BLACKSBURG, Va., April 25, 2011 – Richard Walker, associate professor and associate head of the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2011 Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Created in 1982 by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching is presented to two Virginia Tech faculty members each year. Recipients are selected by the university’s Academy of Teaching Excellence from among those faculty members who have received certificates of teaching excellence from their respective colleges in the preceding three years. Each recipient is awarded $2,000 and is inducted into the Academy of Teaching Excellence.
A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1994, Walker has made consistent and prolonged contributions to teaching, curriculum development, and mentoring that have had an impact on the Department of Biological Sciences and the university.
Between 1994 and 2008, Walker taught more than 2,000 students in his cell and molecular biology (BIOL 2104) and cell biology (first BIOL 3134, then BIOL 4884) courses. His student evaluations were consistently strong, even in classes that enrolled more than 100 students.
“Roughly 15 to 20 percent of his students indicated that he was the best professor they ever had,” said Brenda S.J. Winkel, professor and head of the Department of Biological Sciences, who nominated Walker for the award. “His success in the classroom can be attributed to his emphasis on current and relevant subject material in the rapidly changing discipline of cell and molecular biology, his strong organizational skills, and the deep concern and respect he has for his students.”
Accordingly, Walker received the Department of Biological Sciences Teaching Award in 1999, 2005, and 2009.
Since 2005, Walker has taken a leading role in coordinating cell biology course offerings at the university. As part of this effort, he took responsibility for a key graduate level molecular biology of the cell course (BIOL 5884), and he developed and taught a new undergraduate course in cancer biology.
“However, his impact on our curriculum extends far beyond cell biology courses,” Winkel said. “He has served on our department’s curriculum committee for all but one of his 17 years here. He played an important role in revamping the core courses for our undergraduate majors in 1996 and has chaired or co-chaired the committee since 2003. Our department serves not only our 1,800 majors, but many other students as well.”
In 2007, Walker became chair of the department’s academic assessment committee, and in 2008, he assumed the role of associate department head in with responsibilities in advising, curriculum oversight, and staff management.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that his efforts have impacted thousands of Virginia Tech students over the past 17 years,” Winkel said. “His work in all areas is consistently marked by excellence.”
Walker received his bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
The College of Science at Virginia Tech gives students a comprehensive foundation in the scientific method. Outstanding faculty members teach courses and conduct research in biological sciences, chemistry, economics, geosciences, mathematics, physics, psychology, and statistics. The college offers programs in cutting-edge areas including, among others, those in energy and the environment, developmental science across the lifespan, infectious diseases, computational science, nanoscience, and neuroscience. The College of Science is dedicated to fostering a research-intensive environment that promotes scientific inquiry and outreach.