success are the hallmarks of exceptional faculty and this year's winners exemplify the very highest standards."

UTA's recipients are among 56 faculty members within the UT System's 14 institutions chosen to receive the award this year. Recipients are selected after a rigorous review of all aspects of their teaching performance by peers and judges.

"The Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards is one of the nation's largest awards programs to honor exceptional instruction in the university classroom," Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster said. "It is a reflection of the value the University of Texas System and the Board of Regents place on extraordinary teaching and student success, and it represents our profound appreciation to these wonderful educators and the life-changing impact they have on students at UT institutions."

UT System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award - College of Science recipients (year honored)
Ramon Lopez, physics (2017)
Laura Mydlarz, biology (2017)
Ashley Griffith, earth and environmental sciences (2016)
Christopher Kribs, mathematics (2016)
Kevin Schug, chemistry and biochemistry (2014)
Seiichiro Tanizaki, chemistry and biochemistry (2013)
Nilakshi Veerabathina, physics (2012)
Monica Ramirez Basco, psychology (2011)
Lee Ann Frederick, biology (2011)
James Alvarez, mathematics (2010)
Lauri Jensen-Campbell, psychology (2010)
Theresa Jorgensen, mathematics (2010)
Barbara Shipman, mathematics (2010)
Minerva Cordero, mathematics (2009)
Jimmy Rogers, chemistry and biochemistry (2009)

Posted August 21, 2017