USU faculty honored for science and technology research

SANDY – Four Utah State University faculty members were recognized at a gala Wednesday night and received Governor’s Medals for Science and Technology. The awards recognize those whose achievements have benefited the state in those areas.

This year was the first since the 1987 inaugural year that USU has had four recipients. The recipients were USU provost Noelle Cockettt, biology professor Michelle Baker, extension professor Paul Hill and USU College of Engineering dean Christine Hailey.

Hill was recognized for his work in Washington County with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education programs. He said he has done a lot of outreach and has had a strong focus on getting kids – especially girls and Latinos – involved in STEM education. He said generating that interest at a young age is important because the future of Utah’s workforce is largely technology based.

“I’m trying to contribute to that,” Hill said. “I’m aware of what the governor wants to do and our legislature and where we’re headed and so I’ve just tried to supply a pipeline of STEM workers at a younger age.

“We want to catch them young and keep them involved and it takes a lot of experience. So that’s what I’ve been doing is providing as many content rich experiences for youth involved in computer science.”

Hailey was recognize for helping to increase the amount of undergraduate women majoring in engineering. Even though the award was attributed to Hailey, she said it should belong to the faculty, staff and advisers in the college.

“In all honesty I think this award belongs to the college of engineering, not just to me,” she said. “Because you can’t retain students, you can’t recruit and retain women and minority in engineering. You can’t grow a graduate program without a whole group of people being committed to that.”

Cockett, who received a Governor’s Medal in 2004 as well, was honored for her work with sheep genomics. Cockett was part of an international team to completely sequence a sheep genome.

Baker was recognized because of her role as the project director of iUTAH, a $20 million project instituted to study and protect water resources along the Wasatch Front. She has been at the university since 1999 focusing her work on the water quality of rivers and streams.

Hailey said the fact that USU received four of the 12 awards shows that it is a comprehensive institution that values research and teaching. Baker agreed.

“It shows that Utah State University’s research and education programs are among the top in the state,” she said.

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