Engineering faculty recognized for excellence in teaching
Three Princeton Engineering faculty members were honored this year for outstanding teaching and mentoring.
Claire White, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, was one of four recipients of the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching.
White, who joined the faculty in 2013, focuses on understanding and optimizing engineering and environmental materials, with an emphasis on sustainable cements and materials for carbon capture, utilization and storage.
White imparts her pioneering knowledge of sustainable materials with a consistently engaging and innovative approach to learning that “turns cement into magic,” in the words of one student. “I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on a few of her lectures, and I can’t forget her flawless ability to engage and keep the audience captivated,” said a postdoctoral researcher.
Beyond her excellence in the classroom and the laboratory, she is devoted to her students’ growth through mentorship. “She has a talent for creating a supportive and collaborative learning environment,” said a colleague.
Her students said White maintains high standards, yet never hesitates to assist them when they are struggling, or to exchange scholarly insights. “Every idea I have come up with is welcomed and met with an interesting and fruitful discussion,” said a mentee. “One of her most impressive qualities is empathy.”
Through her teaching, she attracts students to her classes from across disciplines and majors. Both undergraduate and graduate students commented on White’s impressive knowledge of her subject area, as well as her careful guidance of their own budding research. Her unwavering support and infectious enthusiasm, said one lab member, “have made even the most frustrating moments less discouraging and ambitious goals more accessible.” Doctoral advisees who now work as tenure-track faculty at top universities are thriving testaments to her devotion.
Amir Ali Ahmadi, a professor of operations research and financial engineering, received the engineering school’s annual Distinguished Teaching Award. Ahmadi, who joined Princeton in 2014, was cited for his outstanding teaching and dedication to his students. Presenting the award at the school’s May 29 Class Day ceremony, Vice Dean Antoine Kahn said that students have repeatedly recognized Ahmadi as being among the school’s top teachers and his courses are quickly filled.
“As a faculty member, there is nothing more rewarding than being recognized by your students,” Kahn said. He said that one student described Ahmadi as “patient, warm and deeply concerned with the well-being of his students.”
“He has made, and continues to make, an impact on students and colleagues through his teaching and dedication,” Kahn said.
Luc Deike, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the High Meadows Environmental Institute, was one of four recipients of the 2023 Graduate Mentoring Awards from the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. Deike, who joined the faculty in 2017, focuses on fundamental physics problems, motivated by their importance in environmental and industrial applications as diverse as the statistics of waves in the ocean, floating ice sheets, and oil spill mitigation strategies.
Several students praised Deike for sensing when they felt overwhelmed and offering them reassurance. One student recalled meeting with Deike after coming up short on some research goals. “I remember trying to act like everything was fine,” the student commented. “Luc saw through to my concerns and told me to focus on my classes, assuring me that we would figure out the research later. While it seems like such a small thing in retrospect, it meant a lot to me at the time. Since then, I’ve seen that Luc has an uncanny ability to sense when I am frustrated with myself and then offer encouragement.”
Others praised Deike for offering “generous time” and substantive support at every stage of a graduate student’s life, from early research to the general exam to the job search. “Luc is a phenomenal advisor because I trust him to simultaneously support and challenge me,” wrote one student.
Praising his kindness and encouragement, one student commented: “The way he carries himself as an adviser has convinced me to push towards my goal of becoming a professor in the future.”