Spirit of Gratitude Spurs New Award Program in Department of Chemistry

Professional recognition looks great on a resume, and reflects well on a department.

It takes time, though, to put in an application, and that’s something in short supply for everyone — especially if you’re nominating someone other than yourself.

Karin Chumbimuni-Torres, Ph.D., considered all these factors when she pitched her incentive plan to UCF Faculty Excellence. The concept won her a COACHE Faculty Development Mini-Grant worth $2,500, and the opportunity to boost exposure of her colleague’s achievements in the Department of Chemistry.

“The idea is to get rid of excuses. It’s going to be much easier to nominate people for awards after this,” said Chumbimuni-Torres, an associate professor who specializes in chemical sensors for biological applications.

The need to say “thanks” and recognize people for their hard work is personal for Chumbimuni-Torres. A native of Peru, Chumbimuni-Torres received her first educational advantage when she was provided a free education at a private school in Lima. That opened doors to further educational opportunities abroad, and sparked an enduring sense of duty to work hard and pay it forward.

“If you feel loved and recognized, you should pass that along to others,” Chumbimuni-Torres said.

Chumbimuni-Torres brought that ethos to UCF seven years ago, and it manifested as formal awards for students in her research lab and classes, along with multiple awards as a result of self-nominations. In that time, Chumbimuni-Torres saw a disproportionate number of awards from organizations like the American Chemical Society when compared to the incredible work and research her colleagues completed.

When she did some digging, she found two main reasons why: a lack of time and a lack of knowledge about available awards. Funds from the COACHE grant will address this by funding the creation of a database listing local, national and international awards, along with the corresponding deadlines and specific requirements. A template nominating letter will also cut down the writing time.

Chumbimuni-Torres is also creating her own internal awards within the Department of Chemistry to reward areas she believes are important. An instrumental moment in her life was when a professor took her as a young student to a chemistry conference that introduced her to all of the big names in the field. In that vein, one of her current awards recognizes a professor who takes students to a conference. She’s also rewarding lecturers who seek professional development; professors who involve undergraduate students in high-impact peer-reviewed articles; and faculty who provide services to the Department of Chemistry that carry university-level impact.  .

The grant was set to conclude its second phase in spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown changed those plans. The plan is now to wrap up in November.

“It’s sad that we had to postpone our awards, but I’m confident that we’ll see positive results in the Fall,” Chumbimuni-Torres said. “If anything, this is a season that we can all learn about the benefits of gratitude.”




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