College Announces 2018 Employee Award Recipients

The University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) hosted its annual academic festival on May 4, 2018, to honor the college’s 2018 employee award recipients


Board of Visitors Distinguished Faculty Award
Larry Davis (M.S. ’72, Ph.D. ’76, Computer Science), Distinguished University Professor, Department of Computer Science and the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS)

Davis, the founding director of UMIACS and a past chair of the Department of Computer Science, is honored for his contributions to the field of computer vision. Davis’s work has been cited more than 50,000 times, making him one of the most highly cited faculty members at the University of Maryland. Davis also established the High Performance Computing Laboratory and organized summer programs for high school students. The programs’ alumni include Sergey Brin (B.S. ’93, mathematics and computer science).


Board of Visitors Creative Educator Award
Jandelyn Plane (Ph.D. ’10, Education Policy and Leadership), Principal Lecturer, Department of Computer Science

Plane is recognized for her leadership in creating programs to improve the student experience. Plane directs the Maryland Center for Women in Computing, which supports female computer science majors through scholarships, mentoring and peer networking opportunities, as well as workshops that highlight the breadth of career options available in industry and academia. The center also runs Computer Science Connect, a program aimed to excite middle school students about the field of computer science. Plane is also associate director of the Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students (ACES), an Honors College program in cybersecurity. In addition to offering a unique curriculum, ACES helps students obtain internships in computing or cybersecurity fields.


Board of Visitors Outstanding Graduate Student Award
Alexander Simon, Graduate Student, Biological Sciences

Simon is recognized for his work on calcium signaling in moss. His optimization of a laboratory procedure that uses mammalian cells to study a group of plant receptors led to co-authorship of a paper published in the journal Nature in 2017. The paper revealed two previously unknown roles for glutamate receptor-like proteins in plants: controlling the navigation of sperm to locate eggs and regulating the development of fertilized eggs. Simon is advised by José Feijó, a professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics.


Board of Visitors Junior Faculty Award
Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology

VanEngelsdorp has made major contributions locally, nationally and internationally toward the assessment and mitigation of declines in pollinators such as honey bees. His epidemiological approach includes both field assessments and laboratory investigations of mechanisms underlying population decline. He has received two prestigious Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture grants that allowed him to train staff and students and carry out research, which resulted in numerous presentations, workshops and publications.


Dean’s Outstanding Employee Award (non-exempt)
Chirice Cade, Program Management Specialist, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Cade was nominated for her work in processing payroll and benefits. In particular, Cade was praised for stepping in when the department’s payroll and benefits coordinator was out of the office for several months. According to Cade’s nomination, “[because] of her dedication, knowledge, skills and abilities, the department did not falter in that very important area of payroll. She took on the enormous task without error and she did it with a positive attitude and a smile.”


Dean’s Outstanding Employee Award (exempt)
Joshua Kiner (M.S. ’15, Biological Sciences), Administrative Coordinator, Department of Entomology

Kiner was nominated for his numerous contributions to the Department of Entomology, including supporting the graduate program, assisting faculty and students with grant submissions, and promoting diversity and inclusion efforts. One nominator wrote, “Josh is someone that we all have come to rely on. He is always ready to work hard, to do more and to support our team. We could not ask for more in a [staff] member.”


Dean’s Outstanding Employee Award (exempt)
Vera Stupina, Pre-award Coordinator, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

Stupina was nominated for her outstanding assistance with the grants process in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. Her nominators praised her for having “a wealth of knowledge about different types of proposals and many different granting agencies,” being “dependable, careful and accurate,” and staying on top of multiple deadlines at all times. One nominator wrote, “I can confidently say that we would not be able to compete for [National Institutes of Health] grants without Vera’s assistance.”


Dean’s Outstanding Employee Award (exempt)
Carl Womack, Director of Finance, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Womack was nominated for his excellent work in financial management, accounting, and other business functions, and for helping faculty manage grant funding and applications. In addition, Womack was praised for supporting graduate students. One nomination said Womack was “one of many excellent staff members here in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry that [make up] the support system that we students need in order to succeed in graduate school.”


Dean’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant
Haiqing Zhao, Graduate Student, Biophysics

Multiple students praised Zhao—who taught a variety of general physics courses—for creating entertaining demonstrations, making time to help students outside of the classroom, holding review sessions for students including those outside his section and creating review guides. Several nominators also thanked Zhao for improving their understanding of physics and their course performance.


Dean’s Outstanding Lecturer
Lenea Stocker (Ph.D. ’13, Chemistry), Lecturer, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Stocker, who teaches general and organic chemistry courses, was nominated for her dedication and willingness to help all her students. One student wrote, “After taking Dr. Stocker's General Chemistry 1 class, I switched my major to Chemistry and now plan to go to graduate school to get my Ph.D. in Chemistry. […] Seeing her passion for teaching, her students, and chemistry inspired me to want to teach chemistry in college as well.”


Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Dave Levin (B.S. ’02, Mathematics; B.S. ’02, Ph.D. ’10, Computer Science), Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and UMIACS

Students in Levin’s class, CMSC414: “Computer and Network Security,” praised him for being an excellent teacher who cares deeply about his students. One student wrote, “Even though he posts all of his lectures online, I still go to every class because he’s an engaging, confident, and funny lecturer!” 2017 was Levin’s first year as a tenure-track faculty member.


Dean’s Distinguished Research Scientist
Li-Jen Chen, Associate Research Scientist, Department of Astronomy

Chen is recognized for her work in space plasma physics, which has applications for studying our solar system and other astrophysical systems. Since arriving at UMD three years ago, Chen has led 10 externally funded projects and authored and co-authored more than 30 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals. Chen also has a track record of successful research grants from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and NASA.


Thelma M. Williams Advisor of the Year
Alyssa Neuner (M.A. ’14, American Studies), Academic Advisor, Department of Computer Science

Neuner began advising computer science undergraduates in 2016. A number of students nominated Neuner for the care and attention that she gives to her advisees. As one student wrote, “She tries to connect with her students and build a lasting relationship.”


Norma M. Allewell Prize in Entrepreneurship
Kan Cao, Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

Cao, who studies human aging, was the first to discover that methylene blue—an extremely safe compound commonly used in biomedical research—has anti-aging benefits for human skin. For this work, Cao was selected as a University of Maryland Inventor of the Year Award Finalist in 2017. UMD filed patent applications in 2016 for methylene blue’s application in anti-aging cosmetics in multiple regions, including the United States, Europe and Asia. Cao has also provided opportunities for students and trainees to continue learning about research, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Photographs from the academic festival are available online.


Media Relations Contact: Irene Ying, 301-405-5204,

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 9,000 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 $175 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.