Biology faculty and staff bring home three A&S Awards

The Division congratulates the following individuals whose achievements were celebrated with awards during this year’s A&S Week. The College-level awards recognize staff, advisors, and faculty who demonstrate excellence in the areas of their appointment. Winners of the 2021 awards were announced by Dr. Pat Okker, Dean of the College of Arts and Science, during the “State of the College” address, which was held virtually on 24 February.

Dr. Ruthie Angelovici

Dr. Ruthie Angelovici - A&S Assistant Professor of the Year Award

Angelovici is an assistant professor in the Division of Biological Sciences, an investigator in the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center, and a member of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group.

Angelovici's research addresses a critical need in global human health. Much of the world's population derives the majority of dietary protein from plant-based sources, including seeds such as rice, wheat, and corn. However, the amino acid composition of these seeds does not match human requirements, particularly for essential amino acids (those that animals are unable to synthesize), leading to the potential for malnourishment even when caloric intake is adequate. Angelovici is using a range of approaches to uncover the genetic and metabolic mechanisms that regulate the abundance and composition of amino acids (primarily in seeds) and how differences in environmental conditions impact these regulatory mechanisms. Her pursuit of these complex regulatory mechanisms has led to the development of several novel analytical and computational tools that are advancing her research goals as well as those of her field.

“To me, this is the ideal of scientific research at a university: an important problem approached creatively and collaboratively from as many angles as necessary to reach a humanitarian goal, which also brings benefits to the broader scientific community,” said fellow MU biologist D Cornelison, who nominated Angelovici for the award.

Angelovici has authored/coauthored over 32 articles in top scientific journals and has secured funding for her research program from the National Science Foundation. She was given the Arthur C. Neish Young Investigator Award from the Phytochemical Society of North America in 2019 and the Mr. & Mrs. Shouson & Yunying-Kou Jen Junior Faculty Research Award in Biology from MU in 2020.

Angelovici teaching and mentoring record is impressive. She has trained five PhD students, three postdoctoral fellows, and 19 undergraduate researchers in her lab, including several from Engineering, Plant Sciences, and Computer Science. She teaches an undergraduate level course on cell biology and a graduate course on molecular biology of growth and development. Students and her colleagues praise her as a “very committed and engaging teacher.”

In addition to establishing herself as an outstanding researcher and educator, Angelovici stands out with regard to her service to the broader plant biology community on campus. As a member of the MU Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG), she helped organize the IPG’s 2018 and 2020 symposia and regularly hosts speakers from the group's weekly seminar series. Members of her lab also have been actively involved in coordinating other plant research activities on campus, including the annual Corteva Agriscience Plant Sciences Symposium and the bi-weekly “Plant Talks” presentation series.

“Ruthie contributes extensively to the spirit of cooperation and partnership that marks the plant science community on this campus,” said Curators’ Professor Robert Sharp, director of the IPG.

Angelovici joined the faculty in the Division of Biological Sciences in 2015.

Brittony Corneillier with her bulldog Edna

Brittony Corneillier - A&S Advisor of the Year Award

As an academic advisor for the Division of Biological Sciences, Corneillier advises approximately 400 undergraduate students on degree requirements, campus involvement, career planning and overall student success. She also coordinates the Division’s visits with prospective students, coordinates the A&S Ambassadors program, and helps with overall recruitment efforts across the College. In addition to her advising work, Corneillier has taught a careers exploration course for the Division and teaches professional development skills and college success strategies for the Business School and MU Success Center.

“Brittony’s efforts to help our students, faculty, and staff in every capacity to provide an amazing experience here at MU is evident to everyone who interacts with her, and I am really pleased she could be formally recognized for all of the exceptional work she does,” said Professor David Schulz, Director of the Division. 

Corneillier is a beloved advisor to students. Her advisees characterize her as an encouraging, positive, and enthusiastic advisor who is able to develop “deep, personal” connections with students. Many of her advisees often stay in touch with her beyond their time as Mizzou. As one alum shared, “Brittony has been hands down the best part of my experience at Mizzou. I would not have graduated MU without Brittony, or even become the person I am today without having her wonderful, borderline miraculous help during my time in college.

Faculty praise her talents, creativity, and professionalism and regularly seek out her input on student-focused initiatives. She served on the Divisional Council, the policy-making body for the Division, and was recently appointed to the Undergraduate Education Committee, the primary curriculum and undergraduate success body for the Division.

“That the faculty chose her for these critical service roles speaks volumes to her standing and the respect she commands within our department,” said Schulz.

For fellow advisor Jordan Parshall, there are many aspects about Corneillier’s student-centered approach to advising that are impressive. “It is hard for me to pick just one or two examples because it is all encompassing,” said Parshall. “There is no other advisor I bounce ideas off of more often. There is no other advisor I go to for another perspective more often. You could argue this is purely based on proximity and the natural dynamic while advising in the same department, but I know it is more than that. It’s the fact that Brittony is truly excellent at what she does.”

Corneillier received the Blue Chalk Award for Excellence in Advising from the College of Arts and Science in 2017. She has been nominated ­multiple times by her advisees for the Shout Out Award from the MU Advisors Forum and was selected for this honor in fall 2020.

Corneillier joined the Division as an academic advisor in 2016. Previously, she was an admissions representative for MU Admissions. She received her bachelor of arts degree in international studies from MU and is finishing her Master’s of Education in school counseling from Stephens College.

Waleed Atout

Waleed Atout - A&S Staff Member of the Year Award

Atout managed the fiscal office for the Division of Biological Sciences for the past two years and was recently promoted to business manager for the College of Arts and Science.

Atout was praised for the many fiscal innovations he brought to the Division. He instituted and delivered on a policy of a 24-hour turnaround for resolution of all requests in the fiscal office. He also put systems in place that track the Division’s fiscal commitments in real time. These systems allow the Division to engage in strategic planning in a way that ensures a balanced budget while also growing its productivity. He is currently working to expand some of these systems and practices College-wide.

His leadership of staff was also lauded as “exceptional.” Staff look to him for direction, reassurance in times of uncertainty, career advice, and to set a tone for excellence in performance. He advocates for staff not only within the Division but across campus as a member of the Staff Advisory Council and the Title IX Review panel. He also readily seeks to promote the accomplishments of his fellow staff members and encourages professional development as well as service to the university, in part by leading by example.  

“Waleed feels it is very important for all staff members to have a voice and to be heard. He sets the example and, in so doing, inspires others to do the same,” shared Barb Ames, an office support specialist IV with the Division.    

This is a particularly appropriate year to recognize Atout with this honor, said Professor David Schulz. Schulz was appointed Director of the Division last spring. This leadership transition coincided with the pandemic as well as with Atout’s own career transition to the College of Arts and Science. Schulz characterized Atout’s support during these "uncertain times" as “exceptional” and commended his dedication to the Division and the College.

“Waleed’s transition to the Dean’s office this year, combined with his ability to maintain exceptional service for DBS in the interim, is nothing short of miraculous. It is gratifying to see his relentless dedication to his craft recognized,” he said.