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Two UCR Faculty Members Honored For Excellence

Two UCR Faculty Members Honored For Excellence

(June 27, 2001)

The 2000-2001 Non-Senate Distinguished Research and Teaching Awards at the University of California, Riverside were awarded to researcher Larissa Dobrzhinetskaya, whose work with tiny diamonds has brought new understanding of forces deep inside the earth, and karate instructor Edmond Otis, noted for his devotion to students. 

These awards recognize members of the UCR faculty who are lecturers, instructors or researchers. A parallel awards program recognizes tenured members of the Academic Senate. 

Dobrzhinetskaya, who arrived at UCR in 1994 from Moscow, Russia as an international exchange scholar, is now an adjunct associate professor of geology and mineralogy. Her field is 'ultra-high-pressure metamorphism,' which relates to rocks that have been carried deeper than 55 miles into the Earth and returned to the surface via subduction zones.

Her pioneering work on 'microdiamonds' in the rocks has been discussed on the pages of major international scientific journals and in international scientific meetings because it changes the way geologists think about how material moves below the Earth's crust, and how that affects plate tectonics.

'In spite of initial doubt and criticism, Larissa has stuck to her guns and convinced a majority of her former skeptics that her findings are indeed correct,' said Michael A. McKibben, associate professor of geology, and one of several people who wrote letters of nomination. 'A basic tenant of plate tectonics must now be revised, and to earth scientists this is akin to the Theory of Evolution being shown to require substantial revision.'

Distinguished Professor of Geology Harry W. Green, II, one of Dobrzhinetskaya's most frequent research partners, lauded her for keen powers of observation and her fearlessness in adopting new techniques.

Otis, who has taught in UCR's nationally recognized karate program since 1981, has also co-taught popular elective classes on campus. One of his co-teachers, Joseph Childers, associate professor of English, described Otis dynamism as one of the driving forces of the class, called 'Conflict -- Artistic and Philosophical, Social and Interpersonal.' 

'He has an interest in his art that resides at an emotive and intellectual level,' Childers wrote in a nomination letter. 'As a result, his teaching is among the very best I have ever seen.'

Another nominator, UCR track and field coach Chris Rinne, listed Otis' credentials in his craft: a sixth degree black belt; a successful international competitor; a certified international judge; chairman of the American JKA Karate Association; and author of 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to Karate.'

'Ed has the gift to reach out and touch his students,' Rinne wrote. 'Even in a large lecture setting his classes take on the atmosphere of an intimate seminar. In my thirty-two years at UCR I haven't seen Ed's equal in relating to and with students.'
David Carrillo, a UCR student, said Otis taught him how to meet life with courage, heart and quick thinking.

'When I look back 10, 20, even 30 years from now, I will not remember the difference between gene mapping, a southern blot or Klinefelter's syndrome,' Carillo wrote. 'However, I will remember the life lessons I learned from Mr. Otis… always be first and always go hard, no matter the circumstances or the situation.'

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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