2020 Alumni Achievement Award Winner: Steve Caldwell!

The School of Integrative Biology has a tradition of teaching and research excellence over 150 years old, when courses in Zoology, Botany, and Entomology were first taught at the University of Illinois. Our departments were founded in 1884 (Zoology/EEE, Genetics and Development, Animal Biology), 1901 (Botany/Plant Biology), and 1909 (Entomology). In the last century and a half, our faculty have had the pleasure of working with tens of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students who have gone on to change the world through their impactful and cross-cutting work.

To celebrate these accomplishments, in 2019 the School of Integrative Biology created the Alumni Achievement Award and the Outstanding Young Alumni Award to recognize outstanding professional achievement or exceptional service to the School or the departments.

The Achievement Award recognizes outstanding professional achievement that demonstrates the value of an education (BS, MS, or PhD) from the University of Illinois.

The Outstanding Recent Alumni Award recognizes a recent graduate (within 10 years of final Illinois degree) for outstanding or noteworthy professional achievement.

Our 2020 Alumni Achievement Award winner is Steve Caldwell. Congratulations Steve!

Steve Caldwell, Class of 1993 | Senior Manager of Validation and Change Control, Illumina | Adjunct Professor (Applied Biotechnology M.S. program), University of Wisconsin

Steve has worked in the biotechnology industry for the past 20 years, applying both the content knowledge and the analytical and strategic thinking skills he gained from his time at Illinois. Throughout his career spanning over two decades in industry, he has used this holistic and integrative thinking to solve problems.

Steve has been involved in microbiology research and assay development, validation and quality assurance for lab procedures, project management and oversight of teams of researchers, training of personnel and development of procedures, strategic development and oversight of company activities such as product launches, development and implementation of trainings and cultural change initiatives, and more. He has worked as a microbiologist, validation scientist, senior engineer, process validation engineer, and a senior manager of quality systems.

The contribution Steve has made to our School is more than note-worthy, it has been transformative. When a call went out to our IB community four years ago to help engage our undergraduates and improve career success, Steve leapt at the opportunity to give back to his alma mater, helping to develop the first ever Integrative Biology career course (now a permanent course: IB292 Translating your IB Degree into Career Success).

As the co-instructor for the course, Steve has served as a constant resource for the instructors, collaborators, and students in and out of the classroom.  He has directly impacted 95+ students through the IB292 career course and numerous others through his contributions to the Alumni Mentoring Program as a whole.  

Steve leverages his professional expertise to pull out concrete examples and lessons he has learned about every topic we cover, sharing his experiences in a way that is relatable and meaningful to the students and connecting them back to the bigger picture.  He has spent  110 hours in the classroom alone, not to mention the countless hours spent in person, over the phone, and over email connecting with students, providing insights, developing course content, connecting with alumni, recruiting participants, sending resources, mentoring students, and much more.  

Beyond teaching, Steve connects with students on a personal level, follows up with in-class conversations, and mentors students in and out of class. He takes the initiative to stay connected to the IB students he has mentored, acting as an ally and support system, even helping them to successfully acquire positions after graduation. His dedication to our School is inspirational and admirable, and we are honored to name him as the winner of our 2020 Alumni Achievement Award.

To learn more about Steve or the Alumni Mentoring Program, please visit: https://sib.illinois.edu/alumni/mentor/