BUFFALO, N. Y. -- If there is a common thread that runs through
the many facets of Joseph A. Gardella's professional life, it's
A professor of chemistry at the University at Buffalo, Gardella
advocates for the right of children to learn science, for the right
of college students to have access to the best science education,
for the right of disabled students to fulfill their highest
potential, for the right of women and minority faculty members to
experience advancement opportunities and for the rights of citizens
to fully understand the environmental science that affects their
neighborhoods and their health.
Today, in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Gardella was honored
by the White House for his efforts with a 2005 Presidential Award
for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring
(PAESMEM). He and other recipients were recognized at an awards
ceremony presided over by John H. Marburger, science advisor to
President Bush and director of the Office of Science and Technology
Policy, Executive Office of the President.
The annual award, administered by the National Science
Foundation, honors individuals and organizations that have
demonstrated a commitment to mentoring students and boosting the
participation of minorities, women and disabled students in
science, mathematics and engineering. It includes a $10,000 grant
for continued mentoring work and a Presidential certificate.
Gardella's work at UB and in the communities that surround it
has been one of activism and support for individuals on campus and
in the community whose voices rarely are heard.
Many students, faculty and community members have benefited from
Gardella's tireless advocacy and assistance. They include:
-- A paraplegic chemistry student, who with Gardella's
enthusiastic assistance and support, graduated from UB with a
bachelor's degree in chemistry and is continuing studies at the
university as a doctoral student. She conducts research and teaches
with the help of a standing motorized wheelchair, which Gardella
helped her obtain with NSF support.
-- Six community organizations in Western New York have raised
serious environmental health questions about their neighborhoods
that have been investigated thoroughly, thanks to Gardella, who
developed one of the nation's few chemistry service-learning
programs focusing on environmental concerns in urban communities.
Students in chemistry, geology, geography and engineering help
citizens investigate how their neighborhoods may have been impacted
by local industry and by plants that no longer operate, issues that
are typical of many Rust Belt cities. Working with these
organizations, Gardella and his students become liaisons between
citizens and technical experts from regulatory and business
-- Western New York students of science now can conduct
intensive multidisciplinary research through the National
Institutes of Health summer Research Institute on Biomedical
Materials Science and Engineering at UB, for which Gardella is
principal investigator. It is one of only six such programs funded
by the NIH in the U.S.
-- UB students in the arts and humanities, like their
counterparts in the sciences, benefit from conducting research,
thanks to the Community Linked Interdisciplinary Research (CLIR)
program, for which Gardella is a co-principal investigator. CLIR
was designed to respond to the research needs of the Western New
-- Undergraduate non-science majors receive more than a full
year of science instruction, as well as a full year of laboratory
work, as a result of curriculum changes established in the early
1990s by the UB General Education Curriculum Committee, which
-- The number of women and minority faculty at UB is on the rise
following the implementation of several institutional initiatives
in which Gardella has played leading roles, including chairing a
group focused on developing policies to hire, promote and retain
more women in science and engineering.
-- K-12 students in Buffalo have benefited from Gardella's
outreach efforts, particularly to minorities and those with
disabilities, while he was associate dean for external affairs of
UB's College of Arts and Sciences.
UB President John B. Simpson praised Gardella's advocacy and
mentorship work, noting that they "have had a transformative effect
on UB and the larger communities it serves."
"Joe's efforts have had tremendous impact in opening the doors
of opportunity for those who have long been underrepresented in the
science and technology fields. Through his leadership in this
regard, he fulfills in truly exemplary fashion one of the key
objectives at the heart of UB's mission as a public research
university -- our institutional commitment to ensuring equitable
access to a first-rate education."
Uday P. Sukhatme, dean of the UB College of Arts and Sciences,
praised Gardella's focus on the impact of science on society and
his championing community projects related to effects of chemical
pollution on the environment. "He genuinely cares about the welfare
of students and understands the importance of increasing the number
of under-represented students and faculty in scientific
disciplines," Sukhatme added.
In working on environmental chemistry projects, Gardella and his
students have provided critical scientific data to communities for
free, while using real-world community problems as a backdrop
against which he teaches about politics, society, analytical
chemistry and environmental geographic information science.
The course, "Analytical Chemistry of Pollutants," is supported
by UB's Environment and Society Institute, which Gardella helped
found, and which supports interdisciplinary, public-service
projects dealing with the environment in Western New York.
By using a scientific approach to tackling and communicating
local environmental issues, Gardella and his students are replacing
the alienation that citizens sometimes feel when dealing with
regulators or local officials with pride and understanding.
"What I've found amazing is that there is little attempt to
provide a serious effort to answer legitimate questions raised by
the public," said Gardella. "Through this course, my students and I
can fill the role of independent evaluators, advocating for the
public's right to know, the public's right to understand and the
public's right to influence public policy."
Gardella says he plans to use the PAESMEM grant to collect data
on how individual mentoring affects students, faculty and community
members with the goal of expanding and improving UB's mentoring
In particular, he said he plans to study why female professors
at UB stay longer at the associate-level than do their male
He also will use the grant to work closely to expand K-16
science education outreach to Native American schools and education
centers and to other local public schools.
Gardella has received three SUNY Chancellor's Awards -- for
Excellence in Teaching, for Excellence in Faculty Public Service
and for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activity.
He also received a National Science Foundation Award for Special
Creativity and an Exxon Educational Foundation Research and
Training Program Grant and was elected as a fellow of the American
Vacuum Society. Gardella was recipient of the 2002 Jacob F.
Schoellkopf Medal from the Western New York Section of the American
Chemical Society and the 2003 Ernest A. Lynton Award for Faculty
Professional Service and Academic Outreach.
A resident of North Buffalo, he graduated from Oakland
University and earned a doctorate from the University of
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the
State University of New York.