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L.A. Professor Gets National Award

Cal State L.A. chemistry teacher who encourages minorities to go into science is among four people chosen for the annual honor.

November 18, 2005|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

A chemistry professor at Cal State L.A. was named Thursday as one of the four winners of the prestigious "U.S. Professors of the Year" award.

Carlos G. Gutierrez, 56, was chosen for the national honor by two organizations, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Gutierrez, who has been at Cal State L.A. since 1975, was cited for his efforts to encourage students, particularly minority students, to enter scientific fields. The organizations noted that he has directed programs that allow undergraduates to participate in scientific research.

In a telephone interview from Washington, where he received his award, Gutierrez said the campus' undergraduate research "is not a 'let's present a science fair' type of thing. They're involved in real research, and most kids do it for multiple years and an awful lot of them publish in peer-reviewed journals.... They're preparing themselves for their future work as research scientists."

His philosophy, Gutierrez said, is to "mimic the research process. Teaching is not about transmitting facts. Students can pick those up from books. Teaching is about the process of [students] learning to learn."

Gutierrez, who at age 7 emigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles with his family, earned his bachelor's degree from UCLA and his doctorate in chemistry from UC Davis. At Cal State L.A., he is director of the campus' National Institutes of Health Minority Access to Research Careers and Minority Biomedical Research Support programs. In those roles he has mentored more than 200 students.

This marked only the third time a professor from the Cal State system has won the award since it began in 1981.

The award, Gutierrez said, reflects the talent of the heavily minority student body at Cal State L.A.: "Give anybody a lot of opportunities, a lot of support, and they do great things. I guess that's the take-home lesson."

His award was in the "master's universities and colleges" category. The organizations also named winners for the doctoral and research universities, community colleges and baccalaureate colleges categories.

Gutierrez's numerous honors include being chosen in 1996 by then-President Clinton for a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. At Cal State L.A., he has won the University's Outstanding Professor Award and the Associated Students Inc.'s Outstanding Faculty Award.

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