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Georgia, Maryland Educators Win 2006 AAAS Mentoring Awards
SAN FRANCISCO--A professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland and the head of the school of electrical and computer engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology have been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for their diligent efforts to help underrepresented students earn doctoral degrees in the sciences.
Raymond L. Johnson, a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland, College Park, received the prestigious 2006 AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement. He has mentored 23 students -- 22 of them African Americans -- who have received Ph.D. degrees in mathematics. Eight of the African Americans are women.
Gary S. May, professor and chair of the Steve W. Chaddick School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, received the 2006 AAAS Mentor Award. He has mentored 33 students -- most of them African Americans -- who have received doctoral degrees in electrical and computer engineering. Ten of them are women.
2006 AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement
Nearly 40 years ago, Raymond Johnson became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. degree in mathematics from Rice University in Houston. He had entered the school as a research assistant because Rice's charter barred African Americans from graduate study, a restriction the school lifted a year after Johnson's arrival. Johnson, who received his Ph.D. in 1969, became the first African American professor at the University of Maryland. He has devoted his career there to increasing the participation in the mathematical sciences by African Americans.
In nominating Johnson for the AAAS award, Patrick Fitzpatrick--the chair of the mathematics department at Maryland--noted that "the institutional success of our department in educating underrepresented minorities has been based on the leadership of Ray Johnson." Johnson also has been an influential voice nationally in efforts to foster greater opportunities for African Americans in mathematics. He has served on the Board of Governors of the two leading mathematical research institutes in the United States, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications. Johnson has helped organize conferences to promote more participation in mathematics research by African Americans and other minorities. He was a founding member of the Conference for African American Researchers in Mathematical Sciences.
In a letter of support for Johnson's nomination, Monica Jackson, a postdoctoral student at Emory University, said that his "interest in minority students has not been to provide us with an 'extra hand' or special consideration--just a level playing field with every other graduate student in the department." And, she added: "It is that level playing field that made all the difference in my success at the University of Maryland." Jackson received a Ph.D. degree from Maryland in applied mathematics and scientific computation in 2003.
Kimberly Weems, one of three African American women to receive PhDs in math from Maryland in the same year, noted that the achievement received considerable media attention. "However, humble Dr. Johnson remained in the background, never mentioning the important role he played in our success," she said, describing him as "committed and compassionate" in his efforts to mentor promising students.
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.
2006 AAAS Mentor Award
Gary S. May is a nationally recognized leader in efforts to promote engineering in the underrepresented minority community. In 1992, he established the Georgia Tech Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering/Science (SURE) program. It provided minority students practical research experience and encourages them to pursue graduate education. Nearly 250 students have participated so far and surveys show that nearly 90 percent of them have either completed a graduate degree, enrolled in a graduate program, or plan to do so within the next two years. May also has been working on a collaborative program with Morehouse College and Spelman College to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups who receive doctoral degrees and pursue careers in academia. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), has provided support for 43 graduate students so far.
May has served on the congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology as well as the NSF's Committee on Equal Opportunity in Science and Engineering, which he chaired in 2000-2001.
Gregory Triplett, a former doctoral student of May's, said in a letter of support that "it may be fairly simple to measure his influence in terms of students he graduated or sponsored during each summer over the past decade." But he added: "What may not be taken into account is the number of lives he has also impacted at each convention, conference and thesis defense." Triplett is now an assistant professor of engineering at the University of Missouri.
"Prof. May's efforts to more fully develop the nation's human resources in science, mathematics and engineering have resulted in an outstanding record for mentoring students and significant service to the profession in a critical area of need," said Jean-Lou Chameau, the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Georgia Tech.
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.
AAAS was founded in 1848, and today serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, representing 10 million individuals. AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. AAAS is a non-profit organization open to all, and it 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!, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.
Get more information on AAAS awards. Awards will be bestowed at the 2007 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco on 17 February.
15 February 2007