CSU Biology Earns Top National Honor

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Columbus State University has captured the nation’s highest honor for biology honor societies — the 2006-2007 Lloyd M. Bertholf Award from the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society.

The designation, according to the society, signifies CSU’s 24-member Tri-Beta chapter as the nation’s best last year in “scholarship, dissemination of scientific information and promotion of biological research.”

The chapter earned second honorable mention for the award two years ago and “Outstanding Chapter” status, as among the top 10 percent of all chapters, for 2003-2004.

CSU chapter adviser and biology professor Julie Ballenger said the success stems partly from productive professor-student relationships. “Our faculty members are highly involved in the chapter’s meetings and activities, and in turn, help to inspire the students to be active.”

College of Science Dean Glenn Stokes said the faculty have created a culture of professionalism and mentorship that exemplifies the society’s goals. “Their students actively engage in independent research in cooperation with faculty mentors that has been recognized at the regional and national levels.”

Highlighting last year’s success, Tri-Beta selected Courtney Blayke Gibson, a science education graduate student, to present her research at its national conference. Five other CSU students presented at district events, including Wesley Ker-Fox and Lauren Eklund, who subsequently placed second and third respectively for the national Brooks Award for oral presentation of research. Contessa Bowman earned third place for the Johnson Award for poster presentation of her research.

“In addition to scientific research, our chapter stresses environmental and community activism,” said Ballenger, who also serves as interim director of CSU’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center.

The students engage in service activities that range from participation in community cleanup efforts, such as the communitywide Chattahoochee River cleanup initiative “Help-the-Hooch,” to promoting departmental activities. Such activities include promoting CSU’s biology program to prospective students during high school visitation days and sharing their knowledge of reptiles, insects and other topics during community-oriented programs at Oxbow Meadows.

Students and faculty also get together for less formal events such as cookouts and rafting trips.

“We are proud to sustain such high levels of activity and will continue to work to maintain high regard on our campus and in our local community,” said Ballenger, who will will formally accept the honor on behalf of the CSU chapter during Tri-Beta’s April 18 convention at the Association of Southeastern Biologists meeting in Spartanburg, S.C.

Established in 1961, the Lloyd M. Bertholf Award is named for the third president of Beta Beta Beta.

Stokes said Tri-Beta is dedicated to fostering behaviors that will encourage the growth of well-trained and committed biologists and individuals interested in the biological sciences. “The receipt of this award indicates that the CSU chapter not only achieves the ideals of the society but has done it consistently and is doing it better than any of the more than 500 other chapters,” he said. “It’s a testament to the commitment of our faculty to their students and their discipline and the desire to model the behaviors expected of professional biologists.”