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12/3/96

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Marshall O'Neill Awards announced

Grace Baysinger, head librarian and bibliographer for the Swain Library of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and Robert Schneeveis, a science and engineering associate in the medical school's neurobiology department, have been named this year's Marshall D. O'Neill Award winners. The awards, sponsored by the office of the dean of research, provide Stanford faculty members an opportunity to acknowledge the exceptional contributions of staff members who contribute to the university's research mission.

"The staff of the university plays an essential role in making possible the research conducted by Stanford faculty and graduate students. Several years ago the Marshall O'Neill Award was established to recognize the important contributions of those staff," said Charles Kruger, vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy. The award, established in 1990, is named for its first recipient, Marshall O'Neill, who retired that year as a longtime associate of Hansen Laboratories.

Baysinger, who has been at Stanford since 1989, was hailed by faculty members in the chemistry department for her expertise in keeping them abreast of advances in information technology. She conducts training sessions for faculty members, teaching assistants and students on using the latest software and conducting online searches.

Thomas Wandless, assistant professor in the chemistry department, credits Baysinger with helping faculty and students take advantage of cutting-edge resources in chemistry and biochemistry. Wandless, one of several faculty members who nominated Baysinger for the award, said the contributions of Baysinger and her staff have had an impact beyond research. "It's spilled over into the teaching aspects as well," he said. "They've made it possible for the professors in the department to have their students use a lot of 'state of the science' technology. I'm incredibly pleased that she won."

One of the highlights of Baysinger's job has been her contribution to Chemistry 130 and 132, a sophomore-level course in which students are asked to identify a chemical unknown. Before the class meets, Baysinger conducts a training session for teaching assistants. She also gives a 50-minute lecture to the course's 350 students early in the quarter on conducting online searches. "We've moved from using printed handbooks to electronic handbooks," Baysinger said. She also has worked out a new pricing model for using Chemical Abstracts On Line, which previously charged individual faculty members for use. Baysinger was able to negotiate a set price, which the library now pays. She makes sure everyone is trained to use it efficiently.

"It was a pleasant surprise to get nominated," said Baysinger. "I have a great staff. If not for their support and all their hard work, I wouldn't be getting this award."

Schneeveis was also surprised by his nomination and pleased "to be appreciated by the people I enjoy doing work for." Schneeveis came to Stanford in 1983, first working at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, then joining the staff of the medical school's neurobiology department a year later. Schneeveis said he had no training in biology but has always had an interest in it, so when a job in neurobiology became available he jumped at the chanc

When researchers in the neurobiology department conduct complex experiments, they must rely on instruments that aren't readily at hand. And it is Schneeveis on whom they rely to design and construct such tools. He has designed and built instruments for studying the function of nerve cells in the retina as they respond to light stimuli. Other instruments Schneeveis developed are used to deliver sound stimuli to an animal from any location in the space around the head, while electrical recordings are made from microelectrodes in the brain. These included special remote-controlled miniature micromanipulators used to advance multiple electrodes into the brain independently, one micrometer at a time.

"My position is to enable students to get their jobs done better; to take the rocks from in front of [their] paths. I get involved to solve the mechanical problems so they can get their science done, then I always get interested in what they are doing," he said.

Schneeveis sees a direct connection between the mechanics and the biology. "As men and women we cannot invent or design or build anything that there is not a model for inside our body. There is the working model for anything we're going to build or anything we can build. We get our inspiration from within ourselves. Somewhere in nature is a model of what the heck I'm trying to do," he said. Schneeveis, who works with area junior high and high schools hoping to encourage students to become future "electric-vehicle engineers," said he hopes to put his $2,000 O'Neill prize into furthering that effort and designing an electric car he has been working on.

"I think he's just a superb asset for all of us in the neurobiology department," said Dr. Denis Baylor, one of four neurobiology faculty members who wrote a glowing letter on his behalf. "We are delighted that he got this award. It seemed that he was the ideal kind of a guy. It's just a really good choice on the part of the committee that selected him. We're absolutely thrilled that he's in our department."

Baysinger will be honored at a 5 p.m. reception at the Faculty Club on Dec. 12. Schneeveis will receive his award on Dec. 19 at 5 p.m. in the atrium of the Fairchild Building.

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By Elaine Ray


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