ChBE Announces Teaching Assistant Awards

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Top, left to right: Assistant Director of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies Kathy Gardinier, Professor and Chair Sheryl Ehrman, and Will Gibbons. Bottom, left to right: Gardinier, Ehrman and Chanda Arya. Not pictured: Laleh Emdadi.

The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) extends its congratulations to graduate students Chanda Arya, Laleh Emdadi, and Will Gibbons, the most recent recipients of the department's Teaching Assistant Awards.

As part of its tradition of excellence in engineering education, all students in ChBE's Ph.D. program are required to serve at least two semesters as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses. The Teaching Assistant Awards honors graduate students for exemplary work in and out of the classroom, including responsiveness to student questions and concerns, overall enthusiasm and professionalism. Award recipients are chosen based on outstanding reviews received from both students and course instructors.

Arya, advised by Professor Srinivasa Raghavan, served as the TA for CHBE 301: Thermodynamics under Associate Professor Nam Sun Wang, and CHBE 440: Chemical Kinetics under Raghavan. He describes his entire experience as "fantastic," from planning discussions and lectures to writing exam questions and even grading homework.

"Due to [its] abstract nature, Thermodynamics is the first of many challenging courses within the department, but it is also one of the most fundamental courses…that shapes the necessary critical thinking skills for these future engineers," Arya says. "I was just really glad to be a part of their education. And we also had a Thermodynamics class flag football team...we weren't very good, but it was a good bonding experience for the class! I certainly learned a lot and I hope the students did, too."

Laleh Emdadi, advised by Professor Kyu Yong Choi, was a teaching assistant for CHBE 444: Process Engineering Economics and Design I under Professor William Weigand, and CHBE 101: Introduction to Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering under Assistant Professor Dongxia Liu.

"I think you learn more about the subject you are teaching by teaching and interacting with the students," she says. "Also, you learn communication skills [and] presentation skills which are necessary, since you have to present your research findings to the other scientists in future."

Will Gibbons, advised by ChBE affiliate professor Greg Jackson (formerly of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, now with the Colorado School of Mines), served as Professor Richard V. Calabrese's lead TA for ENCH 422 and 424, Transport Processes I and II. He says he is "deeply indebted" undergraduate teaching fellow Christine He, who helped him manage these two difficult courses.

"What I found and still find most gratifying about the teaching experience is connecting with the students and encouraging them to work hard with difficult subject matter," he says. "When I see those students who are working hard, but may be struggling a little bit, it's a really great feeling to give them a little help and encouragement because sometimes that's all it takes to turn a grind of a class into something that is a lot of fun and that you get a lot out of!"

And, he adds, it's not only the students who benefit from the class. "Sometimes it takes multiple approaches to answering a student's question to find something that works," he says. "I like that when I'm forced to explain something, it tends to reinforce the ideas [and] principles within my own mind, so it makes me more comfortable and confident with the material myself."

Published March 9, 2013