Monday, July 8, 2019
  Announcements, Awards and Recognitions

By Letty Fernandez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Dr. Sue Anne Chew, assistant professor of Health and Biomedical Sciences at UTRGV, remembers the day she learned she had been selected for The University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award (ROTA).

“That day I was thinking of the award, so I opened my 75-page document that I submitted to be considered. I skimmed through it to see what I had written and I asked myself, is it good enough to win?”

Obviously, it was. Chew is one of 27 faculty members from the UT System’s 14 academic and health institutions who will be honored in 2019 for their “excellence, innovation and commitment to student success,” and one of the two named from UTRGV.

She and Dr. Hyun-Chul Lee, lecturer III in Physics and Astronomy, will be presented the ROTA award Aug. 14 in Austin.

At UTRGV, Chew teaches introductory courses in Medical Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Advanced Cell Biology, as well as the Research Methods and Research Technique courses for the Biomedical Freshman Research Initiative (BFRI) program.

“If you ask my colleagues and my students, they know that I do love research, but my passion is teaching,” she said. “I am thankful to be able to teach because I love being able to interact with the students, seeing their excitement, drive and motivation to learn and prepare for a successful future.”

In 2012, Chew was two years into her post-doctoral training at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston when her husband was transferred and the family moved to Brownsville. It was a move that changed the course of her career. She held a variety of posts at UTB-TSC and UTRGV, which gave her the opportunity to be a teacher and mentor.

“Before coming here, I always thought research would be my career. These experiences have shaped my teaching philosophy, as it has helped me identify and be more observant of the struggles and challenges some students might face, mostly those who come from a different language or culture. I was able to identify with the struggles they face as I had faced them when I first started in the United States.”

Born and raised in a small town called Kerteh in Malaysia, she was 16 when her family moved to Houston in 1998 for her father’s job.

“There were times when I knew the answers to the questions that were posed by my instructors, but I did not know how to express my knowledge in this new language,” she recalls. “So, all of those challenges during a very tough two years of high school in Houston shaped my attitude and behavior in college.”

Chew earned her BS degree in Chemical Engineering in 2004 from UT Austin, and went on to earn a PhD in Bioengineering in 2010 from Rice University before joining the UTB-TSC faculty in 2013.


In her classes and in the lab, Chew is a big advocate of experiential learning as a way for students to reinforce what they have learned in their courses. She believes it is crucial for students not only to understand the fundamentals and facts, but also to be able to apply that knowledge to problems that arise.

She is also very involved in finding ways to provide students opportunities through undergraduate research.

“College can be an unfamiliar territory. As their instructor and mentor, I try my best to help my students to transition, develop career aspirations and gain confidence in knowing they can achieve them,” Chew said.

Astrid Gutierrez, of Brownsville, is a UTRGV senior majoring in Biology who has worked in Chew’s lab since summer 2017.

“She is very accessible to the students and always makes herself available. I have learned so much and she has helped me to be successful in her lab,” said Gutierrez, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies at UTRGV. “I have been able to travel to conferences to present my work, and she has definitely opened doors for me.”  


The UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards program is one of the nation’s largest awards programs for recognizing educators in higher education. Established in 2008, the Board of Regents has presented more than $20 million to more than 700 UT educators.

“These educators are dedicated to continually looking for new and better ways to inspire students to learn and succeed,” said Kevin Eltife, chairman of the UT Board of Regents. “And they’re ensuring the next generation, whether they be teachers, scientists or healthcare providers, is armed with passion and knowledge. Their contributions are immeasurable.”

The 2019 recipients will be presented a certificate and medallion on Aug. 14, during the Board of Regents meeting in Austin. Each will receive $25,000 in appreciation of their impact on students and their institutions.

A complete list of winners by institution is available on the UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards website.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.