- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Professor Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the department, was singled out for her outstanding graduate and professional mentoring, and Professor Diane Ullman, former chair of the department, for her stellar undergraduate teaching.
The Academic Senate minutes state:
"Professor Joanna Chiu is known for her ability to help students visualize and internalize abstract interactions that are invisible to the naked eye. Students and colleagues praise her desire to demystify pathways to success in science. She's admired for her compassion and dedication to students at all levels, whether they are visiting high school students, undergraduates, or graduate students. Her graduate students have landed jobs in academia, industry, and medicine, and they seek her counsel well into their professional lives. Professor Chiu has also created training programs and financial awards to increase diversity and inclusivity in her field."
"Professor Diane Ullman has provided superb teaching and mentoring for many years, not only in the Department of Entomology and Nematology but as a leader in the Science and Society program. She has brought art-science fusion alive in innovative ways. Her nominees and students rave about her deep dedication, care, and knowledge in all teaching interactions, as well as her overall commitment to student success. One student nominee summed it up best: "My experience in her course last spring was one that lifted my spirits, enriched my education, and strengthened my love for art and science during a time when it was difficult to feel positive about anything.”
The award packets called for a nomination letter, letters of support from students, curriculum vitae (including publications, research grants, and honors and awards), teaching activities, and student evaluations.
Chiu, a molecular geneticist and physiologist, joined the department in 2010 and has served as the vice chair of the department since 2016. She was nominated by medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor.
Attardo, a co-instructor and a guest lecturer in some of her classes, wrote: "Joanna is skilled at communicating complex/abstract topics. She has a clear and concise manner of delivering information which is essential when dealing with aspects of molecular biology/genetics/biochemistry. This is especially so for students with little to no background in these fields. The nature of these topics requires students to internalize the information and visualize abstract interactions invisible to the naked eye. I have observed (and in fact taken classes myself) where this type of information is presented in a dense and impenetrable lecture format with little to no interaction between the professor and the students."
Complex Subject Matter. Commenting on analysis of genomic variation, Attardo wrote: "The class covered the basics of genetic variation, techniques used to characterize/analyze this type of data and ways in which this data can be applied to applications such as taxonomy, evolutionary biology, and population dynamics. Joanna presented this complex subject matter in a stepwise manner using clear visual aids with each step being reinforced by real world examples from the literature. She further engaged the students with queries to interpret examples, ask questions and explore their understanding of the material to that point. Her strategy of presenting this information in small chunks followed by time for thought and personal interpretation is an excellent way to introduce these topics and give the students time to process/wrestle with the information internally before moving onto the next concept. I sat in on this session as this topic is somewhat of a weak spot for me and I found it extremely informative and enjoyable."
Graduate students Erin Taylor Kelly, Lindsey Mack, Christine Tabuloc and Yao Cai, and alumnus Kelly Hamby (now an associate professor/Extension specialist, Department of Entomology, University of Maryland) strongly supported the nomination.
"I consider Dr. Chiu's teaching and mentorship approach to be a model that I seek to emulate. Her lectures are famously clear and organized; I find myself returning to them long after classes are over for topic refreshers," Kelly wrote in part.
Encourages Us to Think Deeply. Mack praised her commitment to her students and her ability to relate course content to current research. "She encourages us to think deeply about course material to stimulate questions and acquire skills."
"What makes her so outstanding is her commitment to helping us improve as scientists and researchers and preparing us for our future career endeavors," wrote Tabuloc. "She advises me on how to be a more resilient scientist and gives me the opportunity to do outreach events where I talk about my science with the general public, teach workshops about writing in the sciences and the circadian clock, present my work at conferences, and attend workshops that increase my skillset. I have learned how to make the subject interesting to the audience and easy to understand."
"There is no final exam in the class," Cai related. "As a substitute, students are asked to write a two-page National Science Foundation research proposal and peer-review others' proposals. She encourages students to think actively, instead of just memorizing facts for the exams. Dr. Chiu knows what skills are the most critical in a certain stage of PhD training…critical thinking, scientific reading, scientific writing, presentation, time management, scientific rigor."
Office Always Open. Wrote Hamby: "Her office is always open to students, whether they are visiting high school students, undergraduates, or graduate students, her own students or someone else's. She carefully guides students throughout their experiments, directly providing technical training—side by side at the bench—while developing their critical thinking and communication skills. Joanna not only imparts excellent analytic and laboratory molecular skills to her students, but also commits to providing ongoing professional advice and development."
The students also lauded her commitment to improving diversity in the department and supporting stipend raises.
Professor Chiu is the co-administrator of the campuswide Research Scholars in Insect Biology, which aims to provide undergraduates with a closely mentored research experience in biology. A 2019-23 Chancellor's Fellow, she received the 2019 Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology and music from Mount Holyoke College, Mass., and a doctorate in molecular genetics from New York University. She served as a postdoctoral fellow in chronobiology--molecular genetics and biochemistry, at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Professor Ullman, both an entomologist and an artist, received her bachelor of science degree in horticulture from the University of Arizona and her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1985. She joined the UC Davis faculty in 1991 after serving as an associate professor of entomology at the University of Hawaii. Her credentials include: chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, 2004-2005; associate dean for undergraduate academic programs for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 2005 to 2014; and co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, launched in September 2006.
A Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2014) and the Entomological Society of America (2011), Ullman was named the 2014 recipient of the ESA National Excellence in Teaching Award.
International Acclaim. UC Davis Distinguished Professor Jay Rosenheim, a fellow faculty member since 1994--and who has known Ullman since she was a doctoral student--wrote the letter of nomination. "I have seen in Diane the rare academic who places co-equal emphasis on her research program, which has given her international acclaim, and her teaching and mentorship. Diane cares for every student who comes into her classes and her laboratory, takes them under her wing, and helps them thrive. She cares deeply about the well-being of everyone she mentors, and it shows in everything she does."
Rosenheim noted that her commitment to mentorship motivated her to "create a nationwide mentorship program as part of a $3.75 million grant from the USDA, for which she was the lead principal investigator, to give undergraduate students a closely mentored opportunity to conduct individual research projects. This program (Vector Pathogen Educational Network or VPEN) trained 28 postdoctoral researchers and graduate students to be mentors, and then paired each with an undergraduate student researcher mentee."
Rosenheim praised her entomology class, ENT 001, "Art, Science and the World of Insects," which he described as "a unique and creative course, created by Diane, to bring together art and science. The class includes two hours of lecture each week plus a single three-hour “labudio” – i.e., a combination of a science laboratory and an art studio. The lectures cover the biology and ecology of insects, including their interactions with humans and their importance in human culture."
Creative and Effective Approach. "Her commitment to student success has motivated her since she joined our campus, and she has taken a creative and effective approach to teaching and mentorship that has magnified her impact beyond her own immediate students and mentee," Rosenheim noted. "She has trained graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to be more effective mentors themselves, and the success of VPEN and the Career Discovery Groups (an undergraduate mentoring program founded by Ullman with David Rizzo) will ensure that these efforts continue to bear fruit well into the future."
In a letter of support, undergraduate entomology student Kyle Elshoff, Class of 2024, described Professor Ullman as "one of the best instructors" he's ever had. "She has a love and passion for both art and science that is infectious and inspires further discussion and exploration by students outside of class."
Professor Ullman is committed to "helping us succeed," Elshoff related, "especially with the challenges presented by remote learning during a pandemic. For instance, despite being unable to work with us in-person to create art in the wonderfully named 'Labudio,' she still ensured that every student would be able to exercise their creativity and create a meaningful final artwork. She prepared and shipped each of us a box of watercolor supplies to use and keep, and she recorded watercolor video tutorials with a local artist so that we could familiarize ourselves with basic principles and techniques. I felt supported by these kind actions; it was reassuring to know that I had a professor who cared about me and who, right from the outset, was willing to go the extra mile for her students."
Elshoff concluded: "My experience in her ENT 001 course last spring was one that lifted my spirits, enriched my education, and strengthened my love for art and science during a time when it was difficult to feel positive about anything. More than just a professor, Dr. Ullman is someone who I feel comfortable reaching out to for advice and guidance as I move forward with entomology and art."