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Four LU faculty members earn 2013 University Merit Awards

meritLamar University has honored four faculty members with 2013 University Merit Awards in recognition of outstanding performance in the classroom. Award recipients are assistant professors Yunsuk Koh, health and kinesiology; Alberto Marquez, industrial engineering; Amy Smith, English; and Suying Wei, chemistry and biochemistry.

A university-wide committee selected them from junior faculty members nominated by committees from LU colleges. Lamar officials presented the awards at a reception and program April 10 in the University Reception Center of the Mary and John Gray Library.

While scholarship and service to the university and community are an important consideration in granting the Merit Awards, the most important criteria for selection are classroom performance and interaction with students, said Stephen Doblin, provost and vice president for academic affairs. Here are profiles of the 2013 Merit Award recipients:

Yunsuk Koh received a bachelor of science degree from Samchok National University in Korea; master of science degrees from Kangwan University in Korea and Mississippi State University; and a doctorate from Texas Woman’s University. Now completing his fourth year at Lamar, Koh coordinates the undergraduate program in exercise science and fitness management.

“Dr. Koh has distinguished himself as an excellent teacher . . . one who actively seeks to promote his own professional growth as well as that of his students,” said Doug Boatwright, chair of the Department of Health and Kinesiology.

As an example, Koh and his colleagues recently expanded Lamar’s exercise science laboratory, which soon will be open to testing for students, faculty and staff. He serves as co-advisor of the Kinesiology Club and is supervisor for the Fat-Head Journal Club. He has mentored students – undergraduate and graduate – in class-based research projects in exercise science.

“Dr. Koh is a very busy and productive researcher,” said Hollis Lowery-Moore, dean of the College of Education and Human Development. “His scholarly activities include grants, national and international peer-reviewed articles and presentations at national and international conferences.”

Koh has taught 10 undergraduate courses and four graduate courses.  He has published 11 articles in peer-reviewed journals and has half a dozen manuscripts in preparation or under review. In addition, he has published seven abstracts and delivered 18 professional papers.  To support his research and students, Koh has successfully written six grants and contracts to fund research and professional travel.

“He has made significant contributions to the exercise-science area since arriving at Lamar,” Boatwright said. “His excellent performance in the classroom, his rapport and involvement with students and his vital role in the development of the Exercise Science Laboratory are evidence of his commitment to professional growth.”

Alberto Marquez earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial and systems engineering and a master of science degree in management science from Monterrey Institute of Technology in Monterrey, Mexico and a Ph.D. in industrial engineering and management systems from Arizona State University. Now in his sixth year at Lamar, Marquez previously served on the faculty at Monterrey Tech, where he was department chair for two years.

“Dr. Marquez is both a popular and effective instructor,” said Jack Hopper, dean of the College of Engineering. “He is widely praised by his students and colleagues.”

Operations research and computer-integrated manufacturing are his areas of academic expertise, and he has quickly established himself as one of Lamar’s finest young faculty members, Doblin said. Marquez employs a variety of technologies and pedagogies in his classes. With two colleagues, he received a $191,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the use of multimedia on mobile platforms and in role modeling.

Marquez has taught four undergraduate and four graduate courses for a total of 57 sections, including nine online and several as part of the Army’s Logistics Leadership Center program. He teaches engineering economics for graduates preparing for the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination. Marquez also works with student organizations, serving as sponsor of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the local chapter of the American Society for Quality, the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science and, by way of contrast, the Cardinal Tennis Club.

Marquez has begun to assemble an impressive research record, said Doblin. He has published six peer-reviewed articles in national and international journals, has presented numerous professional papers and has received four grants and contracts. He is a Licensed Professional Engineer, holds membership in four disciplinary organizations and is president of the Southeast Texas chapter of the American Society for Quality.  On campus, he has been a member of the Faculty Senate, Core Curriculum Committee, Undergraduate Curriculum Council and Multicultural Enhancement Committee. Off campus, he has served as a judge in modern-language competition, on the board of the Southeast Texas Tennis Association and as a judge for Project Olympiad.

“His resume demonstrates his commitment to classroom, scholarship and service excellence,” Hopper said.

Amy Smith earned a bachelor of arts and master of arts, both in philosophy, and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Binghamton University in New York. She is completing her fourth year at Lamar and her 12th year of university teaching.

“She has that ‘something special’ that sets her apart from the rest,” wrote one of Smith’s former students. “She is the kind of teacher that all of us hope to be. It is obvious she puts her heart into what she does.”

Smith has taught 14 undergraduate and four graduate courses at Lamar. She teaches face-to-face, off-campus and online students, with her courses including philosophy, English composition and mythology, plus British, Asian, African-American and world literature. She teaches at-risk freshmen, Honors Program students, Mirabeau Scholars and students in the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities.

“Smith has received abundant praise from both students and colleagues,” Doblin said. “Her course evaluation data point to excellence, and her outreach to distance and online students earns her high praise.”

She is an ACES (Active and Collaborative Engagement for Students) fellow,  attends faculty development events and serves as associate director of Lamar’s Quality Enhancement Plan on active and collaborative learning strategies. She has served on several departmental and college committees. Smith’s instructional activities overlap with her scholarly efforts. With a colleague, she authored a paper on learning teams and student engagement, and she assists with the production of both the Lamar Journal of the Humanities and Pulse, Lamar’s student literary magazine. She has led student-faculty discussion groups and serves as a mentor to TALH, Honors and high school students.

Smith also is active in professional and literary circles. She has held memberships in professional associations, delivered papers to peer audiences, earned a faculty development leave and received a Research Enhancement Grant. Smith is the author of two works of translation, in addition to journal articles, books reviews, a book chapter and encyclopedia entries.

“Dr. Smith’s work has had a tremendous and positive effect on both students and the English program,” said Brenda Nichols, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “She is an excellent instructor, caring advisor and tireless advocate for the university.”

Suying Wei earned a bachelor of science in chemical engineering at Sandong University, a master of science in applied chemistry at Beijing University of Chemical Technology and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Louisiana State University, also conducting post-doctoral studies at the University of California-San Diego and the University of California at Los Angeles. Now in her fourth year at Lamar, Wei has established herself as one of the university’s finest young scientists, Doblin said.

“Her student evaluations are consistently strong, and her excitement for the subjects she teaches are infectious,” said Paul Bernazzani, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Teaching five undergraduate and five graduate courses, Wei mixes chemicals – and instructional techniques – effectively to introduce her students to chemistry, Doblin said. In advanced courses, she shares her own research with students. “Her students love her courses and laboratories.”

One former student wrote: ‘Of all the professors I have had, she is the one who has affected me the most. Her impact on my education has been tremendous.”

Wei extends her love of teaching to kindergarten through 12th-grade students. She has delivered chemistry lessons to young scientists at Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School, the Texas Governor’s School, All Saints Episcopal School, the STAIRSTEP program and Harmony Academy. On campus, she has served as a McNair Scholar mentor.

In addition, Wei is a member of many professional associations. She has served extensively as a panelist, reviewer and judge for different proposal and paper competitions, most notably those conducted by the National Science Foundation. She serves on the editorial board of two prominent journals and has received fellowships to attend two science foundation-sponsored summer institutes. Her resume also includes numerous other awards, sponsorships, grants and scholarships.

“Dr. Wei’s research and scholarship record is most impressive,” said Doblin. She has landed five research grants totaling more than $500,000, including three from the National Science Foundation. She has published 16 peer-refereed articles, presented nine scholarly papers or posters and authored four book chapters. Wei serves on the Faculty Senate and on several college and departmental committees. When in China, she recruits students for Lamar.

“Dr. Wei has become one of the best and brightest in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry,” Nichols said