WPI Faculty Member Chrysanthe Demetry Named Professor of the Year for Massachusetts

Demetry is the Fourth WPI Professor to Receive the Honor and the Third in the Past Five Years
November 17, 2011

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Chrysanthe Demetry, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and director of WPI's Morgan Teaching and Learning Center, has been named Professor of the Year for Massachusetts by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Demetry was one of 300 professors nominated for the award program, which this year honors professors in 27 states along with four national professors of the year. This is the fifth award recognizing Demetry for her teaching skills. She will receive the honor today during a luncheon at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

"In her nearly two decades as a member of the WPI faculty, Chrys Demetry has made extraordinary contributions as an educator, student project advisor, educational innovator, and mentor," said WPI Provost Eric W. Overström. "As an instructor, she has demonstrated a relentless drive to innovate and improve, which has been to the great benefit of her students and to engineering education. As an advisor of student projects in Australia, Namibia, and Thailand, she has helped students make the most of these real-world problem-solving experiences. And as director of the Morgan Center, she has devoted herself to helping her colleagues at WPI seek excellence in their work as educators. She epitomizes what it means to be an outstanding professor, and I am delighted that she has received this well-deserved recognition."

WPI faculty members have been named Massachusetts Professor of the Year four times, starting in 2002, when Judith Miller, then professor of biology and biotechnology at WPI, received the distinction. Robert L. Norton, Milton Prince Higgins II Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Jeanine D. Plummer, the Alena and David M. Schwaber '65 Professor of Environmental Engineering and director of the university’s Environmental Engineering Program, won the honor in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Demetry earned a BS in mechanical engineering at WPI in 1988 and a PhD in ceramics at MIT in 1993. She also completed a minor in higher education administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. At MIT she won both the Material Research Society Graduate Student Award for outstanding performance in the conduct of research and the John Wulff Award for Excellence in Teaching.

She joined the WPI faculty in 1993 and two years later was named the Norton Professor of Mechanical Engineering, an honor bestowed on junior faculty members who have demonstrated the potential to be leaders in their field. That same year she received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, the most distinguished NSF award for young faculty members, to support her research on the synthesis and characterization of ultrafine-grained ceramics. As the Norton Professor, Demetry advised undergraduate and graduate research projects that resulted in several journal articles; she also introduced innovations in the teaching of the courses Introduction to Materials Science and Thermodynamics of Materials.

In 1997 she was honored as the Teacher of the Year by the New England Section of the American Society for Engineering Education and was selected for Project Kaleidoscope Faculty for the 21st Century. Begun with support from the ExxonMobil Foundation, Project Kaleidoscope was established to build a national network of emerging leaders in undergraduate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.

Demetry also received the Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers from ASM International in 2000 for her exceptional pedagogy and her ability to motivate students and engender interest in materials science. Two years later, she was named the Morgan Distinguished Advisor of the Year by WPI's Mechanical Engineering Department and received WPI's Board of Trustees' Award for Outstanding Teaching, which honored her as an innovative classroom teacher, a hard-working project advisor, and a caring colleague in a learning community.

In 2006 Demetry was named director of the WPI Center for Educational Development and Assessment (CEDA), established to promote excellence in teaching at WPI, enhance teaching effectiveness at all levels, support new teaching innovations, and assess student learning outcomes. That year she was also selected to participate in the Rigorous Research in Engineering Education Community of Practice, an initiative funded by the NSF. In 2010 CEDA was endowed through a $2.1 million gift from Morgan-Worcester Inc. and the Beagary Charitable Trust and renamed the Morgan Center for Teaching and Learning. Demetry continues as its director.

With funding from the NSF in 1997, Demetry co-founded Camp Reach, a summer engineering program for rising seventh-grade girls. The program this week received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Obama. In 2003, it was honored with the Women in Engineering Program Award in 2003 from the Women in Engineering Programs & Advocates Network, a national nonprofit organization representing engineering schools, Fortune 500 corporations, and nonprofit organizations. Camp Reach was recognized for its role in encouraging young women in engineering and science and for serving as an outstanding model program.

Demetry has published over 35 peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings, more than half of which are devoted to undergraduate education. In 2010 she was invited to speak at the National Academy of Engineering's Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium on an innovative approach to teaching an introductory materials science course that has since served as a model for innovations in courses on topics as diverse as chemistry, history, and rhetoric.