April 25, 2005
Biology department cleans up in 2004-05 teaching awards
BY Eric Rangus
Recipients of the University’s various faculty teaching awards were announced earlier this month, and the Department of Biology cleaned up.
Biology faculty were among those receiving Emory Williams Awards for Distinguished Teaching, the University’s oldest awards for excellence in the classroom; Crystal Apple Awards, the highest student-voted honor; and the Center for Teaching and Curriculum (CTC) Award for Excellence in Teaching, given by the organization specifically created to support work in the classroom.
“It’s not a fluke,” said CTC Award-winner Alex Escobar, a senior lecturer. Joining him as honorees were Associate Professor Barry Yedvobnick (Williams Award) and Senior Lecturer Gregg Orloff (Crystal Apple).
“There is a lot of energy in biology and a lot of administrative support,” Escobar continued. “It’s very common for teaching faculty to help each other and introduce each other to new types of pedagogy. Barry and I were told at the same time, so that was very exciting.”
“I was exhilarated,” said Yedvobnick, recalling when he was informed that he was one of three Emory College faculty to receive a Williams award. “This is perhaps the highlight of my 20 years at Emory.”
All three professors do vibrant work outside the classroom. Orloff led the development of CancerQuest (www.cancerquest.org), a website designed to give practical, detailed, yet easy-to-understand information about the biology of cancer. The site, which went online in 2002 and recently became available in Spanish, was created with the assistance of many of Orloff’s students.
Escobar was a faculty leader for a 2004 Journey of Reconciliation to Mexico City and Oaxaca, Mexico, that explored the various social, religious, economic and educational ties between the United States and its neighbor to the south.
Yedvobnick’s research is currently focused on the Notch pathway, which has a fundamental but not well understood role in a range of developmental and disease-related processes. In 2004, he was co-writer for two papers on the subject (along with several of his undergraduates), and his lab’s research is continuing.
While research, especially in the hard sciences, is important, the immediacy of the classroom and hands-on involvement with students is crucial and rarely takes a backseat, the professors said. “It’s a struggle we all have,” Yedvobnick said. “But if an experiment doesn’t get done, that has less effect than if a lecture isn’t prepared.”