Boury receives national microbiology teaching award

Nancy Boury standing in classroom with backdrop of chairs and chalkboard
Nancy Boury, assistant professor in plant pathology and microbiology, Iowa State University. Photo by Christopher Gannon. 

AMES, Iowa - The American Society for Microbiology, or ASM, recently presented Nancy Boury with its 2022 Carski Award for Undergraduate Education. This award is a part of the organization’s 2022 Awards and Prize Program and recognizes leading scientists for their professional accomplishments and significant contributions to education in microbiology.

Boury, assistant professor in plant pathology and microbiology at Iowa State University, teaches courses in biology, genetics, and microbiology and advises undergraduate microbiology students. She facilitates active learning in her classrooms and strives to improve her students’ ability to critically evaluate and communicate science.

“This is the highest award I could get as a microbiologist focused on teaching,” Boury said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s really exciting.”

The 2022 Awards and Prize program winners were selected by the American Academy of Microbiology, a leadership group within ASM. Award recipients were nominated by their peers, and submissions required supporting statements from two additional colleagues at different institutions.

Joan Cunnick, professor of animal science, nominated Boury for the award. She admires Boury’s ability to effectively teach a variety of classes, from 100-level introductory microbiology courses to a 400-level undergraduate capstone colloquium.

“For each level and size of class, Dr. Boury thinks through course learning objectives and designs study guides, appropriate assignments and homework to challenge students to apply their knowledge and develop connections,” Cunnick said. “She continually brings learning innovations to her classroom experiences.”

Hahley Wiltse, former advisee, student and teaching assistant of Boury’s, is currently pursuing a doctorate in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology at the University of Tennessee. Wiltse attributes her interest in the field to Boury, and values the time she spent in her classrooms and working alongside her.

“Without Dr. Boury, I wouldn’t be the scientist I am today,” said Wiltse, who earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Iowa State in 2018. “She is inspiring and passionate, and my experience as her teaching assistant was wonderful and supportive. Now that I am teaching my own students, I hope they will see my passion as I saw hers.”

Boury earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from Wartburg College, in Waverly, Iowa, and a master’s degree in medical microbiology and immunology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has a doctorate in molecular, cellular and developmental biology from Iowa State University.

In 1998, Boury became a member of ASM, and said her membership has positively impacted her career. She appreciates the opportunity to network with other professionals in her field and gain ideas for different teaching techniques. Boury regularly attends ASM’s annual Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE) and has served as vice-chair and chair of the event’s planning committee in the past.

When considering her favorite aspect of teaching, Boury said she enjoys when students ask questions because she gets to help them develop a better understanding. She knows the classes she instructs can be challenging, but she also believes in her students’ ability to succeed.

“I love when students recognize they are not going to know everything, because nobody knows everything,” Boury said. “I have a background in a lot of different interlacing disciplines, so I use that to try and make learning easier for them. I really enjoy seeing lightbulbs go off when I help students make connections for themselves.”