[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 15-Feb-2006
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Contact: Lonnie Shekhtman
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American Association for the Advancement of Science

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Educators in Texas and Massachusetts earn top 2005 mentoring awards from AAAS

For their tireless efforts to help underrepresented students earn doctoral degrees in the sciences, two women -- a chemistry professor at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Mass., and an engineering professor at Texas A&M University, College Station -- will receive top honors from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific organization.

Sheila Browne, also the Bertha Phillips Rodger Chair in Chemistry at Mount Holyoke College, received the prestigious 2005 AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement. She directed the bachelor's or master's theses of 79 women, 28 of whom went on to doctoral degrees and 31 of whom were minorities; and directed the doctoral work of two women.

Karen L. Butler-Purry of Texas A&M University received the 2005 AAAS Mentor Award. She has mentored 18 underrepresented students through the doctoral level and has positively affected the lives of scores more undergraduate and graduate students through her involvement in student-focused activities.

2005 AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement

Being the first in her extended family to complete high school, Dr. Browne overcame significant obstacles through the mentorship of teachers who she says encouraged her to envision a bigger future than she could see. Today, Dr. Browne is an accomplished physical organic chemist. In addition to her research and publications on biodegradable polymers, she is distinguished for her mentoring work to increase opportunities for ethnic groups underrepresented in the sciences. She is passionate about creating a welcoming atmosphere and actively develops and presents new methods of teaching that reduce fear and enhance success in science careers.

This award recognizes Dr. Browne's success in increasing the number of women with Ph.D. degrees in chemistry. Among her accomplishments, she secured funding from GE and the National Science Foundation (NSF) for summer research opportunities for students from underrepresented minority groups who are considering science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) college teaching as a career. She co-founded Sistahs in Science in 1994, a student organization that promotes the advancement of minority women in science.

"Dr. Browne is an inspiration in the classroom," said Michelle Avritt, a former student and chair of Sistahs in Science. "Not only does she teach chemistry, but she teaches about stress management, how to find an internship, and gives general tips on how to be a success.

She frequently takes a personal interest in students, writing countless recommendations, reading resumes and applications, and making herself available to students in whatever way possible."

Dr. Browne has been involved in recruitment and retention efforts with AAAS, the Howard Hughes Foundation, the NSF's Collaboration for Excellence in Teacher Preparation, the American Chemical Society, the New England Board of Higher Education Minority Science Network, and the Bayer Corporation. Her audiences have ranged from minority doctoral students to K-12 teachers and counselors to scientists and community leaders. In addition to her collegiate activities, Dr. Browne mentors two dozen students through the New England Board of Higher Education's Science and Engineering Academic Support Network.

The AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement honors members of the Association who have mentored and guided significant numbers of underrepresented students toward a Ph.D. degree in the sciences, as well as scholarship, activism and community-building on behalf of underrepresented groups, including women of all racial or ethnic groups; African-American, Native-American, and Hispanic men; and people with disabilities. This award often recognizes individuals with 25 or more years of success in mentoring students. The recipient receives $5,000 and a commemorative plaque.

2005 AAAS Mentor Award

Dr. Karen Butler-Purry has made student mentoring and counseling an integral part of her professional academic career, both in the electrical engineering and computer sciences areas. To support student mentoring, Butler-Purry has secured grants from Homeland Security, the Sloan Foundation and the NSF.

A summer research grant from NSF landed one former student in Japan at a technical research laboratory. "Through the direct mentoring of Dr. Karen Butler-Purry, I have established a solid and thriving career in multimedia research and development in the wireless telecommunications industry," said Fred Ware, imaging and video software architect, Texas Instruments. "She is by far an exceptional scholar and contributor to the engineering community on a nationwide level."

Dr. Butler-Purry has been faculty advisor to the university's chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers, and has been an invited speaker at regional and national conferences. She initiated the Engineering Graduate Invitational at Texas A&M University, which targets underrepresented students in engineering and encourages participants from minority-serving institutions.

"Since meeting her in 1994, Karen Butler-Purry remains to me one of the people who makes a difference in the lives of those she touches," said Jan Rinehart, deputy director, Space Engineering Institute and colleague. "I have been touched by her dedication, passion, and commitment to students; not only in the college of Engineering, but at the university and outside Texas A&M University."

Additionally, she has been a director of the College of Engineering Undergraduate Summer Research Program. Through this program and others, she has provided research opportunities in her laboratory for 50 undergraduate students, a group nearly three-quarters minority and one-third female.

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The AAAS Mentor Award honors members of the Association who have mentored and guided significant numbers of underrepresented students to earn a Ph.D. degree in the sciences, as well as scholarship, activism and community-building on behalf of underrepresented groups, including women of all racial or ethnic groups; African-American, Native-American, and Hispanic men; and people with disabilities. This award is directed toward individuals in the early or mid-career stage who have mentored students for less than 25 years. The recipient receives $5,000 and a commemorative plaque.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

For more information on AAAS awards, see http://www.aaas.org/aboutaaas/awards. Awards will be bestowed at the 2006 AAAS Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Mo., on 18 February.

AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, dedicated to "Advancing science ∙ Serving society."



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