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K-State Today

April 27, 2022

Biology awards outstanding senior with Haymaker Award

Submitted by Eve Sutherland McCulloch

The faculty members of the Division of Biology have awarded John Henry Tumberger, senior in biology with an emphasis in human health biology, Overland Park, with this year's H.H. Haymaker Award for Excellence. The Haymaker Award is the highest honor bestowed on a biology student at Kansas State University by the Division of Biology. 

The award was named in honor of Herbert Henley Haymaker, a K-State alumnus, Bachelor of Science in agronomy graduate and faculty member from 1917-1963. The award is given annually to one of more than 100 eligible seniors majoring in biology, fisheries, wildlife, conservation, and environmental biology, or microbiology, who has both an extraordinary level of accomplishment as an undergraduate, and the promise to continue such quality performance in a biological sciences-related career. Nomination and selection criteria include grades, rigor of academic program, extracurricular activities, recommendations by faculty, and performance in an interview. This year, six seniors were nominated. 

Tumberger joined the Division of Biology in 2019. Tumberger is a highly capable and intelligent student. 

"Little, if anything, will limit John's ability not only to succeed, but to be the absolute best at what he seeks out to accomplish," one professor said. 

Tumberger has maintained an excellent academic record while actively committed to many activities on and off campus, including research, community service, maintaining leadership roles in multiple student organizations, serving as a teaching assistant, and working a part-time job. Tumberger has an amazing ability to excel on many fronts simultaneously. 

Tumberger has worked in the research laboratory of Bradley Olson, associate professor of biology, since his first year at K-State and accomplished a tremendous amount. In the Olson lab, Tumberger studies the evolution of multicellularity using the Volvocine algae as a model, focusing on molecular basis of predator-induced cooperation. In addition, Tumberger spends summers working at the Children’s Mercy Research Institute studying pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic effects of Naltrexone in pediatric populations. Tumberger has presented his research in multiple venues. He has two publications in press and two more in preparation. He is second author on two of those publications. 

Tumberger has demonstrated the principles of leadership and service throughout his time at K-State. Tumberger cares about making the world better through helping others. For example, this year Tumberger served as mentorship chair for the Biology Mentorship Program. He grew the program from mentoring approximately 50 first-year students in 2020-2021 during the pilot year to mentoring almost 200 first-year students under his leadership. Tumberger's goal was to have the entire class of incoming biology majors paired with an upper-level student as their mentor. This was a huge operation, and Tumberger's innovation, organization and drive were essential to its success. Tumberger not only recruited approximately 60 volunteer mentors, but he also developed training material, built a Canvas page to allow for smooth communication between coordinators and mentors, ran two mentor training workshops over the summer, matched just under 200 incoming students with their mentors promptly and carefully, and maintained lines of communication with mentors and mentees. Simultaneously, Tumberger also served as a mentor. 

One mentee said that "John was everything I needed in a mentor … John patiently guided me … which I am very grateful for. I would be way more lost today if John had not taken the time from his busy schedule to mentor me." Another mentee said that "He was always there and extremely kind." 

Impressively, Tumberger has brought this level of dedication to not only classes, research and the Division of Biology, but also to many other campus organizations and communities. Tumberger serves as president of the Human Body Club and has been philanthropic and mentorship chair of the Pre-Med Club, and volunteers with the American Red Cross. In addition, Tumberger has also served as a teaching assistant for Human Body 1, BIOL 441, in fall 2021 and spring 2022. As a teaching assistant, Tumberger devotes a considerable amount of time to helping students in and out of class. 

Tumberger demonstrates initiative, academic excellence and leadership. He has already accomplished a huge amount during his time at K-State. He will be graduating from K-State in December 2022, after which he will work at the Children’s Mercy Research Institute for spring 2023, then attend medical school. The faculty members of the Division of Biology are excited to see what the future will bring for Tumberger and they are confident that he will find success wherever he goes.