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Gov. Gary Herbert honored seven Utah innovators for contributions to science and technology Tuesday, including Louisa Stark, the University of Utah geneticist whose genetics-education websites reach millions around the world.
"I'm honored to be receiving this award. I want to recognize this award honors the [U.'s] Genetics Science Learning Center," said Stark, who serves the U. in numerous research, teaching and administrative capacities. "Our mission is making science easy to understand. It's not just about genetics."
The awards are part of the state's Governor's Medals for Science and Technology program, started in 1987 as a way to pay tribute to scientific achievement and its place in Utah's economy.
"Very few states recognize science and technology the way Utah does. Now in its 24th year, it's a sustained commitment," said Tamara Goetz, the state's science adviser, before Tuesday's event at the Discovery Gateway. "They contribute to economic development, quality of life, improvements in health care. They provide career paths for children coming up the pipeline."
Glenn Prestwich, U. professor of medicinal chemistry, led Tuesday's festivities with a quiz show knockoff of NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," which served as his keynote address before 200 industry and academic leaders. One of Prestwich's panelists posed as Doug Panee, who shared honors with Stark in the science-education category.
A physical science teacher at Oak Canyon Middle School in Lindon, Panee believes all students should be versed in the sciences if they are to understand society's most pressing issues, from global warming to stem-cell research.
"They need to look at these things through the eyes of a scientists so they can make good decisions. They are our future leaders," he said. "This is a technology-driven world. You can't help being involved in science."
Stark echoed that sentiment.
"Genetics is so important because the 21st century is the age of the genome," she said. "People need to understand it for their health care. Personalized medicine will soon be available to everyone. It's penetrating so many aspects of daily life."
Stark's center is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the state. Its most visible accomplishment is the Teach Genetics and Learn Genetics websites, found at teach.genetics.utah.edu and learn.genetics.utah.edu.
The award-winning genetics sites log up to 50,000 visitors a day with 250,000 page views, making them among the nation's most heavily trafficked sites devoted to genetics.
Governor's Medals for Science and Technology
Paul Israelsen • Utah State University professor of electrical engineering. Israelsen, deputy director of USU's Energy Dynamics Laboratory, is seeking ways to transform energy systems. He is a leader of two USTAR groups, Center for Active Sensing and Imaging and the Institute for Intuitive Buildings.
Peter Armentrout • Chemistry professor. One of the University of Utah's most decorated scientists, Armentrout is engaged in fundamental research on catalysis, surface chemistry, organometallic chemistry and plasma chemistry.
Dennis Farrar • Founding partner of UpStart Ventures. He has help launch 11 life science companies in Utah, including Myriad Genetics and Sonic Innovations.
D. Clark Turner • Co-founder and CEO of Aribex Inc. Turner, who holds a doctorate in analytical chemistry from Brigham Young University, is a leader in the semiconductor industry.
Kevin Jensen • Geneticist. Jensen has spent 25 years as a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forage and Range Research Lab.
Louisa Stark • U. geneticist who founded the Genetics Science Learning Center.
Doug Panee • A middle school science teacher in Alpine School District. Panee, who is president-elect of the Utah Science Teachers Association, is on loan to Brigham Young University working with student educators.