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Dr. Melissa Charenko receives prestigious MSU Teacher-Scholar award

May 18, 2023

Melissa Charenko, assistant professor in Lyman Briggs College and the Department of History, has received the 2023 Michigan State University Teacher-Scholar Award. This award is presented by the MSU Provost to faculty who have earned the respect of students and colleagues early in their careers, for their devotion to and skill in teaching and whose instruction is linked to and informed by their research and creative activities. Charenko was one of six awardees for 2022-2023 and was recognized at the 2023 All-University Awards Convocation on May 8, 2023.  
Melissa CharenkoCharenko is a historian of science and teaches several courses in Lyman Briggs College using innovative approaches that help students understand the interconnection between science and society. In Science and the Environment, students visit sites in the Lansing area to explore how people develop knowledge about the places around them. In Science and the Public, students use podcasts to examine interactions between science and society. In the Senior Seminar she teaches, students use a board game to explore popular depictions of biology and society.  In Introduction to Science and Society, students develop writing skills while asking what makes scientific knowledge trustworthy. She also teaches environmental history courses in the Department of History where students have developed digital projects to examine environmental transformations. Charenko is presently co-developing a climate, health, and social justice program across the three MSU residential colleges.   
Charenko is currently a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany, through July 2023. Her research examines how scientists in the twentieth century turned fossil pollen, tree rings, sloth dung, and air bubbles in ice into comprehensive knowledge about climate. Together, these indirect measures of past climate are known as “proxies.” Her work explores how proxy evidence gained authority, how the inferences made from proxies changed perceptions of climate and human history, and how they fit in to broader discussions about culpability for environmental degradation. 

Charenko’s work on the history of science has been supported by the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Historical Studies. 

LBC Dean Kendra Spence Cheruvelil writes, “We congratulate Dr. Charenko on this distinguished university award. Her innovative instruction, depth of historical knowledge, and focus on how climate has been understood in society, enriches not only our students, but our wider academic community.”