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Hilldale awards honor four for teaching, research, service

April 2, 2013 By Stacy Forster

Hilldale Awards, which honor contributions to teaching, research and service each year, are based on UW–Madison’s four divisions: biological sciences, physical sciences, social studies, and arts and humanities.

The awards are sponsored by the Hilldale Fund, which supports the advancement of scholarly activity at UW–Madison. The recipients will be honored at the April 8 meeting of the university’s Faculty Senate.

Here are this year’s recipients:

Arts and Humanities: Jack Damer, Art Department

In nearly 50 years at UW–Madison, Jack Damer, with the help of colleagues and students, has built the university’s printmaking program into one of the nation’s best and created a world-class lithography lab.                 

But he continues to push forward in the field, encouraging the use of alternative and progressive methods in printmaking.        

“His ability to connect traditional ideas surrounding process and craftsmanship with experimental approaches is what has made it possible for him to remain a major figure in the diverse field of contemporary printmaking,” writes nominator Thomas Loeser, professor and chair of the Art Department.

Damer is known for being a rigorous and demanding educator, gaining respect from students and faculty alike for his thorough and precise teaching methods pertaining to both technique and aesthetics. Those who have worked with him begin their careers as more sophisticated and knowledgeable artists because of his mentoring and teaching, Loeser writes.

As an artist, Damer works in printmaking, objects, drawing, and hybrids of two and three dimensions. His artwork has been featured in hundreds of solo and group shows around the world and as part of numerous workshops nationwide.

“His studio work has always kept pace with what and how he presents to or connects with students,” writes Mark Pascale, curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, in a nomination letter. “How lucky they are to have a very seasoned professor who is engaged in their world.”

Biological Sciences: Barry Ganetzky, Steenbock Professor, Laboratory of Genetics

Barry Ganetzky has been a mainstay at the front of the classroom for Genetics 466, General Genetics, working with thousands of students in the more than 30 years he’s taught the course.

It’s a core course for genetics majors, and in the years he’s been teaching it, class sizes have swelled to 275 students. He also developed and teaches a highly ranked, advanced course for students in the doctoral program, and is an active member of the department, mentoring graduate and postdoctoral students.

“He is known for precision in his lecturing, and for his contagious enthusiasm for the subject,” writes nominator Michael R. Culbertson, professor and chair of the Laboratory of Genetics. “His contributions to such courses have helped jump-start the budding careers of many young scientists.”

Ganetzky also has had a distinguished research career as a pioneer in the field of neurogenetics, with contributions that are internationally recognized by both neuroscientists and geneticists. They have led to his election to the National Academy of Sciences, among other honors.

His discoveries have contributed to potential improvements in medical practice and drug development for addressing a number of diseases and medical conditions.

“Dr. Ganetzky’s unbiased genetic strategy serves as a model for how to go about finding the needles (relevant genes) within the haystack (the entire genome),” Culbertson writes.


Physical Sciences: Francis Halzen, Gregory Breit Professor and Hilldale Professor, Department of Physics

UW-Madison’s influence stretches across the globe, but its farthest reach is probably its connection to the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole.

IceCube, a huge telescope embedded into some of the world’s purest ice, is the longtime project of Francis Halzen, physics professor and principal investigator. The optics at the South Pole measure the properties of neutrinos from exploding stars in the Milky Way and far-away galaxies.

The experiment, one of the biggest in the university’s history, provides data of unprecedented quality on the highest-level neutrinos and cosmic rays, writes nominator Robert Joynt, professor and chair of the Department of Physics.  

“Francis is clearly the leader in neutrino astrophysics worldwide,” Joynt writes. “His research is carried out with extraordinary insight and technical skill. … He works with equal success in fields ranging from particle physics to astrophysics to cosmology.”

Halzen’s work is prominent in the classroom, too. He is the author of a classic graduate-level physics textbook, “Quarks and Leptons,” that is widely used internationally, and he was one of the early teachers of a popular class at UW–Madison, Physics in the Arts.

“Today, UW–Madison is known as a center, maybe the center, in high-energy astrophysics and astronomy on the international scene, and that is because of Francis Halzen more than any other person,” Joynt writes.

Social Studies: Sharon Dunwoody, Evjue-Bascom Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Sharon Dunwoody’s leadership in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in the last 30 years has come on two fronts: science communication and leadership.

Before her career in academics, Dunwoody worked as a newspaper science reporter. That experience set her on a path to try to understand how popular science messages are constructed, and how people use and react to them. In her first year of teaching, she revitalized an existing science-writing course, and in the years since, she has worked to establish the prominence of the school’s science-writing program. She also has built a record of research that has earned an international reputation as a science-communication scholar.

“Professor Dunwoody has increased the visibility of the school’s science- communication offerings and established the school’s reputation as one of the primary locations in the United States for both professional and scholarly science-communication training,” writes nominator Greg Downey, professor and director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Dunwoody has taken on a number of leadership positions, serving as director of the journalism school, chair of academic programs for the then-Institute for Environmental Studies (now the Nelson Institute) and, most recently, as associate dean for social studies in the Graduate School.

During those years, she made sure her administrative responsibilities were never full time, allowing her to continue both teaching and doing research.

“She views herself as a faculty member who has the occasional opportunity to lead, and her work life at UW–Madison truly reflects this principle,” Downey writes.