News Bureau | University of Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign logo


2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
Email to a friend envelope icon for send to a friend

College of Engineering honor 14 faculty members for teaching and research

Mare Payne, News Bureau
(217) 333-0567;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Fourteen faculty members of the University of Illinois College of Engineering will be honored Friday (April 20) at the 37th annual Engineering Awards Convocation for their excellence in research and teaching.

The winner of the Tau Beta Pi Daniel C. Drucker Eminent Faculty Award, which recognizes faculty members who have received national or international acclaim for dedication to academic excellence through teaching and research and have made exemplary contributions to the understanding of their fields:

Wen-mei W. Hwu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, is a leader in the fields of computer architecture and compiler technology. His pioneering work laid the foundations for a revolution in high-performance microprocessors in the computer industry. In the face of commercial failures and pessimistic projections in the late 1980s and early 1990s concerning the application of instruction-level parallelism to future microprocessors, Hwu took leadership by constructing IMPACT. This new compiler can generate efficient code with far more parallelism than most researchers and engineers envisioned. His work has become the technology base of new compilers in major companies, and his research group has become a premier source of advance compiler technology for the U.S. microprocessor industry.

The winner of the Stanley H. Pierce Award for developing student-faculty cooperation:

Samuel N. Kamin, a professor of computer science, created a newsgroup, uiuc.cs.undergrad, which serves as a clearinghouse for questions and discussions ranging from courses, to instructors, to jobs, to issues in education. The newsgroup provided a new way for students and faculty members to interact more often and in a meaningful way. He also headed the department’s Teaching Improvement Committee and was successful at motivating faculty members to attend improvement workshops. As director of undergraduate programs, he streamlined the advising and registration process and encouraged faculty members to be more active in recognizing student achievement with award nominations.

The winner of the College of Engineering Teaching Excellence Award, chosen by departmental nomination:

Victoria Coverstone, professor of aeronautical and astronautical engineering, teaches key undergraduate courses. She sees the students as they are beginning their studies and she also teaches senior design, which brings to fruition all that the students have learned. To aid the students in learning design methodology in the senior design course, she introduces them to a process, Quality Functional Deployment (QFD), which is representative of quality assurance processes used in industry. She has modified this process to create an exercise that is useful to the students and that can be performed in the appropriate amount of time. Exposure to her cutting-edge space research, coupled with the unique QFD exercises, has helped the department’s students win the national AIAA space design competition each of the four times they have entered since 1995.

The winners of the Everitt Award for Teaching Excellence, chosen by undergraduates:

Peter Chen, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, can be found in his office as late as midnight some nights as he talks students through homework assignments or exam preparations. His personal commitment to students is reflected in the inviting, interactive learning environment he creates and in his support of student activities outside the classroom. Unwilling to settle for "I don’t know" from students, Chen provides the guidance that motivates them to explore and understand concepts they initially think are impossible to grasp. He weaves real-world examples into lectures and homework to show students how important and relevant their education is to their careers. His interest in student development extends beyond lectures, homework, and exams, however, to include discussions about personal growth, books, career planning, and any other topics students want to discuss.

Jeff Erickson, a professor of computer science, is an enthusiastic and creative teacher of some of the most difficult subjects in computer science. While maintaining high standards, he makes a special effort to inject fun into his lectures and design homework and exam problems that are interesting, relevant and intriguing. By creating a challenging, dynamic environment, he encourages students to be curious. In return, he is adept at guiding discussion and framing explanations in a way that stimulates students to learn. His lectures, demonstrations and exams continually evolve as he makes adjustments that help students understand fundamental concepts.

The winners of the Xerox Awards for Faculty Research (associate professors):

Jennifer Lewis, professor of materials science and engineering and of chemical engineering, is one of the premier researchers in her field of ceramics. She is internationally recognized for her understanding of directed assembly of complex colloidal fluids. These systems are important precursors for applications ranging from advanced ceramics to photonic band gap materials to scaffolds for biological implants
The research interests of Eric Michielssen, professor of electrical and computer engineering, include all aspects of theoretical and applied computation electromagnetics, and he has made key and pioneering contributions to the field. His research to develop revolutionary algorithms for analyzing a wide range of electromagnetic scattering, radiation, and propagation phenomena has impacted the state of the art in electromagnetic simulation technology. His substantial contributions to fast algorithm development enable the simulation of phenomena once thought impossible and provide answers to some fundamental questions that have faced the applied mathematics community for many years.

Aeronautical and astronautical engineering professor Scott White is at the forefront of advanced materials research in the United States. His research is directed toward the creation of new materials systems that exhibit autonomy, which is the ability to achieve adaptation and response in an independent and automatic fashion. Two main areas of research are materials with self-generating function and materials with
self-regulating function. Inherently multidisciplinary, the research involves aspects of chemistry, physics, materials science, fluid and solid mechanics, and multiscale modeling. The research has been so successful that it has formed the nucleus of a multidepartmental research program at the UI.

The winners of the Xerox Awards for Faculty Research (assistant professors):

Naomi Makins, professor of physics, is an outstanding young experimentalist in medium-energy nuclear/particle physics. She has made significant contributions to quantum chromodynamics, especially as it applies to the spin structure of nucleons, which is a topic of intense interest in hadronic physics, a field at the interface of nuclear and
high-energy science. Makins has become one of the leading physicists in the HERMES collaboration, a multinational experiment located in Germany and involving some 200 physicists.

Dan Roth, professor of computer science, already has established an international reputation and is among the most influential young researchers in learning, natural language and artificial intelligence. His research has contributed to a change in paradigm and to the wide use of machine learning techniques in research on intelligent human-machine interaction. His work has laid the foundations for integrating learning into large-scale intelligent systems.

The research of Andrew Singer, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is distinguished by its breadth and depth, addressing fundamental theoretical issues and practical applications. He focuses on algorithms and systems for high-performance signal processing and communications applications.

The winner of the Rose Award for Teaching Excellence, which recognizes teachers who excel at motivating undergraduates to learn and appreciate engineering:

Physics professor Scott Willenbrock’s success as a teacher serves as a reminder that teaching is fundamentally a social relationship between instructors and students. The respect he holds for students is reflected in his efforts to learn and remember students’ names, even when he is dealing with more than 400 students. Willenbrock meticulously prepares lecture notes and passes them out at the beginning of class so students can focus on the discussion. To help keep students alert during 75-minute lectures, he invented "Half-Time," a period of class stretching followed by a short performance by a student volunteer. The break refreshes students, showcases their diverse interests and talents, and stimulates creativity. Half-Time is now part of the curriculum for Physics 111 and 112.

The winner of the Collins Award for Innovative Teaching:

Mats A. Selen, a professor of physics, is an extraordinary teacher who creatively uses the power and interactivity of the Web to make instruction more responsive to students’ needs. Introduced to the "Just-in-Time-Teaching" (JiTT) strategy for classes of 40 students, he adapted the concept for his classes of 350 students in beginning science courses. He crafted preflights, or Web-based questions, drawn from reading assignments and asked students to answer them before the morning of each class. The questions focused on conceptual understanding and difficult material and were designed to reveal misconceptions of basic physical principles. He then used the responses to fine-tune each lecture. In an online survey at the end of the course, 8 percent of respondents said the preflights were "essential" and 77 percent said they were "very useful" or "useful" to their learning. Institutionalized and used by other instructors of Physics 101 and 102 now, JiTT is likely to be expanded to other introductory courses.

The winner of the BP Amoco Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Instruction:

Gary E. Gladding, a professor of physics, is concerned that some students become adept at doing calculations while failing to understand basic physical principles. Focusing on introductory physics courses, he created new instructional materials that assist students in developing basic problem-solving strategies based on conceptual analysis. Called "interactive examples," these materials take advantage of feedback capabilities of the Web to teach students analytical reasoning skills as well as physics, increase their physical intuition and understanding, and reveal the connections between concepts and calculations. The system is fast, flexible, and user friendly. Suites of interactive examples are used now for Physics 101, 102, and 112 and will be developed for Physics 111. More than 3,800 students have benefited from this pioneering physics educational tool, and student response has been overwhelmingly positive. Gladding’s strategy of interactive examples is being adopted at the University of Washington and has potential to improve the conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills of engineering students across the country.