October 17, 2013

Bush Awards Honor Texas A&M Faculty

Mark T. Holtzapple (left) Cynthia K. Boettcher (center) and Nicholas B. Suntzeff (right)

The 2013 Bush Excellence Awards for international teaching, international research and public service were presented to Dr. Cynthia K. Boettcher, Dr. Nicholas B. Suntzeff and Dr. Mark T. Holtzapple Wednesday (Oct. 16) at a dinner honoring international excellence hosted by President R. Bowen Loftin and the Texas A&M International Advisory Board.

Texas A&M Executive Vice President and Provost Karan Watson and George Bush Presidential Library Foundation Chief Executive Officer Frederick McClure presented each recipient with a plaque and a check for $2,000 during the awards program dinner.

“It is an honor to recognize these outstanding faculty at Texas A&M with Bush Excellence Awards,” McClure said. “Through their work, they are equipping students with global competencies, exploring the international dimensions of their disciplines and preserving our environment for future generations. We congratulate Drs. Boettcher, Suntzeff and Holtzapple on receiving this prestigious honor.”

The 2013 Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in International Teaching was presented to Boettcher, assistant department head and clinical professor of teaching, learning and culture in the College of Education and Human Development, where she also is the director of academic advising and of the Lohman Learning Community. Boettcher has led students abroad to England, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, Northern and Southern Ireland, China, Hungary, Austria, Costa Rica and Russia. She not only leads her programs, but she actively recruits other faculty members and students to go abroad. Her study abroad trips are noted for their academic rigor, and for their impact on the lives of students. Boettcher’s pre-service teachers taught under her guidance during their studies abroad, allowing them to fully embrace their international experience.

In addition to her study abroad experiences, Boettcher is a strong advocate for service learning and has incorporated it into many of her courses both here and abroad. Students who travelled with Boettcher to the Rio Grande Valley shared their “how I got to college” stories with families, and her work in Tsinghua, China teaching English gave service experience to more than 40 Texas A&M students and faculty.

From the College of Science, the Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in International Research went to Suntzeff, the Mitchell/Munnerlyn/Heep Professor of Observational Astronomy and the 2013 University Distinguished Professor in Physics and Astronomy.  Suntzeff is well-known for his research on dwarf galaxies and exploding stars and their use as indicators of the distance scale of the universe. These distance derivations showed results which uncovered the acceleration of the Universe – which was named the 1998 Science Magazine “Breakthrough of the Year.” His work on exploding stars with an international team of three other scientists resulted in papers written in 1994 -1996 that are still highly cited and actually began the field of supernova cosmology.

Suntzeff was the founder of one of the international teams that made one of the most important discoveries in the history of astrophysics: the detection of “dark energy.”  His work directly contributed to the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011. His nominator said that “the full appreciation and understanding of the impact of dark energy and associate cosmology will be the topic of physics research for much of the next century.”

Holtzapple, professor of chemical engineering in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering in the Dwight Look College of Engineering, received the Bush Excellence Award for Public Service. He has been recognized as the most prolific inventor in the entire Texas A&M System. The presenter of the award mentioned a long litany of publications and awards in teaching and research, but Holtzapple says he wants people to know him best for his desire to improve the sustainability of our world by creating new forms of “green energy” from wastes and by using energy more efficiently.

Holtzapple’s research has developed technologies that promote sustainable economic development, primarily in the areas of biofuels, food and feed processing, desalination and efficient engine development. These technologies not only provide affordable fuel but do not contribute carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. One nominator said that Holtzapple is “one of a small group who has the ability to identify key problems, invent novel solutions and develop the abstract solutions into working, large scale plant size pilot demonstrations to prove the economic and technical value of the new technologies.”

Through presentation of his research and constant advocacy for energy sustainability, Dr. Holtzapple connects with the community, industry, academic colleagues and elected officials around the world. His service enhances the public awareness of the issues his research seeks to solve and broadens the reputation of Texas A&M as a leader in these fields.

The Bush Excellence Awards were established through the vision and support of President and Mrs. George Bush in 2002, with financial assistance from the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation. Since that time, 36 awards have been presented to Texas A&M faculty. To view recipients from previous years, visit the Public Partnership & Outreach website.

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Media Contact: Linda Edwards at (979) 862-6700 or Tura King, Division of Marketing & Communications, at (979) 845-4670

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