NSM Honors Teachers, Advisor for Dedication, Service to Students

Dean Novak and Dorian Turner

Dorian Turner (right), a post-baccalaureate student in biology, received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from Dr. Bruce Novak, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

The School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics recently recognized three individuals for their dedication and service to UT Dallas students.

Dorian Turner, a post-baccalaureate student in biology, received the 2013-14 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, and Dr. Paul Pantano, associate professor of chemistry, earned the Outstanding Teaching Award for a faculty member.

The teaching awards were based on nominations from students and faculty. The award winners received a plaque with an engraved quote from one of their nominating letters. Turner also received a cash award.

Dr. Bruce Novak, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, chose academic advisor Kali Cagnolatti to receive the 2014 Dean’s Award for Excellence, presenting her with a plaque engraved with the phrase, “The very best advisor in the whole Universe.”

“These awards recognize a genuine dedication to our students’ academic success and personal growth,” said Novak, who holds the Distinguished Chair in Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “It’s clear from the nominating letters and daily feedback that Dorian, Paul and Kali have had a tremendous impact on students’ lives, and I’m very proud to have them on our school’s team.”

Dr. Paul Pantano

Dr. Paul Pantano, associate professor of chemistry, earned the Outstanding Teaching Award for a faculty member for the second time. He also received the award in 2001.

Turner earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Miami and enrolled in post-baccalaureate courses at UT Dallas beginning in 2011.

In the past academic year, he was a teaching assistant for the workshop sections of biochemistry and introductory biology courses. The topics he covered included basic biochemistry, molecular genetics, amino acids and enzymes, and oxidative phosphorylation.

“The experience gave me the opportunity to help those who wanted to succeed,” said Turner, who works as a Web developer and volunteers in the emergency department at an area hospital.

“In each class, I tried to emphasize to the students ‘learn by doing.’ It was a very good experience in the end because it gave me the opportunity to make a difference in some of the students’ academic lives.”

The citation on Turner’s plaque read: “Dorian turned out to be, by far, the best undergraduate TA I have had the pleasure to work with.”

Pantano, who has been on the UT Dallas faculty for 18 years, is the first person to win the school’s faculty teaching award twice, Novak said. Pantano also earned the award in 2001. He teaches quantitative methods in chemistry, a class for sophomores that transitions students from freshman courses to upper-level undergraduate chemistry classes.

Kali Cagnolatti and Dean Novak

Academic advisor Kali Cagnolatti, with Novak, received the 2014 Dean’s Award for Excellence. Her award was engraved with the phrase, “The very best advisor in the whole Universe.”

“My teaching style hasn’t really changed over the years,” Pantano said. “I spend time with students and listen to them. I’d like to think that in addition to the chemistry, my students enjoy my classes because of the parental life lessons I throw into class. I really try to emphasize analyzing and questioning data, and making decisions with data. You do that everywhere in life, so those are the things I emphasize.”

This comment from one of his nomination letters is engraved on his plaque: “I don’t think I will ever know the full effect that Dr. Pantano’s actions will have on my life. They are immense. He cares for his students and it shows in his words and deeds.”

In addition to teaching, Pantano supports undergraduate research opportunities at UT Dallas. He is site director of the Robert A. Welch Foundation Summer Scholars Program and scientific advisor for the Clark Foundation Summer Program and the UT Dallas/Plano ISD Summer Program.

Cagnolatti has been an academic advisor for undergraduate students in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for about five years. For a while, she was the only advisor for the school.

Now, she oversees primarily biology students and is one of several full-time advisors who handle a growing caseload: Last fall, more than 2,400 undergraduates were enrolled in the school.

“I get the students when they’re freshmen and take them all the way through their senior year,” Cagnolatti said, adding that she currently oversees between 450 and 500 biology students.

“The challenge is really time. I like to focus on what they need, but when you’re running out of time, it can be challenging. It was a big surprise to win the dean’s award, but I really appreciate it — it hit me that I have worked hard.”

Cagnolatti and Pantano also earned University-level awards this year for their advising and mentoring efforts. At a recent Honors Convocation, Cagnolatti earned the Advisor of the Year award, and Pantano received the Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

Tagged: NSM