Dr. Laura Reed, an associate professor of biology who specializes in evolutionary genomics, was selected as the winner of the 2021 Blackmon-Moody Outstanding Professor Award.
The award recognizes a singular, exceptional or timely work of research, product, program or published material that is innovative, creative, useful or captures the imagination.
Reed was chosen for her work as director of the Genomics Education Partnership, a collaboration of more than 180 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. providing free, web-based curriculum and research projects for biology students to perform in their undergraduate research classes.
Under Reed’s leadership, the GEP has received more than $4 million in funding and grew to include nearly 4,000 students last year, a record high.
“It’s gratifying to know that the hard work that I and many of my collaborators have put in on this project is being recognized,” Reed said. “For me, having the opportunity to do research is essential to students understanding what science is, and how to be a scientist and critical thinker.
“Gaining research experience is limited at many institutions due to budget and resource constraints. What is magical about GEP is that it’s entirely web-based and students only need access to the internet, whereas normally they may need access to laboratories and biological specimens.
“This is a great equalizer, and helps students become better scientists and better citizens because they can apply those critical thinking skills to any scenario.”
Dr. Joseph P. Messina, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, stated in a letter that he nominated Reed for the award because her leadership through the GEP program has been tremendous and brought great recognition to the Capstone.
“Most recently, in the wake of COVID-19 and universities moving suddenly to online instruction, Dr. Reed has engineered a rapid adaptation of the GEP to equip biology faculty across the country with the resources and support needed to provide authentic research experiences in a virtual learning environment,” Messina said.
Reed said the increase in students and partner institutions in the program was driven partly by the pandemic and the fact that the program being based on a virtual environment allows students to do scientific research in a non-traditional format.
Another nomination letter stated that Reed engineered a rapid adaptation of the GEP to equip biology faculty across the country with the resources and support needed to provide authentic research experiences in a virtual learning during the “pandemic era.”
Reed, a member of UA’s faculty for the past 11 years, joined the GEP in 2011. She became its director in 2017.
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