University law professor Caleb Nelson is this year's recipient of the Paul M. Bator Award from the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, an award that recognizes his contributions to the field of law as both a scholar and teacher. Nelson will receive the award at the society's annual student symposium, to be held at Columbia Law School Feb. 25. A graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Nelson has been teaching at the University since 1998. Nelson specializes in federal courts and has served as a professor since 2003. "I am thrilled by [the award], thrilled and honored," Nelson said. "It is especially meaningful because Bator was a giant in the field that I teach in, federal courts. I am delighted to get an award named after him." The Federalist Society is a network of conservative and libertarian legal thinkers, according to a statement of purpose on its Web site. According to Eugene Meyer, president of the Federalist Society, the Bator Award is given annually in honor of Paul M. Bator, a former law professor at Harvard University and at the University of Chicago. "[Bator] is one of the most respected professors in the country for the quality of his scholarship," Meyer said. The Bator award is designed to recognize professors under the age of 40 who have emulated Bator's scholarship and mentorship by making a significant public impact and demonstrating a concern for their students, Meyer said. According to Meyer, Nelson fit this description well, especially in terms of his legal scholarship. "At the committee meetings, they were talking about how he had written several first-rate articles," Meyer said. In such articles, Nelson has discussed a variety of topics, including sovereign immunity, stare decisis and federal common law. One such publication, concerning preemption of state laws, won the Scholarly Papers Competition of the Association of American Law Schools in 2000. According to Nelson, his ability to interact with students has greatly enhanced his experience at the University. "I think one of the things that sets U.Va. apart is its emphasis on teaching as well as scholarship," Nelson said. "We have fantastic students, and it's a joy to teach them." Cullen Couch, director of communications for the law school, said Nelson's award accurately identifies the University as the home of many scholars. "[The Federalist Society] is a prominent organization and the law school is the home of many outstanding intellectuals," Couch said. "This is yet another occasion to recognize that"