Professors recognized for accomplishments in research and service

Research advancements and citizenship service recognized through UM System President's Awards.

UM System President Mun Choi surprised James Schiffbauer, an assistant professor of geological sciences and William Wiebold, a professor of plant sciences, on April 16.

Schiffbauer was in the middle of teaching a lecture in the Geological Sciences building when President Choi presented him with the President’s Award for Early Career Excellence.

“The lights come on and I turn around and I’m face to face with the president of the university,” Schiffbauer said. “It was pretty surprising.”

Schiffbauer said that he did not expect to receive the award, but his department chair had nominated him for it as a result of the culmination of work Schiffbauer has done since arriving at MU.

“I’ve been successful here because of the people that surround me, the opportunities that have been presented to me and the people who have helped me get to this stage in my career,” Schiffbauer said. “I can certainly imagine less supportive environments and this one has been excellent for my career development.”

Schiffbauer has been at MU since August of 2012 and during that time has been awarded with the 2016 MU Provost’s Outstanding Junior Faculty Research and Creative Activity Award and the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2017. His primary research interest is in taphonomy, which is the study of the decay of organisms and process of fossilization.

The assistant professor has also earned three large grants, one of which has allowed him to purchase an electron microscope that resides in the basement of the Geological Sciences building.

“I guess the biggest things that put me on the map for this honor are that I’ve had two large grants through NSF, my Career Award and an Early Career Instrumentation and Facilities Grant, the latter of which supported the establishment of our new lab,” Schiffbauer said. “We have also raised internal funds from departments, colleges and other units across campus to get a microCT along with the NSF-supported electron microscope. This combination of microscopy techniques makes for a unique facility in the UM System.”

All together, the instrumentation in the X-ray Microanalysis Core lab in Geological Sciences costs about $2 million Schiffbauer said. It gives Schiffbauer and his lab manager and Ph.D. student, Tara Selly, an opportunity to collaborate with faculty from inside and outside of MU.

“Even though we are still new, the lab has fostered more interdisciplinary studies than I ever thought I would have in my normal faculty role,” Schiffbauer said.

Schiffbauer looks at the lab as an opportunity to recruit students, postdocs and other collaborators to MU. He hopes that his receival of the President’s Award and the studies produced in the lab will not only bring recognition to his group, but will also bring recognition to MU.

“I do my science for the sake of science,” Schiffbauer said. “It is certainly an honor and humbling to be recognized for what I do. I am quite happy that other people outside of my discipline can say that I’ve been doing a good job. That’s fantastic.”

Wiebold, on the other hand, was surprised with the UM System’s President’s Award for Service during an Intercampus Faculty Council TelePresence meeting.

“The president was there so he gave a little talk to us and then he made the announcement,” Wiebold said. “It was pretty neat.”

Wiebold’s award focuses on faculty service that goes beyond what is expected. Currently, he is chair of the MU faculty council, which consists of about 25 faculty members that serve from different MU colleges and schools. Wiebold represents the College of Agriculture.

Since Wiebold is a chair on the faculty council, he is also a representative on the intercampus faculty council. This council consists of three people from each of the four schools within the UM System.

He also resides on the provost search committee, is the Missouri state soybean extension specialist, acts as the director of the Missouri Soybean Center and is a member of the Missouri Soybean Association.

“There are a lot of things that happen at this university that are over and above what you get paid to do,” Wiebold said. “My appointment is an extension in research. So I get paid to develop extension programs that relate to soybeans and I get paid to conduct the research that helps that extension.”

Wiebold has been at MU for 28 years. For 26 of those years, he has collected data on how to manage soybeans in an attempt to reduce soil erosion.

“Soybean is the number one crop in Missouri,” Wiebold said. “My team and I think of more ways to make it more profitable.”

The receival of this award represents the work that Wiebold has done for MU as well as the research he has conducted.

“I’m at the end of my career so the award is a recognition of what I’ve done in the past,” Wiebold said. “I think it helps my morale that my colleagues have seen that some unpaid volunteer activities can be recognized by the university. I think it lifts not only my heart but a lot of hearts.”

Edited by Morgan Smith |

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