Science award given to 3 U researchers

By Lana Groves, Asst. News Editor

Three U faculty and staff members received the Governor’s Medal Award for their work in science and technology, and for encouraging others to stay interested in the field.

U geneticist and Nobel Prize winner Mario Capecchi, Graduate School Dean David Chapman and Science Public Relations Specialist Lee Siegel received the award Tuesday night.

Capecchi and Chapman were not able to receive the award at the ceremony, but Siegel said the award was a great honor.

Siegel received the award in the science education category and said he was surprised by the recognition because he has spent the majority of his career writing about science or other news articles.

“Lee was somewhat of a unique situation,” said Wade Hull, vice chairman of the state advisory council for science and technology and a member of the award selection committee. “We had him in science education because he’s been educating the more general public about science matters. To be nominated for the award, recipients have to have at least three letters of recommendation. Lee had multiple nominations.”

The selection committee chose Capecchi for a special recognition award for his work on knockout mice, which has allowed researchers to alter genes to follow a disease from early development. The research won Capecchi the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology last year, making him the only U researcher to ever receive the award.

Chapman, the final U faculty member out of a total eight recipients to be chosen, was recognized for his work on global warming and efforts to educate graduate students.

“He’s an absolutely terrific guy and has more energy than guys half his age,” said Fred Rhodewalt, associate dean of the graduate school. “He’s innovative and always looking to improve the services the graduate school provides to students while maintaining a very active lab.”

Rhodewalt said Chapman spends a lot of time giving public lectures so members of the scientific community will remain interested in science issues.

Many of the recipients, including Capecchi, Chapman and Siegel, received the award for work that has taken years to accomplish, Hull said.

Hull said he’s not aware that any public relations official has ever received the award before.

Siegel, who was a reporter in Oregon, Washington and for The Associated Press before working at the U, said he is honored by the award, which recognizes him for spreading knowledge about science in a way the public would be interested to read.

“The whole reason I do what I do is to try to convey to the public information about science and how it affects our lives,” Siegel said. “I’m worried that there is increasing illiteracy about science in America (and) that a lot of kids today avoid it.”

A recipient can only be awarded the medal once.

Mike Sullivan, communications director for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was unable to attend the awards ceremony, and the office hopes to set up a private meeting to award the missing recipients with the Governor present.

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Mario Capecchi along with two other U faculty received the Governor?s Medal Award Tuesday night for their science and technology work.