by Sarah Ray
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) have recognized Sunhee Choi, a Middlebury College professor and department chair of chemistry and biochemistry, as the 2005 Vermont Professor of the Year. Choi and other winners from 40 participating states, as well as Guam and the District of Columbia, were announced and honored today at a celebratory luncheon and evening reception at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Choi joined the Middlebury faculty in 1987 and has long distinguished herself as a demanding yet inspiring teacher and role model for her colleagues and students. In a 1999 article that appeared in Middlebury Magazine, the college's alumni publication, a former student of Choi's recalled "the nearly insurmountable standards Choi set for us and how she helped us achieve more than we ever thought we could."
A native of Korea, Choi received a bachelor of arts from Seoul National University in 1973 and a master of science in physical chemistry from Korean Advanced Institute of Science in 1975. She came to the United States and earned a doctorate in physical chemistry at Princeton University in 1982. Before arriving at Middlebury, Choi was a research chemist at a New Jersey research facility of New York-based Colgate-Palmolive Company, where she received the Colgate Presidential Award for Technical Excellence and helped develop a patent for the use of detergents in cold water.
She is a member of the American Chemical Society, Iota Sigma Pi National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry, and the Council on Undergraduate Research. One of her primary focuses is her research, which often involves collaboration with her undergraduate students. In 1999, she traveled to Oxford University where she and her students were internationally recognized for their research on anti-cancer drugs and how they interact with DNA. She has published numerous papers and articles, and many have included student collaboration. Her research has been funded from various sources, including the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Petroleum Research Fund, Research Corporation and Vermont EPSCoR.
"It is an amazing honor," said Choi of the award. "I was hesitant to apply at first, but when I learned that so few women scientists have received the award, I wanted to try for my women science students. I often try things that I don't always want to do because I want to show my students that if I can do it, they can surely do it better. And to all the students, parents and colleagues who supported me in this, I am deeply thankful. This award is for them."
In addition to teaching fundamental chemistry, physical chemistry and laboratory courses at Middlebury, Choi has taught other courses, such as "Color in Science and Culture" and "Biographies of the Imaginative," which focused on the lives and accomplishments of cultural icons Beethoven, Marc Chagall and Marie Curie.
CASE established the Professors of the Year program in 1981 and named one national winner per year until 1985, when state winners were also named. In 1994, CASE renamed the award to honor The Carnegie Foundation for its financial support and commitment to enhancing national scholarship. This year, The Carnegie Foundation selected winners from more than 400 esteemed professors from 40 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.
According to the Web site of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the organization was founded in 1905 by Andrew Carnegie in an effort "to do all things necessary to encourage, uphold and dignify the profession of teaching." It is the third-oldest foundation in the nation.
CASE is the largest international association of educational institutions, with more than 3,200 colleges, universities, and independent elementary and secondary schools in nearly 50 countries. Representing these institutions are more than 38,000 advancement professionals in the disciplines of alumni relations, communications and fundraising. A complete list of the 2005 state winners is available at www.case.org .