2023 Faculty Award Recipients for Research & Mentoring

Each year, Auburn University recognizes its faculty members’ achievements in teaching, research, creative scholarship and outreach by awarding its prestigious faculty awards. Recipients are nominated by Auburn faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Dr. Satyanarayana Pondugula

Dr. Satyanarayana Pondugula

Provost Award For Faculty Excellence In Undergraduate Research Mentoring

Dr. Satyanarayana Pondugula

Professor, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology, College of Veterinary Medicine

For Dr. Satyanarayana Pondugula, “real life” is the most important ingredient in good mentorship.

“I believe the real-life application of research fosters critical thinking, encourages active learning and problem-solving strategies and cultivates the acquisition of life-long learning skills,” he said. “In my experience, undergraduate researchers are always motivated when I provide implications of their work and how their outcomes help solve real-life issues.”

That strategy has helped Pondugula, an Auburn faculty member since 2011, develop a well-balanced undergraduate research program in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“I am dedicated to ensuring my students are confident in presenting their research,” he said. “Nurturing their presentation skills and self-assurance has a lasting impact.”

Pondugula also assists students in getting their research published, specifically in the Auburn University Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship. “Learning to write, seek feedback and revise manuscripts for it has proven beneficial in helping them later produce manuscripts for publication in international peer-reviewed journals.”

He is excited to have his mentorship efforts recognized but is quick to deflect the credit. “During my own academic journey, several professors mentored me and instilled in me a passion for teaching, research and mentorship. Today, I am dedicated to providing similar support to my students while cultivating a research environment that nurtures their growth.”

Dr. Eric Marcus

Dr. Eric Marcus

Creative Research and Scholarship Achievement Award

Fine Arts, Liberal Arts, Architecture and Design, Business, Social and Human Sciences

Dr. Eric Marcus

Eric Marcus’ early passion to understand the world and our place in it fueled an academic career spanning more than two decades and significant contributions to the philosophy of mind and action, epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics and the philosophy of language.

A noted scholar, Marcus’ citation rate remains in the top 2% for his field, including a citation rate within the top 1% in the four major areas of philosophical scholarship. However, in his primary research area, the study of rationality, Marcus has no peer.

His two books, “Rational Causation” and “Belief, Inference, and the Self-Conscious Mind,” are seminal works that have emerged as required reading for philosophy students at institutions such as Harvard and Pittsburgh.

Marcus is a celebrated teacher who finds joy in his students’ progress and their engagement with philosophical concepts.

“My most memorable teaching experiences at Auburn have come during class discussions when an idea or a problem has really taken hold of the students,” he said. “During those moments, I can see them wrestling in their own mind with an idea. It is wonderful to behold.”

Since joining the Auburn faculty, Marcus has found a community for which he has the utmost gratitude.

“The philosophy department at Auburn has been the ideal setting to thrive as an academic,” he said.

Dr. Daowei Zhang

Dr. Daowei Zhang

Creative Research and Scholarship Achievement Award

Sciences, Medical Sciences, Engineering and Agriculture

Dr. Daowei Zhang

Alumni and George W. Peake Jr. Professor and Associate Dean of Research, College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment

Daowei Zhang has always focused on the world’s big questions. He initially wanted to work in tree physiology, studying whether the basic mechanisms of tree growth could be improved.

But he realized — during a study trip through historically forest-rich areas of southern China —that the technical side of forestry wouldn’t lead him to answers. Working in China’s Ministry of Forestry confirmed that politics and economics had a far greater impact on the volume of the world’s forests.

Since completing graduate degrees, Zhang has emerged as one of the world’s leading experts on forest economics and policy. Beginning with a series of articles published in the late 1990s, his work on promoting forests through secure property rights has influenced policy worldwide.

Zhang takes pride in the success of his former and current students. His approach is to treat them as colleagues and pass on the lessons he felt were critical for his own success.

“I tell my students always to go higher, tackle the bigger problems,” he said. “And be guided with honesty and integrity in everything; sacrificing integrity is the one mistake you cannot make.”

Although the Auburn award may seem like the culmination of a stellar career, Zhang has no thoughts of slowing down. “The accomplishment I’m most proud of is the next one,” he said.