Biology professor receives Clark Award at Utica College


UTICA — Sara Scanga, professor of biology, has been named the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Harold T. Clark Jr. Award. Since joining Utica College in 2010, Scanga has published 12 papers in peer-reviewed journals; has worked with dozens of undergraduate students on research projects and recently helped write two grants, each of which were awarded, totaling almost $750,000. Both grants involve creating new opportunities for research with undergraduate students.

Scanga’s field of research and expertise is plant ecology, the study of how and why plants occur where they do, and how environmental conditions affect them, including entire ecosystems. Her research takes place on her computer, in the greenhouse, the laboratory and in the field.

Jessica Thomas, associate professor of biology, has been Scanga’s colleague since 2012. In her nomination letter, Thomas said “… research is a central thread in Sara’s bright vision. It is the backbone that guides her as an effective educator and a leader in her field, and the propeller that has guided and will continue to guide her to past, current and future successes as a researcher.”

Anastasia Shikula, one of Scanga’s students, said Scanga has helped her grow confident as a woman in science.

“It is clear that Dr. Scanga is a supportive, caring, understanding and hardworking mentor. She works hard on her research, excels as a professor and adviser, believes in her students and helps them understand their potential,” Shikula said.

The award, created in 1989, is named after Harold “Tom” Clark and is given annually to a professor at Utica College who exemplifies the highest traditions of scholarship.

Clark, a 1965 graduate of the college, was a member of the UC Foundation and past chairman of the board of trustees. Clark’s campaign, “A New Dream, A New Era,” helped lead efforts to upgrade the college’s science facilities.

He was also the college’s first $1 million donor.

Scanga holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Drew University, where she completed her first scientific publication in collaboration with her faculty advisor, Dr. Sara Webb.

She worked as a research technician after graduation, both in limnology and microbiology labs. She earned her doctorate in ecology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

The honor was announced by Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, Todd Pfannestiel, at Faculty Senate.


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