College of Science Announces 2023-24 Faculty Awards

Author: Tammi Freehling

Santiago Schnell, D.Phil., the William K. Warren Foundation Dean of the College of Science, has announced several faculty awards for the 2023–2024 academic year.

Father James L. Shilts, C.S.C./Doris and Gene Leonard Teaching Award

This award, bestowed annually on a faculty member in the College of Science, is named in honor of Father James Shilts, C.S.C., who taught in the Department of Physics from 1961 until his death in 1982, and was endowed in 1984 by Dr. Eugene T. Leonard III in memory of his parents Dr. Eugene and Doris Leonard. Dr. Leonard III was a member of the Science Advisory Council from 1976 until 1991. The award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated sustained excellence in teaching.

The 2024 recipients are: 

Annette Pilkington, Ph.D., Department of Mathematics
Molly Walsh, Ph.D., Department of ACMS

Professional head shot of Annette Pilkington

Pilkington is a professor of the practice in the Department of Mathematics. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 1991 and joined as faculty in 2006. She was promoted to associate professor in 2012 and to full professor in 2018. Pilkington is recognized as a pedagogical innovator, bringing the “flipped” style of teaching to Calculus II in 2016 and creating a Math in Sports course first taught in 2014. She has left a lasting impact on the Mathematics department, serving as course coordinator for over 40 courses since 2010. She has provided generous support and mentoring to numerous colleagues, including training graduate teaching assistants through the Mathematics Department graduate teaching seminar.

Professional head shot of Molly Walsh

Walsh is a teaching professor in the Department of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics (ACMS). She earned her Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1991. She joined the faculty at Notre Dame in 2016 as an associate professor and was promoted to full professor in 2021. Walsh has coordinated several multi-section statistics courses, earning glowing praise from her students. She has completely redesigned two of these courses, focusing on pedagogical innovations to better serve broad student populations in large classroom settings. Walsh is a noted mentor of her fellow faculty and postdocs and taught the Graduate Teaching Seminar required of all ACMS graduate students from 2017 to 2021.


The College of Science Research Award

Each year, the College of Science aims to recognize an outstanding investigator who has made substantial recent contributions to her or his field. This award highlights a highly-productive faculty member with a steep upward trajectory in research and widening national and international impact.

The 2024 recipient is: Laura Fields, Ph.D., Department of Physics & Astronomy

Professional head shot of Laura Fields

Fields, an associate professor, joined Notre Dame in 2021. Prior to her appointment at Notre Dame, she earned her Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University, conducted postdoctoral fellowships at Cornell and Northwestern University, and was a scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Fields is at the forefront of understanding the interactions and oscillations of neutrinos, a class of fundamental particles with surprising properties. Neutrino oscillations may hold the key to answering a major open question in particle physics: why the universe is dominated by matter and contains very little antimatter. Fields is a member of multiple international neutrino experiment collaborations, including DUNE, MINERvA, NA61, and EMPHATIC. A recognized expert in both neutrino beams and neutrino interactions, Fields was able to create an optimized beam design that significantly improves DUNE’s sensitivity, equivalent to increasing the detector’s mass by 70%. Fields' scientific accomplishments have been recognized by her colleagues as she has been chosen for significant leadership positions on multiple collaborations, including serving as the co-spokesperson of the MINERvA experiment and making significant contributions to the Snowmass decadal planning process for the field of high energy physics. Field’s world-leading expertise in neutrino interactions and beams, her significant contribution to optimizing the beam design for DUNE, and her growing leadership profile in experimental neutrino physics makes her the ideal candidate for this award.


The College of Science Outstanding Research Service Award

The College of Science aims to recognize an outstanding scientist who has made a difference supporting scientific research in the college. This award highlights a research faculty or staff member who has had a significant impact on the research of others by providing technical assistance, consulting, training, or other guidance.

The 2024 recipient is: Edward Stech, Ph.D., Department of Physics & Astronomy

Professional head shot of Edward Stech

Stech, a research professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is an internationally recognized scientist who joined Notre Dame in 2003 after pursuing his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in physics at Notre Dame. Stech studies nuclear reactions important to the understanding of energy production and the origin of elements in stars and explosive stellar environments. He also has a pivotal role as the chief technical officer in Notre Dame's Nuclear Science Laboratory (NSL), with key roles in projects involving the three accelerators on campus. He has coordinated more than 120 visitors from more than 15 foreign countries, 14 U.S. universities and colleges, three U.S. national laboratories and two industrial laboratories. He is the liaison between the NSL and these external users, and has developed the infrastructure to allow outside groups to efficiently use the accelerators. His collaborative efforts were recognized in 2017 with the Joule Award from the National Nuclear Security Agency. Beyond his work in the NSL, Stech has provided valuable contributions to maintaining laboratory safety in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and has provided key outreach to the community. He has demonstrated an exceptional willingness to help colleagues outside his own research area, whether that involves stepping in to help complete the installation of a dilution refrigerator in the Laboratory of Emergent Quantum Systems, assisting with the creation of a clean room for the Gemini Planet Imager, or helping to install the helium recovery and liquefaction facility that benefits the research programs of many scientists in physics and chemistry. His contributions to numerous projects, his critical roles as chief technical officer and user liaison of the NSL makes Stech the ideal recipient of this award.


Sister Kathleen Cannon Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising

This award is named in honor of Sister Kathleen Cannon, OP, D.Min., a long-time advisor for the Science collegiate sequence majors, and a tireless advocate for students from all backgrounds. Sister Kathleen served as an associate dean of the college of science from 1998 to 2022 and was associate provost of the university from 1990 to 1997.

The 2024 recipient is: Philippe Collon, Ph.D., Department of Physics & Astronomy

Philippe Collon professional head shot

Collon is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and has served as the associate chair and director of undergraduate studies in that department since 2013. He is also the primary advisor for all of the physics majors. Collon received his Licencié en Sciences Physiques from the Université Catholique de Louvain in 1993, and his Ph.D. from Universität Wien in 1999. After a postdoctoral research appointment at Columbia University, he began his career at Notre Dame in 2003, where he has become a highly respected teacher and advisor, winning the 2010 Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the 2015 Dockweiler Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising. Collon was nominated for this award by a small army of physics students, and in addition to noting his excellence in teaching and mentoring, they all cited his support and care for each student’s health and well-being. Collon is remarkable for making students from all backgrounds feel welcome, and was instrumental in creating a community of support for LGBTQ+ students in physics. For his exemplary care and concern for his advisees, Collon is the ideal recipient of this award.