School of Engineering Assistant Professor Vikas Srivastava, Senior Lecturer Christopher Bull, and Professor Yue Qi were among those honored with Brown University’s awards in teaching, mentoring, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the annual ceremony sponsored by the Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning. Srivastava was honored with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in Engineering, while Bull was presented with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring in Engineering. Qi was presented with the inaugural DEI award, a recognition of efforts to create a more equitable, diverse, and welcoming place for teaching and advising.
The Excellence in Teaching in Engineering Award is presented to a faculty member in the School of Engineering in recognition of outstanding classroom teaching of undergraduate and/or graduate students. During the current academic year, Srivastava, the Howard M. Reisman ’76, P’09 Assistant Professor of Engineering, taught Analytical Modeling for Biomechanical and Biomedical Systems (ENGN 2911R) in the fall and Biomechanics (ENGN 1210) in the spring.
Srivastava developed the Analytical Modeling course as a new graduate course offering during his first teaching semester in the fall of 2018. He has introduced all-new topics in the curriculum that students found extremely useful in their research and provides knowledge and skills that employers looking for advanced researchers appreciate. Examples of new topics that he has introduced and taught are Factorial Design of Experiments, Infectious Disease Modeling (note Srivastava started teaching infectious disease modeling two years before the pandemic), Nonlinear and Time-Dependent Mechanics of Cells and Tissues, Mathematical models for drug delivery management. This course is very popular and is unique in its content when compared to any other university (no equivalent course exists elsewhere). The research based on the content that students learned from this course and worked with Srivastava led to two published research articles in peer-reviewed journals.
A student praised his teaching with the following comment: “Professor Sirvastava did many things that I thought were highly effective throughout the course, from teaching style to organizational structure. Regarding teaching style what I found most effective was the following: he asked questions to the class, encouraging constant engagement and thinking, he derived problems in the class that could help us better understand how to approach the homework, and he often checked in regarding how we were understanding and was willing to repeat content as often as necessary to make sure everyone was on the same page - even if that meant he had to spend extra time after class with the students. In regards to organization, his notes were very well organized and very easy to understand.”
Still another added, “Prof. Srivastava does a good job of simplifying the concepts so that you can practice them, but also explains how the ideas can get much more complex in a research setting; he helped bridge this gap and gave us confidence to be able to reach the research level of understanding.”
Srivastava’s research focus is in application of fundamental solid mechanics to engineering structures and biomedical engineering. He currently serves as the undergraduate concentration advisor for biomedical engineering.
The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring in Engineering was presented to Bull in recognition of outstanding mentoring and advising of undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, or junior faculty.
Bull serves as Director of the Brown Design Workshop (BDW), and nominations for him included the following comments: “Since 2000, the BDW has evolved into what has become a focal point in the Brown School of Engineering. It is the heart of the School of Engineering and the Physics community. On a typical day, students from almost all academic areas learn skills from hand tools to power tools to 3D printing to laser cutting, sewing, problem solving, designing projects and more.
“A key mentoring component is the fact that the BDW is student run. What better way to teach leadership, responsibility and the ability to work and coexist with others than running an entity like the BDW with students as the key decision makers when it comes to organization and future skills and teachings offered. Teaching something is a great way for students to become almost experts in a certain skill or activity. This BDW is Chris Bull’s brain child; nothing preaches mentoring more than what goes on here everyday. Every University tour that comes through this building highlights this area.”
Nominations also included reviews of Bull’s teaching of Renewable Energy Technologies (ENGN 1930U): “It is important to Professor Bull that students apply what they learn to develop projects and solve problems on their own. These problem solving skills are what engineering is all about and therefore mentoring occurs. It truly is like having a coach show you how to do something, but then letting you try it and become successful. Professor Bull is never afraid to get dirty and show someone how to begin to fix something, but in typical fashion, he often lets students fly on their own.
Bull also oversees the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers car team that builds a small race car each year from scratch in the BDW to compete against other universities each May in Michigan, and he is a co-Director of the Brown/RISD Masters of Art in Design Engineering program.
The Dean’s Award for Impact in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Teaching and Advising was awarded to Qi, the Joan Wernig Sorensen Professor of Engineering. This inaugural award is in recognition of outstanding classroom contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in teaching and advising.
Qi served as the Chair of the School of Engineering Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee over this past year, ensuring a sustained focus on DEI priorities among the faculty by reporting at faculty meetings and modeling best practices. Nominations for the award said she “advocated for and assisted with strategies to recruit faculty, students and postdocs from historically underrepresented groups, made recommendations to the dean on professional development opportunities for faculty; and strengthened transparency and communication by creating mechanisms such as a school-wide email for any community member to submit DEI concerns or suggestions.”
Qi also led planning on how the School of Engineering might expand diversity in its Ph.D. applicant pool, suggesting engaging with an engineering-specific consortium for diverse undergraduate students considering graduate school. Qi made a connection between this consortium and Brown, and the fall of 2022 admissions season resulted in more than 35 graduate applicants from this underrepresented group. She also organized and held the first ever Engineering DEI Preview day for prospective Ph.D. students.
Nominators noted that Qi has also spoken at every graduate visit day and graduate orientation during the past two years on the values and resources for DEI in Engineering to prospective and incoming Ph.D.s.
Aside from her passion for campus diversity, Qi and her lab, Materials Simulation for Clean Energy, develop multi-scale simulations methods to design materials atom by atom. All of the materials she studies are critically important for an energy-efficient and sustainable future.
The University’s Sheridan Award Ceremony took place on Monday evening, May 1.