Barotta recognized for Teaching Excellence in Engineering

As a doctoral candidate in fluids and thermal sciences, Jack-William Barotta has taught twoJack-William Barotta photo engineering courses, Fluid Mechanics and Art Fluid Engineering. With his passion for teaching and scientific outreach, faculty and students alike describe him as the best teaching assistant they have ever had. 

His nominators characterize his approach to teaching by his encouragement of questions, ensuring every student understands the material and having an electric attitude and kindness during office hours. 

“The curiosity, effort, and excitement of the students were  really what made the time so rewarding. The questions asked and the constant conversation have both been highlights.,” says Barotta.

Professor of Engineering, Kenneth Breuer, explains Barotta’s role in his fluid mechanics course. With a class that consisted of 76 students, Barotta stepped into his role and hosted popular weekly recitations and review sessions as well as example problems and solutions for students. “He led a weekly recitation section which was, by far, the most popular section with the undergrad students,” says Breuer.

This was a great help to not only the students, but also the professor. One student shared, “[Jack] was committed to ensuring everyone in the class understood the material regardless of how long it took them to get there, promoting equity in the classroom.” 

Professor in Engineering, Roberto Zenit, says that Jack’s time and dedication greatly surpasses what is expected from Ph.D. students and teaching assistants. 

Zenit also shares an example of Barotta’s willingness to go above and beyond in his teaching. “He volunteered to give additional recitation lectures in vector calculus. This material is not covered in class, but the students are expected to have a good handle of it. Jack recognized the need for this and proposed a series of lectures to freshen up the student’s knowledge. He did all of this out of his own initiative, he prepared notes and lectures independently.” 

Students shared that his approach to teaching not only promoted independent learning, but also inspired a shared passion for the material. 

“The award means a lot because TA-ing has been the highlight of my entire PhD personally. Getting to interact with so many brilliant undergrads, many of whom I’ve learned so much from, has been a delight, so it is a great feeling knowing that the feeling of appreciation for the time spent together has been reciprocated,” says Barotta.

When Barotta is not teaching, he is conducting research on the self-propulsion and collective motion of objects on a vibrating liquid interface. He works with centimeter-scale objects that generate surface waves to move and interact with one another. These table-top experiments  help us better understand the emergence of  phenomena such as synchronization, swarming, and pattern formation. . His lab’s work has been featured in New Scientist and has been twice included in the American Physical Society’s Gallery of Soft Matterwinning the gallery award in 2023

Jack-William Barotta, Alba Lara Granero, David Peede and Anna Soifer received Excellence in Teaching Awards at the University Awards Ceremony on May 1, 2024.