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Campus News

Faculty Honored for Excellent Scholarship, Teaching

By Monette Austin Bailey

The university proudly announces the four 2011-12 Distinguished Scholar-Teachers. The program honors tenured faculty members who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments as educators and notable achievements in their respective fields. Each scholar will present a lecture during the school year, and the award carries an honorarium to support professional activities.

Ritu Agarwal
Department of Decision, Operations and Information Technologies

Ritu Agarwal
A prolific scholar, Agarwal is focused on the potential information technology, or IT, has for transforming the health-care industry. She is passionate about how IT can reduce costs and increase quality while also improving the health of patients. She also studies privacy challenges related to digitized medical records, the role of social media in health care, the effectiveness of electronic prescriptions and more.

"This award will allow me to get on the soapbox a little bit more, and to drive home the point that IT can help improve health and save lives" says the founder and director of the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Dean's Chair of Information Systems. The center collaborates with industry and government agencies to agencies to provide insight on integrating information and technology in health care.

Agarwal has published more than 80 journal papers, the top 10 of which have been cited more than 4,000 times. She has served as senior editor at Information Systems Research and MIS Quarterly and is editor-in-chief of Information Systems Research. A recent recipient of the school's Krowe Teaching Award, Agarwal consistently places among the top instructors in the school, according to student surveys. Her mentoring of doctoral students is also noteworthy, with her students going on to positions at institutions including Notre Dame and McGill universities and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Agarwal's mentees describe her as an excellent listener and powerful communicator. Despite a demanding schedule, she also spends time with students who she's not teaching or advising.

Photo credit: John T. Consoli

Avis Cohen
Departments of Biology and Neuroscience and Cognitive Science
Institute for Systems Research

Avis Cohen
Cohen is a pioneer in her field of computational neuroscience, which combines mathematics, neuroscience, engineering and biology.

A biologist, Cohen works with teams in the Institute for Systems Research to understand and ultimately repair human systems (e.g. nervous and motor control) with her research focusing on the spinal cord. Her landmark research of a primitive vertebrate as a model for more complex locomotion has encouraged other scholars to cross academic boundaries.

"We're all working toward the same goal," she says. "To answer questions of the magnitude we have, one needs an interdisciplinary approach."

Cohen established the university's Neuroscience and Cognitive Science program more than a decade ago, and today is a sought-after lecturer at international scientific conferences who has published scores of articles. She possesses the ability to translate complex research into layman's language, appearing in popular publications where she illustrates the applicability of her and colleagues' work.

Cohen applies her collaborative approach to teaching, directly involving graduate and undergraduate students in her technical research. Former doctoral mentees have moved on to prestigious university science programs and medical schools, such as University College, London; Northwestern University; and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York. To improve the number of women scientists, she directs and is a principal investigator of the ADVANCE National Science Foundation grant awarded to Maryland to support women in the sciences.

Colin Phillips
Department of Linguistics

Colin Phillips
Phillips is one of the foremost scholars in the study of how linguistic knowledge factors into language comprehension and co-directs at least three university initiatives to broaden his field.

Determined to help make the university the go-to place for language science research, Phillips is director of the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Lab and Maryland's Magnetoencephalography Center for brain imaging. He is also co-principal investigator for a new National Science Foundation, or NSF, award establishing the Maryland Neuroimaging Center scheduled to open later this year.

"The university has the largest collection of language scientists in the country, spread across disciplines, working on diverse aspects of language, using many different approaches. We're working to bring this broad community together," he says.

He hopes to start graduate students thinking the same way by coordinating more than 100 faculty and students from 10 departments in six colleges as part of Maryland's new interdisciplinary training program, Biological and Computational Foundations of Language Diversity, also supported by an NSF award.

Phillips' excellent instructional, mentoring and advising skills are constantly on display. He teaches and is available year-round. His enthusiastic research-integrated instruction provides a collaborative and welcoming environment to undergraduate and graduate students. What he finds most rewarding is the success of his students, who are building interdisciplinary initiatives in top programs such as at the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago and the University of Massachusetts.

Photo credit: Rhoda Baer

Lawrence Washington
Department of Mathematics

>Lawrence Washington
Washington's work in cryptology and number theory teases out the math behind secret codes to break them. Not surprisingly, he's a go-to expert on security—and a popular instructor on campus.

At Maryland since 1977, Washington is internationally renowned and has written or co-written three well-reviewed books that have become reference texts, such as "Elliptic Curves: Number Theory and Cryptography." Over the past four decades, his scholarship has been recognized with honors such as an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and several visiting positions at prestigious institutions.

Washington plays an active role in the administration of the graduate program. For the last 25 years, he has served on the Graduate Committee representing algebra. He almost single-handedly writes and administers the discipline's Graduate Qualifying Exam.

Washington has advised 20 doctoral students, with six more students' theses in the works. Department colleagues Mike Boyle and William Goldman say that Washington's large number of doctoral advisees is admirable, not just for the quantity. It represents "intellectual generosity. Since mathematics consists purely of ideas, suggesting a thesis topic to a graduate student essentially relinquishes the opportunity to solve the problem oneself," they write in his nomination letter.

He has mentored the research projects of numerous high school students, seven of whom were finalists in the Westinghouse/Intel Science Talent Search, and another who later won a prestigious Fields Medal from the International Mathematical Union. More than a decade after he first taught an introductory cryptology course, he continues to enjoy it.

"It's fun stuff...to show how theoretical math is applied to the real world," he says.

In 2009 he won the John Smith Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching by the Maryland/D.C./Virginia chapter of the Mathematical Association of America, as well as several Maryland teaching awards.

Photo courtesy of Lawrence Washington