Floral centerpiece on table at celebration

‘Role models for us all’

Outstanding Achievement Awards honor inclusion, excellence

May 22, 2019

Friends, family, and colleagues gathered at a reception and awards ceremony May 14 for this year’s recipients of the CNS Outstanding Achievement Awards. The awards recognize faculty, staff and students who have made important contributions to their discipline, department, college and university.  


Award recipients are chosen by committees chaired by designees appointed by  Dean Tricia Serio, including past recipients. Dean Serio,  associate dean for research and innovation Mark Tuominen, and department representatives congratulated the winners, each speaking briefly about their experiences.  

Serio emphasized her gratitude to the award winners for their extraordinary work, presenting them as leaders for the college. “Their tremendous work continues to foster student achievement, demonstrate excellence, and build a more inclusive environment,” she said. “They are wonderful role models for us all.”     

Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion 

Nilanjana  'Buju'  Dasgupta, professor,  Psychological and Brain Sciences; CNS  Director of  Faculty Equity and Inclusion  

Buju Dasgupta"Buju Dasgupta is a social psychologist who could be given this award solely for her highly-successful and influential research program, which explores topics such as stereotypes, implicit biases, and the importance of role models to the success of women and under-represented minorities in STEM disciplines. These topics are highly significant for leadership in the public and private sectors, and many of those individuals have invited Buju to present her work. Closer to home, she has been a leader on all aspects of diversity, and created the new Institute for Diversity Sciences in 2018. Over 100 students and faculty are already involved." 

Laura Lanier, PhD student, Polymer Science and Engineering  

Laura Lanier"Laura has truly demonstrated her passion for advancing diversity and inclusion at UMass through several leadership roles and outreach activities throughout her graduate career. In 2013, she saw the need for and founded the Graduate Students for Diversity in Science and Engineering (GSDSE) organization to bring prominent scientists from underrepresented groups to campus for two seminars: a technical research talk and a diversity seminar. Alongside this, she has coordinated the five day ASPIRE outreach polymer science program for local high school students to help expose students to hands-on research experiences early on in their education. Last year, Laura helped organize the Graduate Student Outreach and Public Engagement Summit. Laura is passionate about diversity, outreach, public engagement, and inclusion. She is an effective collaborator who has worked tirelessly to promote inclusion and engagement within her discipline, across the campus, and to the community beyond UMass."  

Ana Pamela Torres Ocampo, PhD student, Molecular and Cellular Biology  

Ana Pamela Torres Ocampo"Ana hails from Puerto Rico and is well aware of the struggles that female and underrepresented groups experience in the STEM field. She is passionate about helping people from underrepresented groups navigate their way through graduate school. She is involved in the STEM Ambassador program, which pairs freshman with graduate students to learn about life in a laboratory, and the Each One and Reach One program, which pairs seniors from underrepresented minorities to graduate students to help with the process of applying to graduate school. She wants everyone to experience a welcoming, productive and successful career in STEM and carries this mission with her in daily interactions. Ana has also been involved in establishing the Society of Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) at UMass Amherst and has participated in tour groups and information sessions for local community colleges about science and STEM fields. She has a love for science and is an ardent supporter of bringing science to the community. "  

Outstanding Teaching 

Erik Cheries"Erik Cheries is a developmental psychologist with an incredible ability to captivate his students.  He has described a class period as an emotional experience, with his job being to manage that experience such that students leave with a sense of engagement and wonder. Each class meeting becomes a journey that everyone is on together, with the students knowing they will end up somewhere special.  Even more impressive, Erik accomplishes this goal in his large sections just as well as in small seminars."  

Krista Gile"Professor Gile has distinguished herself at all facets of her professional activities. She uses the relationships that she built in service to organizations (including UNAIDS, US CDC, Vietnam CDC, US State Departmentto advance the careers of her students. Krista is an excellent academic with a worldview that leads her to support humanitarianefforts with her unique and strong skills as a statistician. She founded a statistics working group involving students and faculty across campus. Graduate students find this working group extremely valuable in their training. Gile is especially passionate about the statistics consulting center, giving high quality statistical service to individuals while at the same time teaching students the art of consulting. She is exceptionally good at weaving together lectures that reach all levels of students in the classroom, facilitating an open environment for collaboration and questions."  

Outstanding Staff 

Vicki Hubby, business manager, Chemistry  

Vicki Hubby"Vicki’s performance has been outstanding by any measure. She is considered the go-to person for many issues, including financial, compliance, and more. She is intelligent, efficient, always cheerful, and can be relied upon to solve any problem. She is indispensable and irreplaceable in that she almost single-handedly oversees all financial operations of our department, and is, in fact, the only person who fully understands them. "   

Laura  Looman, financial manager, Veterinary and Animal Sciences  

Laura Looman"At the beginning of 2017, both the department’s business manager and the HR representative took new positions. This left the business office with only Laura to deal with a very active department, both in terms of teaching expenses and research budgets. Laura stepped up to the plate in an unprecedented manner, doing the job of three people, learning HR procedures, and maintaining the office."  

Cole Tucker, technical assistant, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology  

Cole Tucker"Cole provides instructional support for the teaching labs and is also our operational manager and safety coordinator. He went so far as to take two of our lab courses for majors so that he could best understand the course from the student perspective and how to assist them. When he isn’t supporting the teaching labs, he is our first call in regard to infrastructure challenges. He unflinchingly rises to the challenges presented to him and does all of this with a consistent, joyful demeanor that is welcoming. From prepping labs to moving furniture or just being a creative sounding board to think out a challenging problem, Cole is always cheerily available to support the people who work around him. His initiative to become trained as an autoclave technician has saved the department thousands of dollars but, more importantly, also saved thousands of hours of wasted time and hassle due to broken autoclaves."   

Elizabeth  Wiernasz, registrar, Stockbridge School of Agriculture  

Elizabeth Wiernasz represented by a floral arrangement"Elizabeth has been the face of the Stockbridge associates degree program for nearly 50 years.  As Stockbridge registrarshe has dedicated herself to the students in a very special and compassionate way. For many students she is the go to person to gain information to help incoming students and undergraduates navigate the university systemLast yearElizabeth served as chair of the Centennial Celebration of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture. The celebration was a great success, thanks in large part to her tireless coordination, attention to detailand the meticulous planning she is so noted for by the faculty, alumni and students." 

Outstanding Advising 

Tony Dinsmore, professor, Physics  

Tony Dinsmore"Tony Dinsmore has been an exemplary chief undergraduate advisor in a period where the number of physics majors has more than doubled, making an accumulation of structural changes in our advising protocols that had a significant impact on student success in our major. Students find him a compassionate and resourceful ally in solving their diverse problems and struggles, while at the same time being honest, pragmaticand even-handed."  

Outstanding Service and Engagement 

Peter Schloerb"Many of you may have heard the NSF announcement about the detection of the Event Horizon from a black hole. In this feat of human ingenuity, perseverance, and scientific vision, the Large Millimeter Telescope has played a key role. And Pete Schloerb deserves credit for overseeing much of the conception, design, and construction of the Large Millimeter Telescope. We honor a colleague who through selfless dedication has enabled an international experiment that has produced what has been called the `image of the century.’"  

Outstanding Research  

Luke Remage-Healey, associate professor, Psychological and Brain SciencesEarly Career Award  

Luke Remage-Healey"Luke Remage-Healey studies how estrogens synthesized in the brain may serve a critical role in sensory processing, learning and memory, and higher cognitive function.  His main research is conducted in zebra finches, where he studies how neuroestrogens enhance vocal learning. Luke’s colleagues describe him as fearless because he is willing to learn whatever methods he needs to accomplish a goal. He isn’t just an amazing scientist in his own lab: he also works hard to make other people’s science better, reviewing countless grant proposals and editing manuscripts submitted for publication."   

Richard Vachet, professor and department head, Chemistry , Senior Career Award 

Richard Vachet"Vachet’s interdisciplinary research program is at the interfaces of analytical, biological, and materials chemistry. He and his research group develop and apply new methods based on mass spectrometry to tackle biomedically important problems that are difficult to address with existing tools. His work has elucidated the molecular details associated with protein amyloid fibril formation, which is a special type of protein aggregation that occurs in numerous human diseases. His research has also led to the development of sensitive new methods to track nanomaterial drug delivery vehicles in biological systems, facilitating the creation of better therapeutics with fewer side effects."  

Share this story: