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   from the issue of March 23, 2006

Faculty receive top teaching, research honors


Three UNL faculty members have received University of Nebraska awards for excellence in teaching or research.

Announced March 10 by NU President James B. Milliken, the awards include Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Awards to Ruma Banerjee and Wheeler Winston Dixon; and an Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award to Ruth Heaton.

The ORCA recognizes individual faculty members for research and creative activity of international or national significance. The OTICA recognizes individual faculty members for sustained records of excellence in teaching. Each individual honor is accompanied by a $3,500 award. Recipients, who will be honored at a April 6 convocation in Omaha, are selected by a committee of outstanding peers.

As director of the Redox Biology Center, Banerjee is leading research that shows great promise in the study of heart disease, cancer and metabolic disorders. The center was established in 2002 with a $10.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Banerjee and her team are conducting research into homocysteine, a substance derived from the amino acid methionine. Homocysteine is essential for health but is toxic at elevated levels, constituting a significant heart disease risk factor. Up to one-third of the people at risk for heart disease have elevated homocysteine levels. It is also correlated with Alzheimer's disease and fetal neural tube defects.

Banerjee, George Holmes professor of biochemistry, joined UNL as an assistant professor in 1991 and was promoted to associate professor in 1997 and professor in 2000. A native of India, she earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Delhi University and a doctorate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. She was a lecturer at the University of Michigan before joining the UNL faculty. Before being named George Holmes university professor, Banerjee was a Willa Cather professor at UNL.

An artist, film critic and historian, Dixon built the film studies program at UNL.

Dixon, the Ryan professor of film studies and a professor of English, came to UNL in 1984 to teach after earning a doctorate from Rutgers in 1982. Dixon teaches courses in film history, theory and criticism.

During the 1960s, Dixon worked as an experimental filmmaker in New York, rubbing elbows with soon-to-be legends such as Andy Warhol. He moved to Los Angeles and London in the late 1960s and early 1970s to work in the film industry. Dixon left Hollywood in 1976 after a career as a post-production supervisor to pursue a career in academe.

Since 1999, Dixon and his wife, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, have served as editors-in-chief of "The Quarterly Review of Film and Video," a distinguished journal of film criticism. Dixon is also on the editorial board of the journal "Film Criticism." He was a member of the editorial board of "Cinema Journal" from 2000 to 2003 and now serves as a member of the executive council of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

He is author of numerous film-related books and continues to provide scholarly analysis of film in society. Also, the UNL film studies program provides students with a wide range of opportunities, including internships and other learning experiences.

An associate professor in the department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education, Heaton has been honored for her work in mathematics education.

Heaton's research interests in mathematics education are in the areas of teaching, teacher learning, and teacher knowledge. She is the author of "Teaching Mathematics to the New Standards: Relearning the Dance," published by Teachers College Press, 2000.

She was a co-principal investigator of "Math Matters," an NSF-funded project designed to link the mathematical, pedagogical, and field experiences of prospective elementary teachers. Heaton has also been working in a successful school-university partnership for eight years with teachers from Lincoln Public Schools' Roper Elementary School. She is currently a co-principal investigator for the Math in the Middle Institute Partnership, an NSF-funded project designed to provide and study high quality professional development for middle school teachers with the long-term goal of improving K-12 student achievement in mathematics.

She received her doctorate in math education from Michigan State University. Prior to her work in higher education, Heaton taught elementary school for 10 years.

In addition to the UNL winners, Karen Dwyer, associate professor and communications and basic speech course director at UNO, also received an OTICA, and the Division of Physical Therapy Education at UNMC received the Universitywide Departmental Teaching Award.



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