Distinguished Faculty and Staff Awards
The College of Sciences annually recognizes outstanding teachers, researchers, and classified staff. Learn a little more about this year's recipients:
Distinguished Researcher Award
Brett Riddle, School of Life Sciences
Ph.D., Biology, University of New Mexico
Growing up: Grew up in Boulder, Colorado
Rebel since: 1990
What drew you to your profession? I spent the summer of 1979 taking a mammalogy course and helping researchers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in Gothic, Colorado. I had so much fun learning about mammal biology, evolution, and ecology in that setting that I decided it was something I could probably do for a living. I then took a temporary position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and spent many hours sifting through, organizing, and learning from mammal specimens in a biodiversity collection. Those were the defining events that determined graduate mentors and research choices.
Research interests: I am a biogeographer and study the distribution and history of biological diversity on the dynamic landscapes of western North America, focusing on deserts and grasslands. These landscapes have changed dramatically through millions of years of geological transformations, and habitat mosaics have shifted in location and composition as climate has cycled between cooler and wetter to warmer and drier periods. Primarily through research from students in my lab, we have learned about diversity and diversification in a host of species including small mammals, reptiles, frogs and toads, and scorpions.
Something about you that others might find interesting: I was hired in a tenure-track position at UNLV in 1990 as soon as I finished my Ph.D., without any postdoctoral experience. I was therefore too green and naïve to know that I should have been nervous about the prospects of establishing a research lab and viable research program with very little existing infrastructure. Different times!
Biggest misconception about your field: That biogeography is “old school” biology not as deserving of respect as many of the more experimentally based disciplines. In fact, a modern biogeography continues to emerge that is highly integrative, based on sound theory and hypothesis-testing, and incorporates tools from genomics and computer modeling to address both fundamental questions in evolutionary biology as well as to establish a robust framework for pressing issues in conservation biology.
What do you enjoy most about your work? The creativity and innovation required to ask really good and tractable questions, and then actually going after them (including having the excuse to traverse vast landscapes across the west and Mexico in the pursuit of phenomenally cool species of mice and rats).
What makes you successful? First, I am active in my discipline through activities such as journal editing, regular updating of new editions of a comprehensive text and reference book, and serving on grants panels. These sorts of activities require that I am always aware of new directions, questions, and tools that are being incorporated into the discipline. Second, I have attracted some really good students to my research program over the years. Third, we have developed a foundational knowledge of a superb system that can be exploited productively as new and creative ideas emerge. Finally, I have found ways to sustain a productive program without some of the resources and infrastructure that a number of colleagues enjoy at more biodiversity-focused institutions.
People would be surprised to know: First, that at one time I would get sick with nerves at the prospect of public speaking. That has not been a problem for some years now. Second, that I once was a short and right-handed first basemen in baseball (but actually pretty good at it!).
When did you know you wanted to be a biologist? As a young kid in grade school, although I had to re-discover that desire during an epiphany moment toward the end of the high school years.
Can’t work without: Good coffee and good music.
Outside work: I have a goal to become a pretty serious long-distance cyclist, and am making good progress. For example, training in April will include an 84 mile, a 134 mile, a 250 mile, and a 120 mile ride on consecutive Saturdays. In July I will do a two-day ride in the mountains in Colorado called the Double Triple Bypass. Future goals might include the Furnace Creek 508, the Race Across the West (RAW), and maybe even the Race Across America (RAAM)!
Distinguished Teacher Award
Pradip Bhowmik, Chemistry
Ph.D., Organic/Polymer Chemistry, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Growing up: Grew up in Bangladesh
Rebel since: 1998
What drew you to your profession? Simply the pure love for chemistry.
Research interests: My research interests are in the field of organic/polymer chemistry, more specifically, materials chemistry, green chemistry, and small molecule anticancer drugs.
Something about you that others might find interesting: I was a high school teacher and then university-college teacher in my native country.
Biggest misconception about your field: Organic chemistry is a difficult subject to comprehend.
When did you know you wanted to be a chemist? Since I in 9th grade.
What do you enjoy most about your work? I enjoy teaching students. When students learn the difficult concepts in organic chemistry, I can see the glow from their faces. It is very gratifying and fulfilling.
Can’t work without: Computer and journal articles.
Outside work: Listening to Tagore songs and reading biographies of great scientists.
Distinguished Classified Staff Award
Pat Hunt, School of Life Sciences
Growing up: I was born in Payson Utah, but have lived in Henderson since 1952 – yes I’m OLD!
Rebel since: 2004
Your responsibilities: Maintain and reconcile all School of Life Sciences accounts, process travel documents, payment vouchers, and ISP forms for seminar speakers. I am the department PCard liaison, prepare and enter all SoLS IDRS, prepare self-supporting budgets annually, prepare VISA’s, and assist faculty in creating new positions and filling vacancies.
Why you do what you do: I enjoy working with the life sciences faculty and staff, and interacting with the College of Sciences staff. This position is both challenging and rewarding.
Biggest challenge: Preparing and submitting the VISA documents. It is new to me and there are many steps involved with the preparation.
What makes you successful? I strive to do the best job possible with the least amount of errors while still having fun.
Can’t work without: Cooperation and patience.
Outside of work: I love watching movies and playing with our little Maltese, Pup Pup!