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Kansas State University

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An award-winning agronomist and a theoretical physicist will receive K-State's 2009 Commerce Bank Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award.

Charles Rice, university distinguished professor of agronomy, and Amit Chakrabarti, professor of physics, will be recognized at the K-State Graduate School commencement ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, in Bramlage Coliseum. The awards, which come with a $2,500 honorarium, are supported by the William T. Kemper Foundation and the Commerce Bancshares Foundation. They are coordinated through the Kansas State University Foundation.

"This is the 15th year that Commerce Bank and the William T. Kemper Foundation have partnered with K-State to support the Commerce Bank Distinguished Graduate Faculty Awards," said Tom Giller, community bank president, Commerce Bank, Manhattan. "High quality teaching is critical to student success, so we welcome this opportunity to help the university recognize those who excel in teaching, research and the mentoring of students."

K-State President Kirk Schulz said that supporting faculty who go the extra mile to connect with students is key to the university's success.

"At K-State the quality of our faculty is directly linked to student success," he said. "The support we've received from Commerce Bank over the last 15 years had enabled us to recognize and encourage excellence."

Charles RiceRice, an award-winning soil scientist, was a member of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its work. Most recently, Rice was awarded the Irvin Youngberg Award for Applied Sciences, one of the University of Kansas' Higuchi Awards, and was named one of five team leaders for a $20 million Kansas NSF EPSCoR project researching global climate change and renewable energy research.

His research, which focuses on soil organic dynamics, nitrogen transformations and microbial ecology, has been supported by more than $15 million in federal grants. In particular, his work on denitrifier ecology in subsoils has advanced the understanding of the impact of cultivation on microbial ecology and the fate of nitrates in soils and groundwater.

Rice came to K-State in 1988, became a full professor in 1998 and earned the university's highest academic rank of university distinguished professor in 2009. He has mentored numerous graduate students, including 15 master's and 16 doctoral candidates.

"I appreciate the recognition of this award," Rice said. "A large part of this is due to the quality graduate students that have come through my program."

Amit ChakrabartiChakrabarti's research interests are in the field of theoretical condensed matter physics. His research is curiosity-driven and focuses on how particles in a dispersed phase come together and form aggregates.

Chakrabarti is presently collaborating with several K-State faculty members on projects that have been funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation. He also is collaborating with Jim Gunton, a professor at Lehigh University, to understand how insulin crystals form from aqueous solutions. Insulin is an important drug in the treatment of diabetes, and understanding the process of microcrystal formation is important for developing new methods of drug delivery.

He has mentored eight doctoral candidates and several postdoctoral fellows.

"I am thrilled to have been selected by my peers at K-State for this award," Chakrabarti said. "K-State is a research-oriented institution, and I am sure there were many strong candidates for this award, which makes this award even more special for me."

Chakrabarti joined the K-State faculty in 1990 and was named a full professor in 2000. He has been honored previously for his teaching with K-State's Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and is a two-time winner of the Stamey Award for Teaching Excellence from the College of Arts and Sciences.


Drew SmithAndrew "Drew" Smith, assistant professor of aviation and the aviation maintenance training program lead at Kansas State University at Salina, has earned Master Certified Flight Instructor designation for the first time.

Smith is the sixth instructor in K-State at Salina's aviation program to earn the distinction. He also is one of only 19 Master Certified Flight Instructors in Kansas.

Fewer than 700 of the approximately 93,000 certified flight instructors in the nation have achieved the master designation.

Smith, who served in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves, has a bachelor's in aviation science from the College of the Ozarks and a master's in aviation safety from University of Central Missouri. A Federal Aviation Administration certified mechanic with airframe and power plant ratings, he is authorized to perform inspections.


Yasmin Patell, assistant teaching scholar in chemistry at K-State, has received the been recognized for her service to the Midwest Region of the American Chemical Society's E. Ann Nalley Midwest Regional Award for Volunteer Service in recognition of her exemplary service to the chemistry profession.

Patell serves the American Chemical Society both nationally -- as a member of the General Chemistry Examination Committee -- and locally -- as the K-State section's scholarship coordinator and secretary/treasurer. She organizes many American Chemical Society outreach activities, including the annual National Chemistry Week events at the Manhattan Town Center and Manhattan Public Library.

Patell received her award Oct. 22 at a special ceremony that was part of the Midwest regional meeting of the American Chemical Society in Iowa City, Iowa.

"I was very excited and honored to receive the award for volunteer service," Patell said. "I really enjoy volunteering for the American Chemical Society because it gives me an opportunity to bring chemistry from the classroom to a much wider audience. It was especially nice to receive the award directly from Dr. Ann Nalley herself, because she is such an inspirational and enthusiastic scientist."

Nalley is a past president of the American Chemical Society. The organization is the world's largest scientific society with more than 154,000 members worldwide, spanning the disciplines of chemistry, chemical engineering and related fields.

Patell is the fourth recipient of the Nalley Award, which was established in 2006 to recognize the dedication of American Chemical Society members who give of their time and talent by living the society's vision of enriching peoples' lives through the transforming power of chemistry.

"Yasmin is an excellent ambassador for chemistry," said Eric Maatta, professor and head of the K-State department of chemistry. "As her students will attest, she has a remarkable talent for sparking excitement and curiosity about our discipline."

Patell received her bachelor's and master's in chemistry from the University of Sussex in England, and her doctorate in chemistry from the Queen's University of Belfast in Ireland. She joined K-State in 2000. She is a recipient of K-State's Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.