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Veteran Summer Fellow Wins Award for Teaching Excellence

By Eddy Ball
June 2008

Edmund Koker, shown at work in a 2004 photo.
Edmund Koker, shown at work in a 2004 photo. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Edmond Koker, Ph.D., a multi-year NIEHS Summers of Discovery fellow and a professor of chemistry at Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), was honored May 9 as one of the 17 outstanding faculty selected by the University of North Carolina (UNC) Board of Governors as recipients of the prestigious 14th Annual Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

Koker, a 23-year veteran of ECSU, was recognized for inspiring future medical students in his chemistry classes. As part of the award, which was presented by UNC President Erskine Bowles and Board of Governors Chairman Jim Phillips of Greensboro, Koker received a commemorative bronze medallion and a $7,500 cash prize.

Almost every summer since 1991, Koker spent his vacation conducting research in the NIEHS Photosensitization Reactions Group along with Principal Investigator Colin Chignell, Ph.D., and other colleagues. Koker credits the Summers of Discovery program with helping him win his Excellence in Teaching Award. "The program has been very good to me in the sense that it's where I could research and publish," he explained. "My summers at NIEHS have enhanced my professional development, something that ultimately trickles down to my students through better teaching."

Students in Koker's classes seem to agree with their professor about the impact of his professional development on them. One was quoted in the UNC press release about the awards as saying, "I am a better student after taking his classes and not just in chemistry, but overall."

Participating in the Summers of Discovery program offered Koker time in well-equipped laboratories and the stimulation of exploring new areas of science with other talented chemists. He carries a full teaching load at ECSU during the academic year, and his research is largely restricted to summer fellowships.

Conducting science at NIEHS has helped Koker build up an impressive list of seminar presentations, poster presentations and publications in refereed journals and technical digests, many of them in collaboration with Chignell - and stay abreast of new developments in his field. "It's definitely a win/win situation for everyone involved," he said, "and I hope I'll get to come back soon."

Koker is one of the regular high school and college faculty members who will not be able to participate in the Summers of Discovery program this year because of budget constraints.

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