The University of Houston-Victoria recently recognized three faculty members for their work in teaching, research and service that impacted the UHV community.

The faculty members are selected by their colleagues and students each spring for the prestigious awards. This year’s winners are:

  • Teaching Excellence Award – Daniel White, assistant professor of biology
  • Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award – Gen Kaneko, assistant professor of biology
  • Distinguished Faculty Service Award – Ricardo Teixeira, associate professor of math and corequisite remediation liaison

Each winner will receive a plaque and a monetary award. They also will be honored during UHV’s spring virtual graduation ceremony on May 15.

“Each of these faculty members demonstrate the excellence that sets UHV apart,” said Chance Glenn, UHV provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Their dedication to teaching, research and service have left a positive impact on the university and its students, and we are proud to recognize them for their accomplishments.”

The Teaching Excellence Award was established in 1993. UHV students nominate professors who exemplify innovative, high-quality instruction relevant to their lives and careers.

White jokes that he had an unfair advantage when it came to earning the award because he comes from a family of teachers.

“I’m a third-generation teacher — one of many in my family,” he said. “My grandmother and grandfather were both educators, and my grandfather also was a superintendent of some districts, including Bloomington. Combined with my extended family of siblings and cousins — many of whom also teach — and it’s clear that teaching is in my blood.”

Part of what he loves about teaching is the opportunity to interact with students who come from different backgrounds but who share an interest in biology and biomedical sciences. When it comes to sharing his own interest, White still gets excited about working in the lab and showing students how the natural world functions.

“There are times when I feel like a kid at a magic show when I’m leading an experiment in lab classes,” he said. “One of my favorite moments as a teacher is when I see a student giving me a blank look, then I find a way to help them understand the concept and find that ‘ah-ha’ moment.”

One major element that contributes to his successful teaching is the support UHV’s biology and biomedical sciences program has received from grants from nonprofits such as the M.G. & Lillie A. Johnson Foundation. Grants in recent years have funded the purchase of top-of-the-line equipment that allows students to take their research projects and lab experiences to the next level, he said.

“Having access to this level of equipment is a real game-changer for the department and UHV,” White said. “Part of the process of being a great teacher is staying abreast of the latest developments in the field, and this equipment helps us conduct relevant, timely research projects with our students. I’m grateful to the support we’ve received from these foundations, and I’m especially grateful for the support I’ve received through the years from the university and my fellow faculty members.”

The Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award recognizes professors who have made outstanding research contributions to their scholarly communities. Kaneko’s research focuses on topics including the evolution of organisms, the nutrients or energy metabolism of small organisms and molecular biology.

“Most current biology textbooks focus on the human metabolism and the nutrients required for human life,” he said. “My research looks at other forms of life. Different forms of life need different nutrients to survive. I’m also continuing research that I started in Japan that examines the nutrients needed for different kinds of fish.”

Kaneko has coauthored nearly 100 papers and articles that have been cited by other researchers nearly 800 times, according to Google Scholar. Much of his research is a collaboration with other faculty members and UHV students, he said.

“I’m grateful to my fellow faculty members for their support in previous and current research projects,” he said. “I’m also grateful for all the support we’ve received in the form of donations from the M.G. & Lillie A. Johnson Foundation. Those donations enable my research by giving me and students access to excellent lab equipment. And that will only improve as we move into the new science, technology, engineering and mathematics building later this year.”

UHV faculty members also annually recognize a peer with the Distinguished Faculty Service Award to someone who serves both the university and community. Teixeira served during the 2020-2021 academic year as president of the UHV Faculty Senate. Receiving this award after the previous year gives him reassurance that he has done a good job in that role, he said.

“The past academic year has been such a challenging time, but we were able to turn it into a good year for the faculty and our students,” he said. “In spite of facing COVID-19, getting used to new leadership in major roles at the university and other challenges, we were able to make progress in important areas including enrollment and faculty compensation, and we’re supporting the Staff Council in their efforts as well.”

In addition to his service on the Faculty Senate, Teixeira also has worked with the Core Curriculum Committee and assisted with the effort to receive accreditation for the university’s computer science program.

“It was a pleasure to serve,” he said. “We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish so much without the hard work of everyone in the Faculty Senate executive committee and other faculty members who put so much effort into making this year a success. I am humbled to receive this honor.”

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