WPI recognized five distinguished members of its academic community during the university’s annual Honors Convocation on Friday. The awards recognized five faculty members and a graduate student for outstanding teaching, research, advising, and contributions to the community.
Gary Pollice, professor of practice in computer science, received the Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Teaching. Established in 1959, the award recognizes faculty members for excellence in teaching coupled with outstanding professional contributions. According to Pollice’s award citation, he “brings extensive industrial experience as a software engineer to his teaching, giving his students practical experience and a taste of the real-world (in his popular software engineering course, he interacts with the students as a CEO or marketing vice president, and issues grades in the form of paychecks). Numerous deans, alumni and faculty members have enthusiastically recognized the positive impact he has on students as an educator, project advisor, and mentor—undergraduate and graduate students thank him for preparing them well for their careers and lives.”
Umberto Mosco, Harold J. Gay Professor of Mathematical Sciences, received the Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship. The award recognizes “continuing excellence in research and scholarship by faculty members over a period of at least five years. Mosco has pursued groundbreaking research in several areas of mathematical analysis and its applications to partial differential equations. He is internationally known for developing the ‘Mosco Convergence,’ which is widely recognized by researchers and students in the areas of analysis, calculus of variations, and partial differential equations. His more recent work on Dirichlet forms has had a profound impact on homogenization and its many applications in science and engineering. Mosco’s influence on mathematics will be felt for generations to come.”
Sonia Chernova, assistant professor of computer science and director of the Robot Autonomy and Interactive Learning (RAIL) lab, received the Board of Trustees’ Award for Academic Advising, which “recognizes the important role that academic advisors play in guiding and mentoring students through stages of professional and personal development. An excellent educator and researcher, she is also an outstanding advisor who goes above and beyond what is expected of her to assure the success of her students. Students say she helps them tackle academic and life challenges, encourages them to become active in their fields through collaboration and participation, and teaches them to think about the big picture as they pursue their research. As one student put it, ‘She knows how to bring out the best in her students.'”
Susanne Weekes, associate professor of mathematical sciences, and director of the Center for Industrial Mathematics and Statistics, received the Denise Nicoletti Trustees’ Award for Service to Community: “Established in 2003 in memory of WPI’s first tenured female faculty member in electrical and computer engineering, it is presented to a member of the faculty or staff in recognition of passion and action in serving the needs of a community. Weekes has brought her genuine caring, her commitment and her straightforward, honest approach to the numerous service activities she has performed on behalf of the Department of Mathematical Services, to WPI more broadly, to organizations in Worcester and Central Massachusetts, and nationally, through initiatives in mathematics education.”
Jim Cocola, assistant professor of literature in the Department of Humanities and Arts, received the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award. Presented in memory of a longtime faculty member in WPI’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, the award recognizes innovation in undergraduate education. Cocola was honored for “his innovative and multidisciplinary approaches to student engagement and success in the humanities and arts.” In particular, he was recognized for his use of the tools of digital humanities in courses and projects. For example, he has integrated digital archives, hyperlinks, interactive assignments, and online forums in Inquiry Seminars and courses. Student project teams he has advised have developed digital mapping techniques to analyze elections in Massachusetts in the late 19th century for the American Antiquarian Society and an iPad app for the “Knights!” exhibit at the Worcester Art Museum.
Siamak Ghorbani Faal
Siamak Ghorbani Faal, a PhD candidate in robotics engineering, received the Teaching Assistant of the Year Award, which recognizes the contributions graduate students make to the quality and success of WPI’s undergraduate curriculum. Faal, who supports more than 800 graduate and undergraduate students, was recognized for his “patience and dedication to teaching and his drive to see others succeed. Students say he builds from fundamental knowledge toward practical applications, helping them understand the ‘why’ before the ‘how.'” In addition to his work as a TA, he provides training in various software programs and has provided personalized assistance for students taking online courses. “Siamak genuinely cares about students and has demonstrated a dedication that is exceptional,” his citation noted.