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The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology recognizes outstanding accomplishments of a predoctoral student with four awards:


Tom SteadmanThe Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department is proud to announce that Samantha Donald is the recipient of our departmental Tom Steadman 2023 Teacher-Research Opportunity Award. This award recognizes a high school teacher who teaches hands-on research techniques by providing the opportunity to contribute to original research.

This award is named after Tom Steadman, a farmer/rancher in Woodward County, OK. It was from observing Mr. Steadman's actions that Dr. Fenton first realized the value of service as an important way of giving back to the community. Graduating high school students can benefit from help in exploring available career options; therefore, there is a need for individuals in professional fields to create opportunities to supply that help. The ability to identify needs in the community, coupled with the willingness to fill that need exemplifies how Mr. Steadman has led his life.

Samantha Donald’s love for teaching started at a young age as she observed her mother teaching middle school students Biology early on in her life. Samantha spent hours before and after class in middle school surrounded by students and teachers. During these times, she would pretend to play teacher with her younger sister (who always had to be the student). She was able to play with the “left-over” lab set-ups and dissection specimens and began to develop her love for the various sciences. Dissecting earthworms, frogs and playing with lizards, ferrets, and snakes, gave Samantha opportunities to grow her passion for learning.

Going into freshman year of college, Samantha was undecided on a major that fit her career ambitions and ended up changing it multiple times in the first 2 years at the University of Kansas. Eventually, she came to the realization that her heart was in science and learning, and a career in teaching was her calling. As fate would have it, the UKanTeach program was formed at the University of Kansas while Samantha was a student, and this student program assisted her in earning a Bachelor's degree in Biology with a Teaching Concentration. Upon setting first steps in a classroom, Samantha knew that this was where she was meant to be.

After graduating the University of Kansas in December 2010, Samantha had the pleasure to teach many different subjects at Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka, KS. These subjects included Zoology, Biology, Honors Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, Honors Chemistry I, Physics, and Honors Physics I. After spending several years teaching in Topeka, Samantha moved to Kansas City Metro where she has settled into her role as Chemistry I/Honors Chemistry I and Honors Chemistry 2 teacher at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School.

Challenging students is a priority for Samantha, and she is always looking for opportunities to find new ways to excite them about science. She tries to communicate with her students on how science is present in their everyday lives as well as what “science” professions consist of. She has enjoyed taking her senior level Chemistry classes to Dr. Freudenthal’s Lab with the help of Dr. Max Fairlamb.

In addition to helping students in the classroom, Samantha coached various sports for several years. She was an assistant coach for tennis from 2011-2014 and coached boys and club swimming from 2014-2019.

When Samantha is not in the classroom teaching, she maintains an active personal life. Together with her husband Alex, they have a son Blake (3 years old) and daughter Allison (2 years old).

Recipients of the Tom Steadman Award

Recipient Year
Samantha Donald 2023
Chris Elniff 2022
Kenneth Lee 2021
Eric Kessler 2020
L. B. Fogt 2019
Giselle McDonald 2018
Zulma Perez-Estrella 2017

Mr. Dix is a retired biology educator. During his 38 years of teaching, he was instrumental in developing an advanced biotechnology curriculum in the Olathe School District, including the Olathe 21st Century Program for Life Sciences. He served as a resource for other KC area-wide schools as they developed their own biotechnology programs. Mr. Dix's lifelong teaching goal was to connect students to the world of scientific research by developing classroom methods and skills for scientific inquiry learning, with the aid of mentorship from many professional scientists.

The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department is proud to announce that Mrs. Betsy Lawrence is the recipient of the Randy Dix 2022 Junior High Science Teacher Award.

Mrs. Betsy Lawrence is a longtime Kansas Citian who graduated from the Shawnee Mission school district. She went on to complete a degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Physical Science from Pittsburg State University, graduating with honors. While pursuing her degree at PSU, Mrs. Lawrence quickly realized her passion for teaching science while holding the position of Vice President and President of the student chapter of the National Science Teachers Association. Mrs. Lawrence started her teaching career in the elementary realm in the Olathe School District where she was the science club sponsor. While teaching, Mrs. Lawrence did complete both of her master’s degrees in Educational Leadership and Special Education from Pittsburg State University. While teaching 4th and 5th graders, Mrs. Lawrence was invited to participate in Space Camp for Educators through the Honeywell Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama. Mrs. Lawrence was given the opportunity to teach middle school science when the Olathe School District transitioned the 6th graders to the middle school. Mrs. Lawrence has taught middle school ever since this time both in Olathe and the Eudora School District. Mrs. Lawrence is the current president of the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science and has presented both at the national level and state level of the National Science Teaching Association. Mrs. Lawrence is also an active member of the Kansas National Education Association, Olathe National Education Association, and Delta Kappa Gamma. Mrs. Lawrence was a Kansas state finalist in the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Math teaching, a Mohling Foundation Scholarship winner, Kansas Association of Teachers of Science Region 1 outstanding science educator award, and has been selected as a Kansas Department of Education teacher leader to lead professional development across the state of Kansas. Mrs. Lawrence is also a doctoral student at the University of Kansas pursuing a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on middle school science. Mrs. Lawrence has received the William LaShier Scholarship for this doctoral program. Mrs. Lawrence currently teaches 8th-grade science in the Olathe School District where she sponsors the school’s science olympiad team as well as sits on the school’s building leadership team and district middle school science committee. Mrs. Lawrence also is a proud Webelos den leader of Pack 3388 in Gardner, Kansas where she most recently was the recipient of the outstanding Webelos leader for the Iron Horse District.

Recipients of the Randy Dix Award:

Recipient Year
Betsy Lawrence 2022
Dr. Jill Bergerhofer 2021
Amy Radaker Hillman 2021

The Joe R. Kimmel Award was established in 1985 as a memorial to Joe R. Kimmel, M.D., Ph.D. by colleagues and students. Dr. Kimmel, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, was on the faculty from 1963 until his death in 1985.

It is awarded for an outstanding research presentation in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Student Research Forum.

Recipients of the Kimmel Award:

Recipient Year
Griffin Welfer 2022
Nicole Hoitsma 2021
No award due to pandemic 2020
Alex Machen 2019
 Pierce O'Neil  2018
 Jackie Thompson  2017
 Zhen Zhang  2016
Mary Ashley Rimmer 2015
Rushi Trivedi 2014 
Dan Parente  2013
Mauricio Vargas Uribe 2012
Subhaschandra Naik 2011
Troy Johnson 2009
Hiroo Katayama 2008
Matthew Goering 2007
Benjamin Weaver 2006
Ryan Schulze 2005
Alexsander Dajkovic 2004
Huimin Jiang 2002
Scott Falke 2001
Susanna Harju 2000
Shihyun You 1999
Stephen Parnell 1998
Bei Xie 1991
Carla Green 1990
Michael Harding 1990
Larry Dobbs 1988
Robin Maser 1987

Santiago GrisoliaSantiago Grisolia Research Fellowship is awarded for Excellence in Biomedical Research by a Medical Student at the Student Research Forum.

This award was established in 1997 in commemoration of the esteemed career of Santiago Grisolia, M.D., Ph.D., by colleagues, associates, and students. Dr. Grisolia, Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas
Medical Center, was Director of the McIlvain Laboratories, 1954-62 and Professor and inaugural Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and
Molecular Biology, 1962-73. After a long and successful career, Dr. Grisolia passed away in 2022.

Recipients of the Grisolia Award:

Recipient Year
Lauryn Werner 2022
Miranda Machacek 2018
Dan Parente 2011
Bliss Hartnett 2008
 Jacob Hodges 2007
James Howard 2002
Stephen Clum 1998
Nils R. Hoernle 1998
KU School of Medicine

University of Kansas Medical Center
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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