January 19, 2016, BY Christina Masciere Wallace

Bucknell University Professor Karen Castle, chemistry, has been selected as the first recipient of the Russell-Childers Professorship in the Laboratory Sciences, Provost Barbara Altmann announced today.

The endowed position recognizes a distinguished teacher-scholar and provides the recipient with resources to lead students through collaborative research and scholarship in the laboratory sciences. The professorship is the recent gift of Jean Russell and her husband, Robert Childers. Awarded in five-year terms and potentially renewable, it will benefit faculty and students for generations to come.  

"Endowed academic positions encourage and reward outstanding teaching and scholarship," said Altmann. "We are extremely grateful to Dr. Russell and Mr. Childers for their continued dedication and generosity to the University."  

Russell is the daughter of the late James R. Russell P'67, a University benefactor; and the sister of the late James A. Russell '67. In 2013, she and Childers gave the University $4.7 million toward the construction of Academic West and an endowed library fund in her brother's name.  

All of their gifts are part of WE DO, The Campaign for Bucknell University, Bucknell's $500 million comprehensive campaign. The most ambitious campaign in Bucknell's history, WE DO has raised $366 million toward its half-billion dollar goal.  

A personal interest   

Russell, now retired after teaching endocrinology at Washington University, appreciates the value of endowed academic positions.  

"As a professor, I'm well aware of what an academic can do with resources from an endowed position," she said. "The professorship fills a need for Bucknell, and it is flexible and adaptable to meet the various needs of the natural science departments over time."  

George Shields, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and a professor of chemistry, worked closely with Russell and Childers to create the award. "Endowed professorships and chairs are an extremely important way to reward, recognize and help retain quality faculty," he said.  

Shields added that the Russell-Childers Professorship is the first such position established in the natural sciences since the creation of the David Burpee Chair in Plant Genetics & Research in 1983.  

Atmospheric studies  

Castle, who was chosen from a competitive field of applicants, is a laser spectroscopist who studies the kinetics of vibrational energy transfer processes using diode laser absorption spectroscopy. Since her arrival at Bucknell in 2002, she has mentored nearly 40 students, all of whom have presented their work at research symposia. She is a co-founder of the Discovery Residential College. Described by colleagues as a teacher with "rigor and flair," Castle received the 2011 William Pierce Boger, Jr., M.D. Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Natural Sciences.   

During her Russell-Childers Professorship, which runs through the spring of 2020, Castle will apply the accompanying research funding to initiate a new research project focusing on improving climate models of Earth's middle atmosphere. The purchase of advanced lab equipment will give her students the opportunity to pursue challenging experiments that will yield meaningful results for the atmospheric-modeling community.  

A campaign priority  

Funded by external gifts and awarded for specific terms, endowed academic positions benefit the University in perpetuity. They are among the top priorities of the WE DO Campaign. | Read more about support for endowed chairs and professorships