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Two faculty members in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences have received this year's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) awards for outstanding achievement.
The 2020-21 awards were given to Agnes Ly, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, for excellence in teaching, and Jaclyn Schwarz, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, for excellence in scholarship.
They are among nine faculty award recipients selected throughout the College in a variety of categories. CAS Dean John A. Pelesko recently surprised each of the honorees with an in-person or virtual visit during a class or event to announce and present the award.
Following are more details about Ly and Schwarz and the tributes Pelesko offered.
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Agnes Ly has been highly successful in providing her students with the right tools for learning.
In particular, she has collaborated with the Provost's Office to lead a class that would better serve underprepared students, not only teaching the disciplinary content of the course but also helping students learn how to learn and to become independent learners. Her work in the class, conducted under the challenging conditions of the COVID pandemic, has been described as “masterful."
She has explained that her approach to teaching is inspired by her favorite childhood book, The Phantom Tollbooth, and the adventures of its protagonist, Milo, whose experiences change how he sees the world.
“The fascinating content that I get to share with my students has the potential to change how they see their worlds, just like it did for Milo," Ly said. “Milo begins his adventure as many of my students do—taking their world at face value but ready to change perspectives as long as someone 'bothers to explain otherwise.' My role is like that of the characters along Milo's journey—to provide the tools and environments that motivate and scaffold students to grow."
Her commitment to excellent teaching extends beyond her own classrooms. She plays an active role in developing and presenting teaching workshops open to the entire faculty through the Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning and the Institute for Transforming University Education. In the words of the faculty who nominated her for this award, she represents “a generous and creative teaching leader, who helps train other teachers and improve the lives of students."
Ly described a student who recently told her that they were thinking more deeply about how people form thoughts and behaviors and about the need to rely on science to answer questions about the world. The student said that learning about psychology had made them more inquisitive and aware of their surroundings.
“I am only one part of our students' entire educational journey," Ly said. “As teachers, this is the kind of difference we hope to make as our students forge their own paths."
Jaclyn Schwarz is a neuroscientist who has built an independent and successful record of high-quality research, with over 45 publications and external funding for her work that has totaled more than $2 million.
The award recognizes her scholarly contributions and outstanding service to the study of psychological and brain sciences.
Schwarz's research program at UD includes three primary projects and is noted for its innovativeness and relevance to critical health problems. She studies how activation of the immune system early in life, or even before birth, influences the brain and behavior throughout the lifespan and has received grants supporting her research from the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Aging, National Institute of Child Health and Developments and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
In 2017, she was named Delaware Neuroscientist of the Year by the Delaware Center for Neuroscience Research.
She has also made significant and valuable contributions to the teaching mission of the College and University through her intensive and excellent mentorship in her research lab. In describing her long-term research goal, she said she wants “to maintain a productive lab that continues to uncover new information about the immune system and the effect that it can have on the brain. … I hope to continue researching these connections while training diverse graduate students that one day become fellow mental health researchers or advocates."
Schwarz said she was honored to have her research and scholarship recognized by the College of Arts and Sciences.
“My research truly seeks to enhance our understanding of the mind-body connection from a scientific point of view, with the goal of understanding the various causes of neuropsychiatric conditions," she said. “It has been even more exciting to teach about these ideas in my neuroscience classes and share these experiences with undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral researchers in my lab."
About the awards
The honorees were selected by the college's Faculty Awards Committee, chaired by John Jungck, professor of biological sciences, with members Richard Cunningham, professor of theatre; Jennifer Lobasz, associate professor of political science and international relations; and Brenda Shaffer, instructor in fashion and apparel studies.
Read more about all the award winners.
Article by College of Arts and Sciences communications staff
Published Nov. 2, 2021