Biology Professor Jessica Thomas Receives Coveted Dr. Virgil Crisafulli Distinguished Teaching Award
Student after student thanked Thomas for her mentorship, patience, support and contagious enthusiasm.
“This professor made me feel even more empowered to learn,” said one former student. “She is the first person on my long list of favorite professors. She is the reason I started to believe in myself, and adjust to the college environment,” said another.
These comments are just a few of many heartfelt nominations for Jessica Thomas, associate professor of biology, from colleagues and current and former students. Thomas was honored at Commencement with the coveted Dr. Virgil Crisafulli Distinguished Teaching Award, presented to a faculty member who exemplifies the highest traditions of teaching. The award is named for the late Dr. Virgil Crisafulli, much-loved professor emeritus of economics and one of the founders of Utica College in 1946. Fondly known to students and colleagues as “Dr. Cris,” Crisafulli made it his mission to help working-class students succeed.
Student after student thanked Thomas for her mentorship, patience, support and contagious enthusiasm. Fellow faculty members said that Thomas continues to be a student as well, and that her eagerness and love of learning set a shining example for our students.
Thomas has collaborated on two research projects with fellow biology professor Sara Scanga; both studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals. One project in particular, which examined the effects of the artificial sweetener erythritol on the growth of crop plants, demonstrated Thomas’s integrative approach to research with undergraduate students and faculty.
Outside of the classroom, Thomas has served as the director of the Utica College Regional Science Fair since 2014. The fair features the top projects from regional middle and high schools, as students compete for a host of prizes, including scholarships to Utica College.
Thomas joined the UC faculty in 2012. She earned her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, genetics and developmental biology from the University of Connecticut Health Center in 2010, having previously earned her master’s degree from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in 2008, and her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Union College, Schenectady, in 2004.
Congratulations, Dr. Thomas!