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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU convocation honors eight faculty members for excellence in teaching, research

New Mexico State University honored its faculty and staff at the 2016 fall convocation ceremony Aug. 16 at NMSU’s Atkinson Recital Hall. Every fall and spring, convocation is held to celebrate the start of a new semester.


Group of 11 people
NMSU faculty award winners are joined by NMSU president Garrey Carruthers, far right, and provost Dan Howard, far left, for a group photo following the 2016 fall convocation ceremony at Atkinson Recital Hall. Awardees include, from left to right, Reza Foudazi, Tom Manz, Karin Wiburg, Hongmei Luo, Michael Hout, James McAteer, Karen Becklin, Erika Gergerich and Kenneth Carroll. (Photo by Andres Leighton)

Eight faculty members were recognized during the ceremony for their excellence in teaching and research, and service to the university.

“Convocation provides an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the wonderful work of our faculty and staff in helping students achieve their educational goals,” said Provost Dan Howard. “The quality of a New Mexico State University education is second to none, and it is a singular honor to recognize some of the individuals who make this institution such a special place.”

Hongmei Luo was conferred the Westhafer Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity. The Westhafer is presented in memory of Robert L. Westhafer, professor in the Department of Mathematics from 1946 to 1957. It is given in alternating years for excellence in teaching, and research and creative activity.

Luo is an associate professor in chemical and material engineering. Her research focuses on thin films and nanostructural materials for photocatalyst, electrocatalyst, lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors and solar cell applications. She has authored and co-authored 125 journal publications and has brought in $3 million in research funding to NMSU.

Luo also received the University Research Council Distinguished Career Award during the convocation ceremony.

Kenneth Carroll and Erika Gergerich were honored with the Patricia Christmore Faculty Teaching Award. This annual award, which is named for a former accounting department head, acknowledges and rewards outstanding tenure-track faculty members for excellence in teaching. A student committee selects the honorees.

Carroll is an assistant professor in the plant and environmental sciences department and the Water Science Management Graduate Program. Since his arrival at NMSU in 2013, he has developed a joint research and teaching core lab as a main teaching facility for students to learn chemical analysis and to support research.

His teaching and research focus on environmental science and geochemical hydrogeology. His research group has discovered a switchable hydraulic fracturing fluid for geothermal energy, which will facilitate renewable energy and decrease environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing.

Gergerich is an assistant professor of social work. Her doctoral degree emphasis is in public policy with a focus on healthcare and geriatrics. Her teaching and research focus on social work with elders, dementia, social welfare policy, ethics and aging, and social work with communities and organizations.

One of Gergerich’s students said of her, “Dr. Gergerich possesses a true social worker’s heart. She has displayed her passion for social issues with her involvement in social work conferences and her belief in ongoing research to improve social work practice.”

Four faculty were honored with the University Research Council Award for Exceptional Achievements in Creative Scholarly Activity and two received the council’s Distinguished Career Award.

The recipients of the award for exceptional achievement in creative scholarly activity were James McAteer, Department of Astronomy; Michael C. Hout, Department of Psychology; and Reza Foudazi and Tom Manz, both of the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. Hongmei Luo, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, and Karin Wiburg, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, received the distinguished career award.

A National Science Foundation Career Award recipient, McAteer’s research is focused on studies of the sun addressing two main questions: What is the cause of solar activity, and how does this affect us on Earth?

Currently, he is leading a national effort to let NMSU and a consortium of universities take over operations of the Sunspot solar facility in the Sacramento Mountains.

Hout’s research is focused on understanding human memory and attention, with an emphasis on human visual processing and eye movements. He collaborates widely across the United States and abroad, is a consulting editor of three different peer-reviewed journals, and is a Fellow of the Psychonomic Society.

Since joining NMSU in fall 2013, Foudazi has established a Soft Matter Lab focusing on self-assembly polymer synthesis, and colloid and interface science.

Manz’s research group develops new computational chemistry methods and applies existing methods to design materials for green chemistry applications.

He recently received a National Science Foundation Career Award to design new computational methods and membrane systems for gas purifications.

Wiburg is currently a Distinguished Professor of Learning Design and Technology, as well as the director of a STEM education research group.

Since her arrival at NMSU in 1993, she has created master’s and doctoral programs in learning and technology and built a strong research agenda using learning design and technology to increase student access and success in learning English and mathematics.

She has received approximately $20 million in grants, most in collaboration with faculty from multiple colleges as well as public school leaders and teachers. She has co-authored four textbooks and has written numerous articles and chapters for publication in research journals and handbooks.