Ramirez First Psychologist to Receive NSF Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching

Julio Ramirez

The National Science Foundation recently recognized eight outstanding educators with its 2004 Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars. APS Member Julio J. Ramirez, Davidson College, was among the recipients, and the first psychologist to receive the award.

“The award is the proverbial ‘icing on the cake,’ since the satisfaction in teaching and research is very much intrinsic,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez’s work explores the recovery of memory after an injury to the central nervous system. He has often involved undergraduates in his research, many of whom have co-authored his many scientific papers. In 1991 he founded the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience, or FUN, a national organization designed to promote and enhance neuroscience education for undergraduate students and to be a resource for neuroscience educators. He is the first DTS recipient to specialize in psychology since the program began four years ago.

His award project will focus on mentoring and mentorship. It consists of summer research programs in the neurosciences for undergraduate students wherein junior faculty members and students receive intensive mentoring. The faculty members will be mentored in launching and maintaining a career that integrates teaching and research. The undergraduate students will be mentored in conducting research. Ramirez said undergraduates at Davidson play a large role in research.

“Numerous areas within psychology do not rely on expensive equipment, huge facilities, or enormous budgets,” Ramirez said. “Students can become colleagues in psychological research programs very readily. Indeed, in some areas they can contribute significantly to bona-fide research questions with only a few psychology courses under their belts.”

The DTS award is the foundation’s highest honor for teaching and research excellence. Worth close to $300,000 for each scholar, the DTS award represents NSF’s finest examples of accomplishments by scientists and engineers whose roles as educators and mentors are as important as the ground-breaking research results they achieve. The grants allow the scholars to work on new projects or continue present work in new ways that benefit their individual fields and the students they support.

“These scholars have a special distinction in that they influence entire academic cultures. They make students major participants in the process of discovery. They also promote activities that expand the education process beyond the boundaries of the university into local schools and communities,” said NSF Acting Director Arden L. Bement, Jr. For more information on the DTS program, visit www.ehr.nsf.gov/ehr/DUE/programs/dts/.

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