An education at a Research I university is like no other in that it gives undergraduates a unique opportunity to learn from and even work alongside some of the world’s top faculty researchers.
A great example in our college is psychology professor Marc Lewis, who along with his wife Elizabeth Crook created the Eleanor Butt Crook Endowment, which is focused on enhancing teaching and undergraduate research in Plan II and Liberal Arts Honors. Marc has taught the Modes of Reasoning class in Plan II for years, dedicating much of his outside time to mentoring students in how to “think like a scientist.”
He is an ideal example of a teacher and mentor who challenges his students daily, while also nurturing them to be life-long learners. Rather than merely imparting knowledge, Marc trains students to be problem-solvers, encouraging them to explore difficult research questions that might seem beyond the reach of most students. It is a rigorous process in which learning and discovery truly blossom.
These mostly freshman and sophomore students — who have won a number of research awards and fellowships — work with some of Marc’s former students in creating new research ideas in science and medicine, the best of which grow into funded projects that become the research focus of graduate students, postdoctoral students and laboratory investigators.
For example, a few years ago one group of students decided to look at ways to preserve kidneys for transplant, which is a huge medical challenge. It is estimated that more than 90,000 people in the nation are waiting for a donor kidney, a wait that can be as long as five or even 10 years in some states. Student researchers estimated that if donated kidneys could be kept alive for as little as two weeks, the waiting list would dramatically decrease.
Remarkably, during the past few years the kidney preservation project has grown to involve four UT labs. One of these labs recently solved a 50-year-old research problem regarding the chemistry of preserving agents, and the findings were published as the cover story in one of the world’s most prestigious chemistry journals.
The Eleanor Butt Crook Endowment, inspired by the transformational Bobby and Sherri Patton Challenge Fund, will build on this legacy of learning, supporting smaller versions of Marc’s class in Plan II and Liberal Arts Honors. An inaugural class, How to Think Like a Filmmaker will be taught by our extraordinary film scholar Donna Kornhaber, whom you will be reading more about in our spring issue of Life & Letters.
Marc’s courses not only demonstrate the advantages of learning at a major research university, they also offer great funding opportunities for anyone who wishes to target their philanthropy toward giving students unique, real-world learning experiences.
Randy L. Diehl, Dean
David Bruton, Jr. Regents Chair in Liberal Arts