Faculty Excellence Awards – September 2009
Faculty Teaching Excellence Awards

Ask Dr. Tomasz Kordula to explain the structure of DNA and you might be in for a surprise. “He typically removes his belt and uses it as a prop to illustrate the various conformations of double stranded DNA,” explained Suzanne E. Barbour, Professor, School of Medicine, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. While some of his props may be unconventional, “his careful attention to the ‘art’ of teaching has made Dr. Kordula a favorite with the students.” No wonder he is receiving the Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.

“Dr. Kordula has vast, diverse and complex teaching experiences that span the entire spectrum of higher education, ranging from undergraduates, small discussion groups, graduate and medical students and postdoctoral fellows,” said Dr. Sarah Spiegel, Professor and Chair, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “He has made notable contributions to the development of the highest standard of education both within and outside of the classroom.”

“There is no question that Tomek is an outstanding teacher,” commended Robert F. Diegelmann, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “He demonstrates his excellence in teaching in the Medical Biochemistry course, as well as in the IOC 503 ‘super course.” Student comments include: “incredibly engaging and enjoyable lecture style,” “clearly enthusiastic about teaching,” “excellent, very interactive, clear, easy to follow,” and “great presenter and did a good job of putting challenging topics in layman’s terms.” Added a former graduate student, “He is one of the best teachers I have ever encountered. His lectures in molecular biology were spectacular and I only wished they never ended.”

“While he is extremely involved in teaching the first year medical students, being a graduate course director, serving on various students’ graduate committees, admitting new graduate students, and acting as a second advisor for several students from other labs, he always seems to fi nd the time to speak with each of his own students personally to discuss our projects’ pitfalls and triumphs,” wrote Dr. Lauren Bryan. “He is personally invested
in each of his graduate students and believes that it is his responsibility to ensure our success. Thanks to Dr. Kordula, I now leave VCU with an excellent resume, fantastic scientific training and a bright future in science.”

“I think that Dr. Kordula is such an excellent teacher because he shows a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and optimism, which is extremely contagious,” added another Ph.D. student. “When I was facing diffi culties, he used it as an opportunity to teach me how to fi nd alternative approaches and improve the techniques. He seems to never stop teaching – even during casual scientifi c discussions he made sure that I understood the scientific big
picture. It is thanks to him that I got a wonderful position in a world-renowned laboratory of stem cell research where I am implementing everything that I have learned from him.”

“I can easily say that my decision to set upon a career in science was greatly infl uenced by having Tomek as an advisor in the early stages of my academic education,” wrote another former doctoral student, now with the Collège de France. “He was the first person to introduce me to the hands-on excitement of making science, and I am deeply indebted to him for that.”

“In a research intensive environment like ours, it is easy to lose sight of the major reason we area here: to educate the next generation of biomedical researchers and health care workers,” added Dr. Barbour. “Dr. Kordula should be commended on his dedication to this noble profession. The Faculty Teaching Excellence Award is an appropriate way to reward him for his efforts.”