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Professor Cramer receives Morse Alumni Award

Professor Christopher Cramer has been chosen to receive the 2011 Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education. This honor is awarded to exceptional candidates nominated by colleges in their quest to identify excellence in undergraduate education. In addition to honoring individual faculty members, the award contributes to the improvement of undergraduate education at the university by publicizing the honorees' work to serve as resources for the whole faculty.

Cramer is one of seven faculty members from across the entire university chosen to receive the Morse Alumni Award this year. He will receive an engraved sculpture, lapel pin, certificate, an annual salary augmentation, and funds for professional use. He will be honored at an award ceremony, Monday, April 25.

Cramer joined the Department of Chemistry faculty in 1992. He teaches physical chemistry, chemical physics, computational chemistry, and environmental chemistry. He has earned numerous honors for his teaching and research, including being named a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, a University Teaching Professor, and Elmore H. Northey Professor. He also has received the Graduate Professional Award for Outstanding Contributions to Post-Baccalaureate, Graduate, and Professional Education, and the George W. Taylor Distinguished Research Award. His honors have earned him induction into the university's Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

Cramer has taught undergraduate students at every level of the chemistry program, ranging from freshman seminars, which he designed, to organic chemistry, physical chemistry such as quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, and advanced-level courses such as computational chemistry, which he developed. In addition, Cramer has written articles and presented conferences on chemistry instruction pedagogy such as how to create and conduct successful classroom and laboratory exercises, and teaching computational chemistry to undergraduates.

Cramer served as the Department of Chemistry's Director of Undergraduate Studies for three years, acting as an adviser to many students, helping students obtain internships, and introducing many students and their parents to the university and the Department of Chemistry. He has served as a mentor to more than 50 undergraduate students who have carried out research under his supervision.

In addition to teaching, Cramer has a high profile in the chemistry community, renowned for his research in a number of quantum chemistry areas. Recently, he was elected a Fellow for the American Chemical Society.

Former students reflect on their experiences in Cramer's courses and lab, and how he inspired them in their career choices. One of his former students wrote: "Chris showed a passion for his work and an interest in me that far exceeded my expectations. He made his research accessible to me even though I had never done computational work before. Chris spent one-on-one time with me to get my research going and encouraged me to write the first draft of the publication that ultimately represented my work. The faith that Chris showed in my abilities gave me the confidence to pursue a Ph.D. [I become a computational chemist]. When I look back at the last 10 years, I can identify a handful of people who were instrumental in getting me to where I am today [a college chemistry professor], and I can say that Chris Cramer is one of those people."

Another former student who also is a university professor of chemistry wrote: "As a chemical educator, I know how central a positive research experience can be to a young scientist's development. . . . Chris serves as my model for research mentoring, and I strive to give my own students the training, the support, and the confidence that he gave me. . . . He taught me to seek out the truth where it can be found, and to never be afraid to contradict your old ideas in the name of progress. Eleven years after graduating from his research group, I still seek the truth, and Chris' guidance has been invaluable to me in my journey."

Each year since 1965, the University of Minnesota has recognized a select group of faculty members with the Morse Alumni Award. Since 1990, 12 faculty members from the Department of Chemistry have received this honor, including current faculty members David Blank, Mark Distefano, Thomas Hoye, Doreen Leopold, Ken Leopold, and Kent Mann.

The award, named for a former dean of the General College, is made possible through support of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association and the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

The Department of Chemistry is part of the College of Science & Engineering.