University staff receives recognition medal

By Christine Won

Celia Elliott, director of external affairs and special projects for the Department of Physics at the University, received a U.S. Civilian Research Development Foundation Recognition Medal on Oct. 18 in honor of her significant contribution in building the research foundation’s international ties in the field of science and technology.

One of her main contributions was training former Soviet Union scientists to prepare successful scientific proposals for research grants.

“She also helped train the trainers by helping CRDF staff and staff of our partner organizations in the former Soviet Union to deliver the seminars using her materials and/or translations of her materials,” said John Modzelewski, program director for Centers and Institution Building Programs at the Civilian Research Development Foundation.

The U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation is a nonprofit organization authorized by Congress. It was established in 1995 by the National Science Foundation to promote international scientific and technical collaboration, primarily between the U.S. and Eurasia, through grants, technical resources and training, according to its official Web site,

Elliott was one of 124 recipients recognized at the research foundation’s 10th anniversary gala at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18. Of those medals, 62 were awarded to Americans.

At the black-tie dinner with approximately 300 attendees, all prominent people in science and governmental policy, Elliott said she kept pinching herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming that she, a farm girl from Tolono, Ill., was sitting next to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s granddaughter, who was a soviet relations specialist.

“I was very humbled,” Elliott said. “I don’t really feel like I did that much, and I had such a good time doing it. Why should I be rewarded for doing something that’s enriched my life so much?”

Since 1995, Elliott has conducted training workshops in how to prepare successful proposals, how to establish scientific research collaboration, and how to find other scientists working on similar projects to establish collaborative ties.

“As a professional technical writer, Elliott helps former soviet scientists into mainstream research facilitating communication and exchange of ideas between Eastern and Western science,” said David Hertzog, professor of physics at the University.

Training staff of the research foundation’s partner organizations has been especially effective because it allows these various organizations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova to train scientists in their own countries in their native languages, Modzelewski said.

Modzelewski referred to Elliott’s contributions as “the gospel of Celia,” because her workshop materials are being translated and circulated around the globe.

“She has an amazing amount of energy for work, creativity and sensitivity,” Hertzog said.

Elliott recalled giving workshops in buildings without heat or electricity to a room full of scientists with fur hats.

“I’ve been so inspired by the people I’ve gotten to know, to see how dedicated they are to science,” Elliott said.

The research foundation appreciates the University’s generosity in willing to part with her for weeks at a time, Modzelewski said.

She works primarily with former nuclear weapon scientists to engage them in physics and will be visiting Russia again in February.

A scientist in Armenia once said the research foundation’s grants protect the United States more than any missile can, Modzelewski said.

“CRDF is a benefit to U.S. National Security – and Celia is a part of it,” Modzelewski said. “We understand scientific collaboration is an important aspect of national security. When you build these bridges, conflict is less likely to occur.”