March 18, 2014



Student favorite gives back to K-State

By Marisa Larson

Christopher Smith was a student favorite during his 33 years as a K-State professor of biology, focusing on evolution of natural communities. One group of Smith’s students gave him a complete turtle shell with writing on it stating, “To the world’s greatest teacher.” Another group of students gave him the “Golden Chalk Award” in honor of his outstanding teaching and for writing his key ideas on the blackboard so quickly that gold chalk dust flew. K-State’s College of Arts and Sciences also gave Smith an award for his teaching — the William L. Stamey Teaching Award.

Having been awarded so frequently at K-State by students and faculty, Smith is now giving back to the university and the specialty he loves. He has created the Dr. Christopher C. Smith Evolutionary Biology Research Award. This award will be given to graduate students who demonstrate excellence in a research program in evolutionary biology at K-State.

"Often, graduate students have limited resources and this award will give them support to do research of their choice in evolution," Smith said. "The university and the profession, hopefully will benefit from students doing interesting and significant research and publishing it."

Smith knows firsthand the importance of research and publishing to a scientist’s career. His published articles had been cited 2,528 times as of 2013. An article Smith co-authored titled “Optimal Balance Between Size and Number of Offspring” published in American Naturalist received a Citation Classic Award by Current Contents, which is published by the Institute for Scientific Information. It is the most cited paper in the journal Ecology from K-State. By creating this award for graduate students, Smith is helping other researchers meet the success he has had in his career.

Smith’s award benefits K-State as well as biology graduate students. Support for students and their involvement in research is a key factor in K-State’s goal to be a Top 50 public research university by 2025. While a professor, Smith worked with four graduate students to complete their doctorate degrees. With this endowed award, Smith will be helping students for generations.