Biochemistry earns universitywide award for teaching excellence

Biochemistry earns universitywide award for teaching excellence

James Allen, (right) a biochemistry research associate, and Kathleen Mannino, a sophomore from St. Louis, discusses an experiment that uses algae and certain wavelengths to remove nitrates from groundwater. The project is part of the university’s award-winning biochemistry department.
Craig Chandler | University Communication
James Allen, (right) a biochemistry research associate, and Kathleen Mannino, a sophomore from St. Louis, discusses an experiment that uses algae and certain wavelengths to remove nitrates from groundwater. The project is part of the university’s award-winning biochemistry department.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Department of Biochemistry has received the University of Nebraska’s top honor for excellence in teaching.

Announced March 12, the Universitywide Departmental Teaching Award is one of the University of Nebraska President’s Faculty Excellence Awards. Since 1993, the honor has recognized departments or units within the university that have made unique and significant contributions to NU’s teaching efforts and that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to the education of students at the undergraduate, graduate or professional levels.

Winning departments, selected by a committee of faculty members from across the university, receive $25,000 to be used in a manner the department sees fit, such as for travel to a conference, instructional equipment or improvements to a classroom or student resource.

“The Department of Biochemistry has built a proven record of teaching excellence that serves our students, the university and Nebraska’s future workforce well,” said NU President Hank Bounds. “The department’s faculty are a model of collaboration and innovation, and they put students first in everything they do.”

Biochemistry is the study of living things through the methods and practices of the physical sciences. The field has produced extraordinary advances in medicine and biotechnology over time — and educators are continually challenged to make a complex subject cohesive and accessible for a diverse audience.

T.J. Nicodemus, a graduate student from Lakeville, Indiana, and lab manager Mark Behrens, eye an experiment using algae and certain wavelengths of light to remove nitrates from groundwater. The research is part of Nebraska’s Department of Biochemistry.

Chaired by Paul Black, Charles Bessey Professor of Biological Chemistry, the Department of Biochemistry has made significant efforts to revitalize its curriculum in order to enhance the student experience through engagement, outreach and research. The department’s faculty have also built an outstanding record in research, with one of the highest levels of extramural support on campus and numerous publications in high-impact scientific journals.

The department is a shared program between the College of Arts and Sciences and Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Recent department successes include:

  • A nationally accredited undergraduate curriculum of experiential learning using data-driven outcomes to inform a program that emphasizes critical thinking, experimental testing, computational modeling and inferential logic.

  • An outstanding, nationally recognized, interdepartmental graduate curriculum that is training students in modern, interdisciplinary biochemical sciences.

  • A culture of pedagogical excellence through faculty engagement on campus and innovation both in the classroom and online.

  • A multidimensional program that enriches science literacy in all facets of the population, from citizens, to K-12 teachers and students, to non-biochemistry majors and other stakeholders.

Through a commitment to inclusive excellence and the success of its 350-plus students, the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry are effectively preparing students for careers in medicine, industry, teaching and research.

Additional systemwide awards will be announced. All winners will be honored at a luncheon in the spring.