From CU-Boulder News Release April 13, 2006
CU-Boulder Biologist Wins University's Top Teaching And Research Award
The University of Colorado Boulder's highest faculty recognition for teaching and research, the Hazel Barnes Prize, has been awarded to biology professor and Presidential Teaching Scholar Alexander Cruz.
Cruz will receive an engraved University Medal and a $20,000 cash award, the largest single faculty award funded by CU-Boulder. He will be recognized at the spring commencement ceremony May 12 and a reception in his honor will be held during the fall 2006 semester.
Cruz has been a member of the ecology and evolutionary biology faculty since 1973 and has an active research program in ecology, evolution, behavior and conservation biology. Among other projects, Cruz' laboratory focuses on the study of brood or social parasitism, a reproductive strategy in which one species receives parental care from another unrelated species.
"It is most prevalent in birds and social insects, but it has also been reported in a species of catfish," Cruz said. "Studies of these interactions can reveal much about co-evolutionary mechanisms and has great behavioral, ecological and evolutionary significance."
Cruz also supervises a long-term monitoring project on the impact of urbanization on songbird biodiversity on the Colorado Front Range.
"This work has been particularly gratifying because of student involvement - there have been more than 15 publications from this project written by student authors," Cruz said.
Cruz' projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Geographic Society and the City and County of Boulder. He has trained and mentored the research of 38 graduate students and more than 300 undergraduate students at CU-Boulder, earning teaching honors including the First Briggs Mentoring Award, the Boulder Faculty Assembly Teaching Award, the Boulder Campus Advising Award and the Equity and Excellence Award.
"To me, the most outstanding quality about Alex - something that goes beyond his many other qualities as an educator - is his undying compassion in mentoring undergraduate students as he guides them through their research projects, many of which result in publications," said ecology and evolutionary biology Associate Professor Mel Cundiff.
"Along with many colleagues, I have wondered where Alex has found the time and energy that he devotes to his students," said biology Emeritus Professor Carl Bock. "It has been extraordinary."
Cruz mentored the College of Arts and Sciences' Most Outstanding Students in 2004 and 2005. Brian Miller graduated in 2005 after conducting NSF-funded and independent research supervised by Cruz. Janelle Knox, a 2004 honoree, completed her honors thesis on the social parasitism of catfish with advising help from Cruz and was eventually awarded $300,000 to attend graduate school at Oxford University.
Cruz' extensive university service includes membership on CU-Boulder's Marshall and Rhodes Scholarship Committee and the Chancellor's Fellowship Committee. He also serves as an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program mentor and associate curator of the University of Colorado Museum.
From 1990 to 2000, Cruz served as assistant and associate dean of the Graduate School. His work on diversity issues helped the Graduate School earn CU-Boulder and CU system diversity awards.
"Alex himself is from a Puerto Rican family, growing up in New York, and is bilingual in Spanish and English, which has proved to be a powerful aid in his mentoring of minority students," said biology Professor Harvey Nichols.
Cruz earned his bachelor's degree in 1964 from the City University of New York and completed his doctoral degree in 1973 at the University of Florida.
The Hazel Barnes Prize was established at CU-Boulder in 1991 to recognize the enriching relationship between teaching and research. The $20,000 award is the largest single faculty prize funded by the university and is named in honor of philosophy Professor Emerita Hazel Barnes. Noted for her interpretations of the works of French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, Barnes taught at CU-Boulder from 1943 to 1986.
Cruz was nominated for the Hazel Barnes Prize by Professor William M. Lewis, Jr., associate director of CU-Boulder's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and director of the university's Center of Limnology.