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Longtime Smith Prof Named Educator of the Year

Richard Olivo, professor of biological sciences, was recently named “Educator of the Year” by his peers at the 2005 Society for Neuroscience meeting that drew an estimated 30,000 scientists to Washington, D.C.

Olivo received the award on November 14 from Smith alumna and former student Jean C. Hardwick ’83, a faculty member at Ithaca College. Given annually to a member of the society’s Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience group, the award recognizes efforts that promote neuroscience education and research at the undergraduate level.

Olivo, who joined the Smith faculty in 1973, this year launched the first-ever teaching workshop at the annual meeting and the room was packed, said Hardwick. Although the meeting has traditionally focused on research and new scientific discovery, it also draws a significant number of scientists involved in teaching.

“Richard’s efforts helped to illustrate the importance of quality teaching in the training of future neuroscientists and also emphasized the importance of undergraduate education in the long-term future of the field,” Hardwick said. “I was particularly delighted to be able to personally present this award to a professor who had a significant impact on my own scientific career.”

At Smith, Olivo researches vision and teaches courses on neurophysiology, but he has also directed his efforts on enhancing teaching and learning in the sciences with the use of computers. A few years ago, Olivo converted his printed lab manual into an online version that incorporates videos, photos, diagrams, links to articles and other supplementary materials. He then published an article about his online lab manual in the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, Olivo earned his doctoral degree at Harvard University. He has remained affiliated with Harvard, currently serving as associate director for the university’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.

“I am so proud to be associated with Richard and very happy that the larger community of neuroscientists recognizes his outstanding dedication and wisdom,” said Mary Harrington, Smith’s Tippit Professor in Life Science and the incoming president of FUN, who also attended the meeting.

Held November 12 through 16, the meeting marked the Society of Neuroscience’s 35th anniversary as the world’s leading organization for the study of the brain and nervous system.

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