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Biology Professor Mark Laubach Receives Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award

By Patty Housman

Mark Laubach

Neuroscientist and Associate Biology Professor Mark Laubach received the university’s highest honor: the 2016 Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award. Laubach, who joined AU’s Department of Biology and the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience in 2014, teaches both graduate and undergraduate students and conducts research through AU’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience.

In addition, two other College faculty members received awards. History Professor Eileen Findlay won the university’s Outstanding Teaching in a Full-Time Appointment Award, and Associate Professor of Creative Writing Kyle Dargan received the Morton Bender Prize.

“These faculty members represent the finest scholars and teachers in the university community,” said Provost Scott Bass. “Each has contributed immensely to the university, to the lives of students and colleagues, and to his or her respective disciplines. Their valuable contributions can be seen in their teaching, research, publications, university and public service, and other scholarly awards and creative work.”

Mark Laubach: 2016 Scholar Teacher of the Year Award
Neuroscientist and Associate Professor of Biology Mark Laubach was formerly an associate professor of neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine and an associate fellow at the John B. Pierce Laboratory in New Haven, Connecticut. He focuses his research on the role of the frontal cortex in executive control and decision-making. His laboratory, part of AU’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, uses multi-electrode recordings, optogenetics, chemogenetics, and computational models to study the frontal cortex.

Laubach is currently funded by the National Science Foundation to understand neural circuits that allow for performance monitoring (updating plans for action based on past behavioral outcomes) and the Klarman Family Foundation to understand neuronal circuits that control food-seeking behavior. In 2013 he received a Top Reviewer award from the Journal of Neuroscience and was named to the editorial board of the journal in 2015. His first PhD student at AU, Linda Amarante, was awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship by the National Science Foundation in March 2016.

"We couldn't be prouder of Mark, and congratulate him wholeheartedly on this award, which recognizes his exemplary accomplishments in the classroom and lab," said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr.

Laubach launched four new courses at AU. Two courses were primarily developed for undergraduates in AU's new neuroscience major. The first course, The Neuron, covers the cellular mechanisms that underlie information processing in the nervous system. The course uses software to simulate classic, Nobel Prize-winning experiments in neurophysiology. The second course, Computer Science for Neuroscience, teaches undergraduate and graduate students to program in the Python language, how to use leading Python software packages for scientific research, and how to use and program simple electronic circuits using Arduinos.

Two other courses were developed primarily for graduate students in the Behavior, Cognitive, and Neuroscience Program at AU. The first, Neural Circuits & Behavior, covers recently developed methods supported by President Obama's BRAIN Initiative. The second, Special Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience, covers the neural basis of learning and decision-making. All four classes are examples of active learning in which students learn basic information about the brain by solving problems that are common in active neuroscience research.

"Mark is an excellent researcher, who is well known for the tremendous depth of his knowledge and for the great care and enthusiasm he displays when communicating that knowledge to his students and colleagues,” said Terry Davidson, director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience. “He is proof that the best scientists can be the best teachers.”

Eileen Findlay: 2016 Outstanding Teaching in a Full-Time Appointment Award
History Professor Eileen Findlay graduated from Oberlin College and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she held a Jacob Javits fellowship. Her latest book, 'We Are Left Without a Father Here': Masculinity, Domesticity, and Migration in Post-War Puerto Rico was published by Duke University Press in 2014. Her first book, Imposing Decency: The Politics of Sexuality and Race in Puerto Rico, 1870-1920 was also published with Duke University Press.

In her article, “Courtroom Tales of Sex and Honor: Rapto and Rape in Late-Nineteenth Century Puerto Rico,” published in Sueann Caulfield, et al, eds., Honor, Status, and the Law in Modern Latin America, Findlay began to explore her current interest in laboring people’s artistic and political shaping of oral narratives. She has continued these investigations through her development of two oral history projects, one with Cuban ex-revolutionaries living in Miami, Florida, and the other with Nuyorican return migrants to Puerto Rico.

Findlay currently teaches undergraduate courses, as well as the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program's senior capstone research seminar and the History Department's introductory graduate seminar on history and theory. “Eileen Findlay is an extraordinary teacher,” said Pamela Nadell, chair of the Department of History. “Teaching with, in the words of her students, ‘energy, passion, and enthusiasm’ and routinely called one of the best teachers they have ever encountered, she demands intellectual rigor and compels deep critical thinking and writing. Perhaps the highest accolade of all comes from the student who once wrote: ‘I have never come across a professor who could make the process of writing a 60-page paper fun.’”

Kyle Dargan: 2016 Morton Bender Prize
Kyle G. Dargan is an associate professor of creative writing in the Department of Literature. His four collections of poetry were published by the University of Georgia Press, most recently Honest Engine (2015), which was named one of five finalists for the prestigious Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Prize.

Dargan’s debut work, The Listening (2004), won the Cave Canem Prize, and his second, Bouquet of Hungers (2007), won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for poetry. Dargan’s work has appeared in Callaloo, Denver Quarterly, jubilat, Newark’s Star-Ledger, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, and He is the founding editor of Post No Ills magazine and and recently served as managing editor of Callaloo.

In addition to writing and teaching at AU, Dargan has partnered with the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities to produce poetry programming at the White House and Library of Congress. He runs poetry workshops for DC high school students in conjunction with 826DC, a nonprofit organization that supports young writers ages 6 to 18 and their teachers.

“Kyle Dargan is one of the nation's strongest, most vibrant voices in contemporary poetry,” said Richard Sha, chair of the Department of Literature. “His fourth book of poetry, Honest Engine, is simply stunning.”