LAWRENCE — Whether conducting research to tackle life-threatening diseases or implementing innovative classroom techniques to inspire students, James Orr and Dr. Russell Swerdlow are proven standouts at the University of Kansas.
They respectively are recipients of the 2014 Chancellors Club Career Teaching Award and Chancellors Club Research Award.
Orr is a professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences. Swerdlow is a professor in the departments of Neurology, Molecular and Integrative Physiology, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the KU School of Medicine. Each will receive a $10,000 award and will be honored at the Sept. 26 Chancellors Club celebration in Lawrence.
Known for his innovative teaching methods and widely praised by his students, James Orr has taught at KU since 1975. Courses that Orr has taught include introductory biology, mammalian physiology, human physiology and respiratory physiology. He currently teaches introductory biology (principles of molecular and cellular biology) in the fall semester and the circulatory and respiratory sections of mammalian physiology course in the spring.
While instructing a total of more than 800 students each year, Orr uses innovative classroom approaches, such as in-class skits and small group activities, to maximize student learning. His research centers on the investigation of neural control mechanisms that regulate heart, lung and blood vessel function.
Orr served as KU’s chair of the division of biological sciences from 1992 to 2006. He continues to be involved in directing several federally funded grants that provide programs to increase the interest and success of minority students in the biomedical sciences. From 2006 until this fall, he directed KU’s Office for Diversity in Science Training, which manages training programs for students in the sciences and includes a partnership with Haskell Indian Nations University. These programs, which focus on enhancing student diversity in the sciences and support for student research, have attracted millions of dollars in federal funding for both Haskell and KU.
In nominating Orr, Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, described him as one of KU’s “most outstanding educators.”
“Jim’s exemplary classroom teaching in biology has been recognized in the past through this nomination for almost every teaching award that KU has to offer, including the Kemper Award, the Ned N. Fleming Trust Award and the Michael Y. Young CLAS Advising Award,” Anderson said. “He is consistently showered with laudatory comments from his students, a fact that is especially telling given the enormous student enrollment in his major classes.”
Orr earned a bachelor’s degree in biolog from Loras College and his master’s and doctoral degrees in physiology from the University of Wisconsin.
A leading expert on Alzheimer’s disease and mitochondrial dysfunction, Russell Swerdlow directs KU’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the Neurodegenerative Disorders Program at KU Medical Center. In addition to his research and teaching, he sees patients at KU’s Memory Disorders Clinic. His laboratory-based research focuses on mitochondrial dysfunction in neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and progressive supranuclear palsy. He began his KU Medical Center career in 2008.
In nominating Swerdlow, Dr. Richard Barohn, chair of the Department of Neurology, described him as a “unique phenomenon in academic neurology.”
“Dr. Swerdlow has positioned KU Medical Center to be one of the premier clinical translational and basic science research and education programs in the U.S.,” Barohn said. “His accomplishments are an incredible point of distinction for the entire University of Kansas system. He is clearly one of KU’s premier physician-scientists.”
Swerdlow earned a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a medical degree from New York University School of Medicine. He completed fellowships in neurodegenerative diseases at the University of Virginia Health System and in geriatric neuropsychiatry at the University of Virginia/Western State Hospital.
The Chancellors Club, formed in 1977 by KU Endowment, recognizes both donors of major gifts designated for specific purposes on any of KU’s campuses and annual donors to the Greater KU Fund. KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.