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WPI Honors Community Members for Excellence in Teaching, Research, Advising, and Service - 2011

Board of Trustees Awards, Moruzzi Young Faculty Award, and Teaching Assistant of the Year Award Presented at Annual Honors Convocation

April 22, 2011

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recognized six distinguished members of its academic community during the university's annual Honors Convocation today. The awards honored five WPI faculty members and a graduate student for outstanding research, teaching, advising, and contributions to the community.

William W. Farr, associate professor of mathematical sciences, 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. Farr has been called a “student-oriented teacher,” a difficult feat for a professor who teaches many larger introductory calculus courses. He is known for his efforts to get to know students and help them learn, and for enlivening his classes with his sense of humor and his deep appreciation for mathematics. More than just a talented teacher, he is an innovative educator who has helped introduce technological learning tools that augment classroom instruction and help students learn better by visualizing calculus equations.

Kaveh Pahlavan, professor of electrical and computer engineering, 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. Pahlavan is internationally known for his work in wireless data communications. His career at WPI has been marked by long list of firsts: the first modern wireless networking research program and the first university wireless networking research laboratory (1985); the first National Science Foundation award in wireless local area networking (1987); the first IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) International Workshop on WLAN (1991). He also founded the field's first journal and published its first graduate-level textbook. His pioneering work on the radio channel and wireless geolocation have had enormous impact on his field and society, paving the way for everything from Wi-Fi to new location applications that are helping merge social networking with wireless devices.

David S. Adams, professor of biology and biotechnology, 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. According to his award citation, Adams embodies all that an academic advisor should be: mentor, teacher—even friend. His concern for students goes beyond their academic success; he encourages them to step back and define their career aspirations, and provides sound and supportive advice that helps them realize their ambitions. Despite advising close to 50 students annually, Adams's dedication, his responsiveness, and his patient mentorship have made him one of the most popular advisors on campus.

Robert Krueger, associate professor of interdisciplinary and global studies and director of WPI's London Project Center and Worcester Community Project Center, 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. Krueger's contributions, noteworthy for their breadth of impact, include serving on the WPI President’s Task Force on Sustainability, grassroots work that led to creation of WPI’s Environmental and Sustainability Studies major, engaging students and faculty in the Worcester Community Project Center, and lending his vision to a long list of organizations serving the community, city, and region.

Taskin Padir, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, 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. Padir was recognized for his key role in developing the unified sequence of four courses at the core of WPI's pioneering undergraduate major program in robotics engineering, a challenging task given the multidisciplinary nature of the field and the fact that no other undergraduate robotics curriculum existed to serve as a model.

Luca Issi, a PhD candidate in biology and biotechnology (shown here with WPI President Dennis Berkey), 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. Student appraisals of Issi were uniformly positive; in fact, many students said he was the best teaching assistant that they had encountered at WPI. He won praise for always being early to class, being well prepared, and being professional in his interactions with students. Faculty members describe Issi as a thoughtful teacher who has also provided an invaluable service to his department by helping to rewrite, and improve, the biology lab protocols.