Board of Trustees' Awards

Winter Meeting of the Corporation – February 10, 2012



Professor José Argüello is internationally recognized for his research work in the general area of metal transport across membranes. José studies the structure and function of proteins that transport heavy metals such as copper, zinc, cobalt, and iron across cell membranes. These metals are micronutrients playing fundamental functions such as transport of oxygen in the blood, synthesis of sugars in plants, and the transcription of DNA in all living organisms. Because of the importance of these basic biological functions, a better understanding of the mechanisms of heavy metal transport has implications for the treatment of a host of diseases, for human and animal nutrition, and for the bioremediation of heavy metal pollution. He has performed high impact research in this field during his 15-year tenure at WPI and since he started his research career in biochemistry in 1985. 

The first measure in outstanding research and creative scholarship is the ability to produce and sustain high quality research that impacts the growth of the field. José has been able to establish himself in his area of research and to expand his research into new discoveries. One nominator states that José has the ability to expand his research, "from ion transduction mechanisms of Na+/KATPs [sodium-potassium pump], to ion homeostasis and transport mechanism of heavy metals ATPs [enzymes], and now into identifying the role of metal ions in disease progression such as tuberculosis". José has been able to publish a number of papers in several areas and he has been able to demonstrate high quality in these publications by receiving noticeable citations. He has contributed to 69 journal articles that have received over 1270 citations. Citations are extremely instrumental in establishing the reputation of the Institution in research and creative scholarship. Another popular measure for productivity and impact of published work of a researcher is the H-index. According to one of the nominators familiar with the citation index in the Biochemistry, "His [José’s] H-index, a measure of his impact on the field, is very high 21!" There are additional measures that distinguish José’s research work, one nominator states "besides the prolific and steady record in publication in top ranked peer-reviewed journals, I noticed the extraordinary number of invited presentations, some of which are at the premier scientific meetings in the field". Considering all these facts, in simple words as another nominator states "in understanding how photosynthetic proteins coordinate metals" "he [José] seems to be doing the best work in the field".

A second measure in outstanding research and scholarship is the ability to attract funding for research and the ability to nurture others in the Institution to develop funded research programs. As one of the nominators states, "José has extensive knowledge of the grantmanship". "He has been funded by variety of agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, American Heart Association and the US Department of Agriculture" and "while some individuals might keep this knowledge to themselves, José is always happy to help spread his knowledge of funding agencies". Another nominator states "José arrived at WPI in 1986 with research funding and has maintained his funding ever since". He has been able to attract close to $4M of funding for more than ten research projects and currently he is the principal investigator of three projects for a total budget of over $1.6M. José has also been able to divert parts of his research funding towards undergraduate education that has been highly valued in WPI community for many years.

A third measure in evaluation of outstanding research and creative scholarship is the outside visibility and recognition through services to the research community. These activities are very instrumental in elevating the reputation of the Institution in the research community. In 2009 José was selected to serve a one-year appointment as a program director at the National Science Foundation, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences within the Directorate for Biological Sciences. Since last July he has been appointed to a four-year term on a National Institutes of Health study section to participate in the review and evaluation of research proposals aimed at understanding the nature of biological phenomena and applying that knowledge to enhance human health. Recently, he has been appointed as the editor of the prestigious flagship publication in the Biochemistry, The Journal of Biological Chemistry. The quality of José’s performance in this type of appointments is best exemplified by the comments of one of the nominators describing José’s work at NSF: "Because of his intellect and energy, José had great success not only within the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, but he was also able to successfully develop synergetic funding partnership with other Divisions, notably, Division of Chemistry" and continues with "Overall, José was generally very well-liked and well-respected at NSF for the many assets that he possesses ranging from his understanding of the biochemical and biophysical concepts to conversations of intrinsically difficult funding decisions to his views and efforts onto improve science education in the country."

Professor Arguello has strongly exemplified the qualities of scholar, researcher, and teacher for which we honor him with this award and by which he has brought enduring recognition and acclaim to this university.

In recognition of his significant contributions to the field of Biochemistry, especially his contributions and far-reaching impact on the development of metal transport across membranes, it is with great pride that Professor José Argüello is named the recipient of the 2012 Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship. 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees votes to recognize the outstanding contribution of one faculty member of the WPI Community by voting the 2012 Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship to Professor José Argüello.




"Professor Makarov is the most dedicated educator I have encountered in my life."

So remarks one of the many undergraduate students who have taken Professor Makarov’s introductory class for both ECE and non-ECE majors. 

Maybe it was the effort he made to memorize all the students’ names during the first week of class or the 7:00am help sessions that he held to accommodate the few students that could only meet at that time, or maybe the hours he spent helping the TA’s during their own help sessions, making sure that all the students’ questions were answered.

Whatever the case, one Mechanical Engineering student was impressed enough to write extensively about the dedication, enthusiasm and encouragement of this humble ECE professor.

Commenting on the weekly lab sessions, this same student writes, 

"During labs he was constantly running (sprinting) around speaking with each set of students, encouraging us to not only follow the lab handout but to go one step further and do some of our own experimentation. Often I would ask, "What if we combined these circuits...?" His response would be, "Do it and then try to understand what is happening!" He encouraged me to innovate rather than just follow, and he was always there to provide guidance. Many of the things I have learned from him have been reinforced because of his style."

And what about his teaching? "Phenomenal." As one student put it.

"Many professors simply lecture or flip through Power Point slides making even the most interesting subjects difficult to focus on. Professor Makarov is so passionate about teaching his students ... that many times I found myself sitting next to my fellow classmates disappointed, as he would announce that it was time for class to end. This was the case even after I had stayed up all night working on MQP or when I had only managed four hours of sleep after riding 76 miles on my bicycle the day before."

Written by another student ...

"In class he kept the students engaged by calling on them, but if he saw that the student did not understand the question or know the answer, he would go through the problem step-by-step to the solution. Many times he would end up with chalk all over his hands, face and clothes, because he was so zealously writing on the board and not wasting the time to pick up the eraser." 

And another...

"His feedback on the exams was very helpful and he did not penalize excessively for small mistakes, rather, he would take the time to write comments to show exactly where the solution provided by the student went wrong."

And finally ...

"I was very sick for an entire week and wasn’t able to go to class as much as I wanted (which meant I was rather behind on quiz material). He helped me with what I was stuck on and let me take the quiz a few days later."

Therefore, based on his demonstrated passion and dedication to teaching, his willingness to go beyond all expectations, and his true caring of each individual student it is an honor and privilege for us to present the 2012 Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Teaching to Professor Sergey Makarov. Your students have spoken!

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees votes to recognize the outstanding contribution of one faculty member of the WPI Community by voting the 2012 Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Teaching to Professor Sergey Makarov.



Each year, the WPI Board of Trustees presents an honor to a WPI professor who is an exceptional Academic Advisor. 

Professor Marsha Rolle has truly embodied what it means to be an outstanding academic advisor. When reading the multiple nominations that were submitted on her behalf, it was clear that she is caring, dedicated, and passionate about both her field and her students. This balance is what makes a truly exceptional advisor.

In all of the nominations from Professor Rolle’s advisees, words like "passion", "caring", "friend" and "mentor" were repeated. Each one described a time when they felt personally supported by her, and often credited her for their successes. Many of them wrote that they would not be where they are today, both academically and professionally, if it were not for Professor Rolle.

It is clear that Professor Rolle takes her role as Academic Advisor seriously, and her advisees commented on her ability to make them feel supported and challenged. One student wrote, "to say that Professor Rolle was merely a great advisor would be an immense understatement. She did not simply teach and mentor me about the field of vascular tissue engineering, but challenged me to become an independent researcher. Her motivation was to create engineers who can think critically and design creative solutions to any biomedical engineering problems." 

Advisees also commented on the time she takes to help them, even in spite of her own busy teaching and research workload. One student wrote, "I have noticed how dedicated she is to helping her students succeed. No matter how busy, Professor Rolle always makes time to help me." Other students commented on how timely she is in her responses to their emails and phone messages, often replying to them long after business hours have ended.

Professor Rolle puts her students first, which is what an exceptional Academic Advisor should do. Not only does she advise students academically, she also serves as the Faculty Advisor for Alpha Eta Mu Beta, the BME honor society. This comment from an advisee and the President of the BME honor society sums up the impact Professor Rolle has had on the students at WPI: "Professor Rolle is a wonderful and enthusiastic professor, whose passion and dedication advances the academic success of her students. Her guidance and positive attitude has encouraged me to work extremely hard throughout my time at WPI. She will always remain one of my greatest role models." 

For all of the reasons described above, Professor Rolle is most deserving of this award.

It is with great honor that we present this year’s Trustee’s Award for Outstanding Advising Award to Professor Marsha Rolle. 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees votes to recognize the outstanding contribution of one faculty member of the WPI Community by voting the 2012 Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Advising to XXXXX.



The Trustees’ Award for Service to Community is presented in memory of Denise Nicoletti, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department from 1991-2002, whose passion for life and outreach to under-represented groups touched many lives. Among her activities, Denise co-founded Camp Reach, a widely-acclaimed summer program which introduces seventh-grade girls to the excitement of engineering and science. The recipient of the 2012 Denise Nicoletti Trustees’ Award for Service to Community is Christine Drew.

Since her arrival at WPI in 2004, Christine Drew has provided extraordinary and enthusiastic service to WPI. She has gone above and beyond the call of duty, embodied the spirit of WPI, and the energy of Denise Nicoletti. Christine’s spirit and energy have extended beyond WPI as a champion of literacy, a strong commitment to local cultural organizations, and her passion for the environment. Christine’s vision and leadership have brought a positive and unique impact on numerous organizations. 

Christine is a champion of literacy and lifelong learning. In 2009, as a co-organizer of the "Big Read" project, which was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Christine created an Edgar Allen Poe discussion group to coincide with other activities going on around Worcester. The "Big Read" program is aimed at encouraging reading among lapsed or reluctant readers. The following year Christine guided an NEA proposal to develop a similar program at her local library, in Whitinsville. 

She is involved in environmental issues, as well. In addition to being on the WPI "Green Team," she has been a tireless volunteer for the Annual Sustainability Poster Competition. Christine’s passion for the environment extends beyond campus as well. Each year you can find Christine in some Worcester neighborhood on Earth Day supporting the Regional Environmental Council’s Earth Day clean-ups. When her energy isn’t enough she recruits library staff to assist her in this endeavor. Finally, in 2010, Christine volunteered for a skill share in the "Summer of Solutions" program. 

Christine’s creativity, commitment, and energy have been instrumental in bringing increasing numbers of reluctant students to WPI’s own Gordon Library. She has conducted research tutorial and workshops for students and faculty across campus. She has teamed up with faculty on teaching and research initiatives. Faculty and students alike express their gratitude for Christine’s "approachability" and "insightful advice.

Because Christine possesses similar qualities of Denise such as activism, a passion for teaching and learning, and a strong drive to enrich the lives of those in the WPI community as well as those outside of WPI, we honor her with the 2012 Denise Nicoletti Trustees’ Award for Community Service. 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees votes to recognize the outstanding contribution of one faculty member of the WPI Community by voting the 2012 Denise Nicoletti Trustees’ Award for Service to Community to Christine Drew. 

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