Biology Professor Awarded UNC's Top Faculty Honor

Stephen Mackessy

Stephen Mackessy

A University of Northern Colorado biology professor internationally known for his research on venomous snakes has been named winner of the 2012 M. Lucile Harrison Award, the university's top faculty honor.

UNC Professor of Biology Stephen Mackessy of the College of Natural and Health Sciences was selected for the award that recognizes a faculty member with a distinguished career in teaching, professional activity and service, all traits that marked the career of M. Lucile Harrison.

Mackessy's interest in snakes started when he was a 15-year-old working after school at a company that supplied the reptiles for schools and zoos. That interest has since grown into a passion that's as strong as the one he has for sharing his considerable knowledge with his students and colleagues.

After earning bachelor's and master's degrees in biology from the University of California Santa Barbara, Mackessy received his Ph.D. in zoology with a biochemistry minor from Washington State University in 1989.

He joined UNC's School of Biological Sciences in 1989 and attained his current rank of professor in 2001. He teaches at all levels of the school's curriculum from freshman-level biology courses to graduate-level biomedical science.

Mackessy is a firm believer in the value of laboratory experience for all levels of students. During his 21 years at UNC, he's involved nearly 50 undergraduate students in his research, which focuses on how compounds in snake venom can be used in cancer-fighting drugs, and has mentored 18 graduate students. He's been active in UNC's Honors Program since 1996, and currently serves as the Faculty Research Fellow with the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Well-known and highly respected in his field, Mackessy has published more than 50 research articles, one book and six book chapters, and has presented at more than 50 local, national and international scientific meetings. Since 1991, he has received $1.3 million supporting his research and scholarship.

Mackessy's numerous institutional awards include two Mortar Board Superior Teaching awards, designation in 1999 as a UNC Distinguished Scholar, the College of Natural and Health Sciences' 2006-07 Excellence in Scholarship award and the college's 2011-12 Graduate Faculty Research Mentor of the Year award.

Mackessy will be presented with the Harrison award during UNC's undergraduate commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at Nottingham Field.

The award - given by the Office of the Provost - includes a nomination process and review of nominations by an award committee. It was created in 1965 in recognition of its namesake, a longtime member of UNC's teacher education program and co-author of a national reading instruction series.

- UNC News Service

In His Own Words: Stephen Mackessy's Teaching Philosophy
Teaching is intimately tied to research and is an important component of scholarship, and it offers the opportunity to impart new knowledge to students in ways which can make a difference to society in general. As a teacher/scholar, if I convey a sense of authenticity and enthusiasm to my students, I can increase their motivation and interest, observed as positive changes in their attitudes and performance. In my teaching, I strive to engage students and encourage them to take responsibility for their education.