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Graduate student excellence award winners


Teaching winners

Jared DeCoste, Chemistry
Jared DeCoste launched his college teaching career with the Lois D. Mackey Award for Outstanding First Year Teaching Assistant, and followed up with a continuous subsequent appointment as Head TA. He was awarded a Departmental Summer Teaching Fellowship Award and appointed as Instructor of Record for CHEM 108 in the summer of 2008. DeCoste recently won the Chemistry Department’s 2008-2009 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. His nominator praised DeCoste’s success in all aspects of his career — research in material chemistry, serving as president of the Graduate Chemistry Club, volunteer work in the Science and Chemistry Olympiad for local high school students, as well as professional participation in the American Chemical Society Northeast Regional Meeting.

Irmak Ertuna, Comparative Literature

Irmak Ertuna has sought to foster a dynamic and open environment in the classroom. “I can honestly say I look forward to going to her lectures,” a student enrolled in Ertuna’s comparative literature class wrote. Ertuna, addressing her alleged “disadvantage” as a teacher — she is not a native speaker of English in English language classroom environments — suggests that the language disparity creates a “unique opportunity of establishing a genuine relationship with the students.” Her nominators praised Ertuna’s rhetorical register: “She presents material of the highest order of theoretical and philosophical difficulty in a manner that is eminently readable and engaging. I mention this specifically because it is (this talent) that has made her an outstanding teacher, indeed.”

David Gerstle, Anthropology
Trained in biological anthropology with a specialization in linguistic anthropology, David Gerstle deftly ranges across distinctive academic discourses, ensuring that he is well-informed in each, and demonstrating a deep intellectual interest, matched by sophisticated thinking and reading in an impressive range of intellectual fields. “Simply put, Dave’s performance has been so superb that he has redefined how I instruct TAs to teach their sections,” stated his nominator. “(Dave has) raised my expectations of graduate teaching assistants and provided me with a new ideal model against which to instruct and evaluate graduate teaching assistants.”

Todd Goehle, History
The History Department was so impressed with Todd Goehle’s achievements as a teaching assistant and instructor that it prepared part of his nomination file last year, knowing that he would be away conducting research for his dissertation in Germany. Goehle’s accomplishments include courses as varied as The Holocaust, American Legal History, and Modern World History. Goehle’s dissertation adviser made an unannounced visit to one of his sections, and noted that over the first few weeks of class, Goehle “had instilled in his students the ability to think historically.” Students are as enthusiastic about Goehle as the faculty, saying, “He was always jovial and gregarious, and he always exuded a quixotic charisma that eased students into respecting him.” 

Selin Gursozlu, Philosophy
Nominators praised Selin Gursozlu’s contribution as a teaching assistant and as a teacher of record, citing her skill in clarifying difficult ideas for undergraduates, engaging students in discussion and developing their facility with issues in such thorny areas as ethics. Nominators cited Gursozlu’s skill developing “strategies to encourage students to think with (her).” Supportive in her approach to students, Gursozlu’s flexibility as an educator and her command of her philosophical content area is commendable. “I realize that some (maybe most) students experience social and psychological pressure in a classroom.” Gursozlu remains conscious of this and that a feeling of inadequacy can be pervasive, especially for female and other underrepresented students, embracing an approach to help students develop the courage to share their thoughts.

Allison Keane, History
Allison Keane’s teaching acumen rests on two complementary skill sets: the ability to raise and thoroughly examine complicated historical topics in discussion with students, and an ability to tutor writing. Her nominator said: “In Ms. Keane, the History Department won not only a talented scholar, but a trained professional in composition pedagogy and administration.” Every good teacher, of course, must be passionate about the subject. And Keane is thoroughly committed to the discipline of history and excited about teaching it. Students concur with the faculty in their praise of Keane. One wrote, “She is a role model of a successful woman in her studies and as a mother.”

Ming Liu, School of Management
Teaching financial management, Ming Liu earned student comments such as “Thank you for your teaching,” and “I appreciate the professor’s patience: always willing to answer my questions, perfect teaching style.” Liu’s ability to connect with students and his interests in teaching are both superior. The core course is always a difficult one to teach, since motivating non-finance majors to do the work necessary is challenging, but despite that difficulty, faculty are not surprised by his high teaching evaluations. Liu describes his experience with contrasting teaching models: in China, teachers tend to position themselves as authorities and in the United States “teachers are facilitators in the classroom.” Liu successfully melds the best of both approaches in his work as a teacher of finance.

Dan O’Brien, Biological Sciences
As an undergraduate at Oberlin, Dan O’Brien double-majored in mathematics and biology. He brought this mastery to Binghamton University and deployed his acumen in teaching both statistics and introductory biology with professional skill. With the advent of National Science Foundation funding for Biology 105, ‘Evolution for Everyone,’ a course in evolution for non-majors, O’Brien’s multiple aptitudes and ability to convey complex and interrelated ideas to students has proved invaluable. “I turned to Dan to become instructor of record for the course and to help me develop a modular format,” his nominator said. “The result has been truly spectacular.”

Hye-ri Oh, Art History
Hye-ri Oh’s research for her doctoral dissertation dovetails with her teaching portfolio, a compendium of scholarship bolstered, according to her nominator, through “…student reviews that recognize her genuine interest in student learning, particularly when it comes to elucidating complex concepts.” She earned an MFA in Korea in photographic practice and an MA in theory. Yet, as exemplary as her scholarship is, her teaching has proven deeply inspiring. “It was really at Binghamton that she began to pull together the strands of her thinking to give shape to her deeply original dissertation project,” her dissertation adviser said. “… It was really her teaching that gave her the arena in which to begin to weave the threads of her thought together.” 

Eleni Pinnow, Psychology
Eleni Pinnow “has that intangible quality of an outstanding teacher who can challenge her students and at the same time nurture their mastery,” Pinnow’s dissertation director said. She added, “Over the past 20 years I have observed the teaching of over 120 graduate students — Eleni ranks right at the top in possessing the skills necessary for outstanding teaching.” Students agree with the faculty concerning Pinnow’s abilities. One undergraduate wrote, “Eleni has … inspired me to pursue graduate work in linguistics, an option I had never considered prior to being her student.” Pinnow expressed her belief that “a good education never ends. As a teacher, it is my job to inspire lifelong commitment to learning in my students … to truly support a student requires genuine engagement from the instructor.”

Greg Sevik, Comparative Literature
Greg Sevik creates a dynamic symbiosis between learning and teaching. His positive energy is noticed by faculty and students in the department. One lesson connected Shakespeare’s love sonnets with Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, forging a thematic link between the early modern formalist poetry and the Romantic period through a comprehension of the nature of poetry. “Thinking about sound, rhythm and tone in literature is a difficult task for advanced students. Greg’s freshmen, though, had been given the critical tools to talk about the aural nature of poetry in an informed and critical manner,” wrote his nominator.  

Holly Wendt, English
Holly Wendt deliberately tries to bridge the gap between “creative” and “academic” writing. She fosters parallel interdisciplinary pedogogies, collaborative learning and a more challenging, holistic classroom through a linked course structure between English and sociology. Wendt has gone well beyond the call of office hours to organize small group discussions, conferences and tutorials, review sessions, writing workshops, films and even a group trip to The Cloisters in New York City. “Whatever the subject matter,” Wendt said, “writing is an integral part of all the courses I have taught, not only as intrinsic to the curriculum, but as a developmental process that allows students to reflect on their experiences and bring them to bear on their academic instruction. It is not simply a matter of writing what one knows, but of knowing more.”

Research winners

Siddharth Bhopte, Mechanical Engineering
Siddharth Bhopte has distinguished himself at the highest levels of academic and professional environments. Working in the field of electronics packaging, Bhopte has published two articles concerned with controlling the effects of convection on electronic systems. Four more articles exploring thermal management are currently under review for publication. He has participated in 10 conferences, which generated important publications in his field, and won the “Best Paper Award” from the EEPD Student Paper Session at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers international congress in Seattle in 2007. Bhopte also excelled as a summer intern at IBM in Poughkeepsie. Nominators praised Bhopte’s work, noting that “For the last two years (Bhopte’s) main focus has been in modeling transport and mixing micro-fluidics. … The work has yielded some very important results and has led to the submission of a patent application.”

Juan Carlos Corona, Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies
Juan Carlos Corona has delved into the secrets of rock formation deep in the earth. While it is widely accepted that blueschist facies metamorphic rocks form in down-going tectonic plates in subduction zones, Corona’s research has shed new light on the actual conditions of that formation. Corona’s adviser asserted that Corona’s research “will establish for the first time maximum and minimum pressure limits for the formation of pure glaucophane and provide information on the variation of glaucophane stability with iron content.” To accomplish his work, Corona has undergone the arduous process of making pure glaucophane and has overcome the technical difficulties of doing research 75 miles deep in the earth. Nominators lauded Corona, writing that “Juan Carlos is an outstanding experimental petrologist who is undertaking a very important research project, a project that is not at all easy, but one that will yield very significant results.” 

Michael Head, Computer Science
The breadth of Michael Head’s research in data systems encompasses published work in five areas of focus with as many different professors. He contributed significantly to projects resulting in two papers that he delivered in the Supercomputing Conference Series. Nominators wrote, “The nature of computing is rapidly changing with the movement of the microprocessor industry towards multi-core processors. At the same time, large-scale data sets are increasingly in use for both desktop and scientific applications. Head’s research results directly address both these trends.” The flexibility and scope of Head’s talents in his field are matched only by his skills uniting people in fruitful collaborative efforts: He was the primary contact point for a collaborative team spanning three universities. From user-end access to broad-based implementations, Head has solved use and access issues in ways that open new ground in computing architecture design process. His innovations wisely approach both data structure design and designer collaboration.

Glendon Hunsinger, Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies
Glendon Hunsinger has received two prestigious fellowships, one from the Environmental Protection Agency and the other from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These grants have supported his doctoral research in what he characterizes as “the cause-effect interactions of natural and human perturbations on biogeochemical cycling at terrestrial-aquatic boundaries.” His work, some of which has been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, analyzes what happens to chemicals and sediments in such places as wetlands and floodplains. Hunsinger’s work looks closely at the impact of natural causation and human development on wetlands, riparian zones, floodplains, estuaries and coastal margins. His research underscores the dynamism of these natural systems and offers serious revisions of long-cherished beliefs about the systemic functions of watersheds.

Deniz Karakas, Art History
Deniz Karakas has distinguished herself as a scholar both in the United States and abroad, earning fellowships not only at Binghamton University, but also at the Harvard University Ottoman Summer School and at the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations in Istanbul. She is now working as a lecturer in art history at Ithaca College and researching urban water supply and waste disposal in 18th-century Anatolia.  “Karakas’s dissertation project is the result of months of arduous archival research and years of devoted study of the now extinct Ottoman language,” recounted her nominator. “Her dissertation, titled ‘Clay Pipes, Marble Surfaces: The Topographies of Water Supply and Waste Disposal in the Outskirts of the Early Eighteenth Century Ottoman Capital,’ promises to be an important contribution to architectural and urban studies of Istanbul, as well as to 18th-century Ottoman history.”

Casey Schofield, Psychology
Casey Schofield’s work in social cognitive bias and anxiety was spurred, she said, by her frustration with what she perceived to be inadequacies in previous studies. She noticed that subjects had been analyzed through behavioral responses and she proposed the innovative technique of gathering eye movement data for analysis. Nominators praise her work on social anxiety responses, noting that Schofield’s research findings suggest that the interpretive biases of anxious individuals “may be limited to predictions of the emotional cost of interacting … rather than biases interpreting the emotional expressions themselves.” In collaboration with psychology faculty, Schofield developed an innovative process for analysis through both behavioral and eye-movement data to determine responses in cases of social phobia. This work not only establishes new knowledge, but also opens up methodological approaches in the field. 

Ilir Snopce, Mathematics
Ilir Snopce has already distinguished himself with his publication “Prop-p groups of rank 3 and the question of Iwasawa” in the Archiv der Mathematik, while two other articles are currently under refereed consideration with Journal of Group Theory and the Journal of Algebra. His graduate adviser said: “Ilir has shown real research ability and mathematical maturity not usually seen at such an early stage of one’s career. In addition, he has extensive knowledge of several fields of mathematics which is way beyond the expertise of most graduate students.” Snopce’s research in Nottingham groups and pro-p groups via Lie rings has followed the highly successful work of E. Zelmanov, who received the Fields Medal (an equivalent to the Nobel Prize in mathematics). However, Snopce’s work is distinguished for taking those mathematical approaches in serious and exciting new directions. 

Yi Sun, Computer Science
Yi Sun’s research looks into computer vision, pattern recognition and computer graphics. Sun’s work has been developed under the aegis of research funded through Lijun Yin’s grants from the National Science Foundation, NYSTAR and the Air Force Research Lab. “He developed novel techniques to automatically extract and measure human facial features, and automatically select the optimal features to identify individual persons,” his nominator wrote. His work has been well received in 10 publications and conferences, including the IEEE Conference on Automatic Face and Gesture Recognition, IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, the European Conference on Computer Vision and the IEEE International Conference on Pattern Recognition. He was, moreover, invited to publish his work in a new book, 3D Imaging for Safety and Security. Sun’s work has already had a significant impact on fields and applications as diverse as security, law enforcement, human machine interaction, telecommunications, education, entertainments and psychological and biomedical research. 

Jun Zhang, Chemistry
Jun Zhang has “made substantial contributions in the area of functional nanomaterials,” his nominator said. He has authored five papers and co-authored four others, several of which appear in the top three journals in his field internationally. Faculty at Miami University of Ohio noted Zhang’s successful collaboration with their laboratory on the topic of metal nanoparticle catalysis, and Binghamton University faculty detailed how Zhang has “achieved his syntheses of several new nanomaterials and successfully proposed a new mechanism to interpret a nanoparticle growth process.” Zhang’s adviser, who has overseen Zhang’s PhD candidacy and has collaborated with him in research, places Zhang “in the very top tier of the entire scientific community on nanoparticle synthesis.” 

Service/outreach winner

Andrei Guruianu, English
Andrei Guruianu is not only a frequently published writer, he works to bring poetry to the community of New York’s Southern Tier. A Broome County Arts Council grant has supported his establishment of a literary journal, The Broome Review, and the Hoyt Foundation has given the publication “a significant grant.” His dedication to giving voice to the community has been seen also in Our Voices, a collection of writings from local citizens participating in monthly creative-writing workshops, as well as The Quill, an undergraduate literary journal he co-founded with Binghamton University’s undergraduate students. The variety of people who wrote in support of Guruianu’s candidacy for this excellence award attests to his broad reach in the community and the breadth of service he has performed for the people of the Southern Tier: students, faculty and art organization directors.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08