Engineering students recognize excellence with annual teaching awards

By John Sullivan
February 24, 2020

Engineering student organizations celebrated the beneficial influence that faculty members and graduate teaching assistants have had on students’ lives and academic careers at the annual School of Engineering and Applied Science Excellence in Teaching Awards.

“Every year, we recognize professors and teaching assistants who went above and beyond expectations,” Meghan Slattery, a senior in operations research and financial engineering and president of the undergraduate engineering council, said in opening remarks at the Feb. 20 ceremony. “Every recipient has left an incredibly positive impact on their students.”

The teaching awards, overseen jointly by the graduate and undergraduate engineering councils, recognize outstanding instructors in courses held during the spring semester 2018-19 and the fall semester 2019-20. Peter Bogucki, associate dean for undergraduate affairs, told an overflow crowd in Friend Center that faculty members highly value the awards, which are bestowed by their students.

“The students put a tremendous amount of effort into these awards,” he said. “The faculty members who receive them cherish them.”

Student presenters delivered heartfelt thanks and sketched amusing stories about professors and teaching assistants who answered endless questions, responded to late-night emails and made simple gestures of kindness that guided students through their courses.

“Professor van Handel’s lecture notes were flawless,” said senior Jivahn Moradian, who presented the award to Ramon van Handel, an associate professor of operations research and financial engineering. “His exam questions are the most creative and enjoyable things in the world. Yes, I said enjoyable and exam question in the same sentence.”

Award winner and studentFirst-year student Grace Liu said that Claire Gmachl, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering, held office hours “every single day” during midterms, finals and reading period and opened her home on Thanksgiving to students who were away from home. Reflecting the views of her classmates, Liu said "without a doubt ... Professor Gmachl is one of the best teachers we have ever had."

“She is endlessly patient, incredibly kind,” she said.

Senior Milo Hughes said some of his most valuable lessons at Princeton were taught by Alexander Gaillard, machinist and shop associate in mechanical and aerospace engineering. “Al always puts his students first,” Hughes said. “The machine shop is the beating heart of MAE, and Al keeps the blood pumping.”

Sophomore John Rezk said he would not have been surprised to find “a line out the door with students who wanted to speak for” Kasey Wagoner, lecturer in physics.

“It would be no exaggeration to say that Kasey is the best educator I have ever had,” Rezk said. “His dedication to his craft is unlike any other educator I have ever seen.”

Award winners

The recipients are:

Spring 2018-19

Professor Arvind Narayanan (COS 226) Algorithms and data structures

Professor Miklós Rácz (ORF 350) Analysis of big data

Professor Ramon van Handel (ORF 309) Probability and stochastic systems

Professor Matt Weinberg (COS 445) Economics and computing

Kelly Huang (MAE 222) Mechanics of fluids

Ross Teixeira (COS 226) Algorithms and data structures

Dr. Kasey Wagoner (PHY 104) General physics

Alexander Gaillard (Machine Shop)

Fall 2019-20

Professor Amir Ali Ahmadi (ORF 363) Computing and optimization for the physical and social sciences

Dr. Sonja Francis (CHM 207) Advanced general chemistry

Professor Claire Gmachl (EGR 151) Foundations of engineering: mechanics, energy, waves

Dr. Kevin Wayne (COS 226) Algorithms and data structures

Dr. Ibrahim Albluwi (COS 226) Algorithms and data structures

Professor Gabriele Di Cerbo (MAT 201) Multivariable calculus

Jason Liu (MAE 324) Structure and properties of materials

Dr. Jérémie Lumbroso (COS 126) Computer science: an interdisciplinary approach