College Announces 2016 Employee Award Recipients

The University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) hosted its annual academic festival May 11 to honor the college’s 2016 employee award recipients.

CMNS Board of Visitors Creative Educator Award
Byrn Booth "Boots" Quimby, Associate Director, Integrated Life Sciences program in the Honors College

Collaborating with and guiding five postdoctoral fellows at the National Institutes of Health, Quimby “flipped” the largest upper-division class in the biological sciences major. Using videotaped lectures and in-class learning activities based on cutting-edge research, she implemented the course during the spring 2015 semester. During her 10 years on campus, Quimby assembled the first International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) team for the 2014 competition, created a unique alternative spring break experience called “Terps helping Turtles” and established a new course in scholarship-in-practice for honors students majoring in life sciences fields.


CMNS Board of Visitors Distinguished Faculty Award
Aravind Srinivasan, Professor, Department of Computer Science and the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies

A fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the IEEE, Srinivasan is honored for his research record, respected leadership in the algorithms community and service. He is a noted expert in the growing confluence of algorithms, networks and randomness in fields including the social web, machine learning, public health, biology and energy. Srinivasan serves as editor-in-chief of the journal ACM Transactions on Algorithms, managing editor of the journal Theory of Computing and vice chair of the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on Mathematical Foundations of Computing.


CMNS Board of Visitors Junior Faculty Award
Vedran Lekic, Assistant Professor, Department of Geology

Lekic explores the state, dynamics and dominant processes of the solid Earth, as well as those of other planets and satellites. His research efforts focus on developing higher resolution imaging techniques and obtaining more reliable constraints on structures in the Earth’s deep interior. Lekic has received a Packard Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Early Career Faculty Development Program award and the Seismological Society of America’s 2013 Charles F. Richter Early Career Award.


CMNS Board of Visitors Outstanding Graduate Student Awards
Daniel C. Anderson, Graduate Student, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science
He He, Graduate StudentDepartment of Computer Science

Anderson was first author on a 2014 article published in the journal Atmospheric Environment that showed the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality modeling over estimates the amount of pollution emitted by vehicles, leading the agency to adjust the national emissions inventory. His 2016 first-author article published in the journal Nature Communications showed that human-set fires in Africa and Southeast Asia cause high levels of ozone in the tropical Pacific. Anderson is honored for his academic performance, cutting-edge research and service to the department. Anderson is co-advised by Russ Dickerson, professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, and Ross Salawitch, professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center.

He, advised by Hal Daume, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, boasts an impressive publication record including four papers published in the proceedings of the Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and two papers published in the proceedings of the Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, with a total of over 170 citations. A mentor for junior students, she has taken a leadership role in the research community by organizing a workshop, tutorial and student colloquium, and acting as co-chair for the 2016 Association for Computational Linguistics’ student research workshop. He is honored for academic performance, scholarly research and leadership.


Dean’s Outstanding Employee Awards (non-exempt)
William Griffin, Storekeeper, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Elizabeth Hontz, Program Management Specialist, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

With over 13 years experience on campus, Griffin is lauded for his dedication to the department; his positive interactions with faculty, staff and vendors; and his willingness to undertake additional responsibilities during a period of reduced staffing levels. Working collaboratively, Griffin reorganized and improved the receiving area and assisted in making the capital assets inventory more efficient with recommendations for streamlining the process.

As coordinator of the chemistry graduate program for over three years, Hontz demonstrates daily her dedication to the department and the success and well-being of over 110 graduate students. Hontz’s efforts during a 2015 weather emergency ensured the department’s annual graduate recruitment event occurred despite the closure of campus. Her readinesses to share ideas on improving the graduate experience and to proactively implement change contribute to the success of the graduate program.


Dean’s Outstanding Employee Awards (exempt)
Sokhan Min, Assistant Director of Administration and Research Coordinator, Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST)
Mona Susanto, Business Manager, Department of Astronomy

During Min’s 12 years in IPST, she has been willing to learn and ready to step in to cover essential duties when required. She has proactively initiated new processes to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the business office. Min’s helpful manner, extensive knowledge and commitment to the institute’s faculty and staff members have proven to be invaluable to the smooth operation of IPST.

Susanto has proven to be extremely diligent, reliable, proactive, responsive and helpful during her five years in astronomy. She manages multiple accounts for several principal investigators, anticipates possible issues, and works effectively with both federal agencies and corporate partners. Always helpful and supportive, Susanto is valued for her commitment to the department and the success of the faculty members.

Dean’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award
Jonathan Henricks, Faculty Assistant, Biological Sciences Program

A passionate, enthusiastic and caring teaching assistant, Henrick often welcomes students registered in other sections into his discussion groups. Many students attribute their success to his engagement and encouragement, with more than a few stating he “went above and beyond”.

Dean’s Outstanding Lecturer Award
Vivek Advani, Assistant Clinical Professor, BioFIRE Program

Advani is commended by his students for his teaching ability, particularly conveying complex scientific concepts and laboratory techniques to both science and non-science majors. His mentoring skills and dedication to meeting the educational needs of his students have positively impacted many students’ lives.


Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Derek Richardson, Professor, Department of Astronomy

Richardson is recognized by students for his effective teaching abilities and innovations in the courses “Introductory Astrophysics-Solar” and “Introductory Astrophysics II-Stars and Beyond”. A valued mentor, Richardson is credited with affirming astronomy as a career choice for several students.


Thelma M. Williams Outstanding Advisor of the Year Award
Amy Alexander, Director, CMNS Office of Student Services

Alexander’s encouraging approach and positive attitude, as well as her readiness to meet with students, benefits and influences numerous students each academic year. Responsible for new student orientation, graduation clearances and academic advising, she also teaches a section of the course UNIV100 “The Student in the University”, introducing freshmen to university resources and to the tools they need to succeed.

To see photos from the award ceremony, visit

Media Relations Contact: Abby Robinson, 301-405-5845,

Writer: Mary Kearney

University of Maryland
College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
2300 Symons Hall, 
College Park, MD 20742

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 8,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and nine interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $250 million.