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College to honor faculty, staff in May 4 celebration

In a May 4 event, the College of Engineering will recognize an outstanding lineup of faculty and staff whose service and contributions extend from the college to the world. These honorees work, teach and conduct research at UW-Madison because they love what they do. Their efforts contribute directly to the college excellence in teaching, research and service.

Polygon Engineering Council Teaching Awards

Engineering undergradate students chose these faculty and staff members to receive 2010 Polygon teaching awards:

University of Wisconsin-Madison award recipient

Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Sciences Professor Mark Hill received the UW-Madison Kellet Mid-Career Award

College of Engineering faculty and staff awards

Recipients of the College of Engineering annual awards each receive privately funded stipends and permanent recognition on a plaque in Engineering Hall. Each winner is chosen by a committee of his or her peers. The college will recognize all of the award recipients again at the Engineers’ Day banquet on Friday, October 8, 2010.

David Noyce

The Ragnar E. Onstad Service to Society Award —
David Noyce, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Each year, 42,000 people across the United States die as a result of traffic accidents, which are the leading external cause of deaths in the country. Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor David Noyce would prefer that number of deaths to be zero.

Director of the UW–Madison Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory, Noyce is committed to solving transportation–safety problems via multidisciplinary research, teaching and public service. In particular, he has become a national leader in an effort to develop and implement flashing yellow left–turn arrows. While drivers who intend to turn left comprehend a circular green light to mean “go,” flashing yellow arrows command driver attention and signal them to proceed with caution. To determine the best deterrent of often–serious left–turn crashes on a green light, Noyce used human factors as the primary means to identify the safety and effectiveness of various traffic signal displays. He also used dynamic animation as a key element in the research and ultimately included two life–sized driver simulators that helped him document driver understanding of traffic signals.

With project manager Kent Kacir, Noyce began this research 16 years ago as a PhD student at Texas A&M University. Recently, as a result of Noyce’s research, the Federal Highway Administration incorporated the flashing yellow arrow into the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which defines national traffic–control device standards. Now, hundreds of communities in 30 states have implemented this fundamental change in driver permissive indications.

“Noyce's commitment to this important topic over a period of 15 years was instrumental to the success of the research and the acceptance it has gained in the practitioner community,” says W. Scott Wainwright, highway engineer for the Federal Highway Administration. “The increasing use of the flashing yellow arrow for permissive turn movements at signalized intersections nationwide is anticipated to make very significant reductions in left–turn crashes and concomitant improvements in traffic flow efficiency.”

To enhance public understanding of transportation safety, Noyce actively participates in a variety of outreach and service initiatives. He has taught professional–education courses through the UW–Madison Department of Engineering Professional Development and Rutgers University National Transit Institute. He has served on boards that include the Wisconsin Traffic Records Coordinating Committee, the Safety Belt Coalition, and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Council, among others. He has been a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio and a speaker both nationally and internationally about transportation issues. He also has given multiple presentations and demonstrations at venues ranging from high schools to campus family outreach events.


Laura Grossenbacher

The Bollinger Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award —
Laura Grossenbacher, Director, Technical Communication Program 

As director of the Technical Communication Program since 2003, Laura Grossenbacher has become a vital teacher, collaborator, mentor and administrator. She teaches a host of courses, the most regularly of which is EPD 397: Technical Communication. In addition to teaching other staple communication courses, including EPD 497: Technical Editing and EPD 155: Basic Communication, Grossenbacher has collaborated with faculty members from various departments to integrate communication into engineering courses across the college. Several of these collaborations have been supported by the Engineering Beyond Boundaries initiative (formerly COE 2010), including integrating technical writing into InterEngr 102: Introduction to Society’s Grand Challenges, implementing effective communication teaching strategies into two senior design classes, and developing online communication modules to improve skills transfer in the College of Engineering.

Her teaching abilities are internationally regarded. In 2006, she traveled to Toulouse, France, to co-lead a group of students, becoming the first Engineering Professional Development professor to participate in the college international programs. In 2008, she taught a section of EPD 397 at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, and she has been invited to help Zhejiang develop a technical communications course for their engineering students. She is also an instructor for InterEng 413: Current Issues in International Engineering, a required capstone course in the popular Certificate in International Engineering.

Grossenbacher is a trusted mentor for students. “Laura excels in helping you flesh out a promising idea, nudging you to do more with it, and then letting you take ownership,” says Engineering Physics research assistant Kyle Oliver, who as an undergraduate student worked with Grossenbacher to develop EPD 690: Social and Ethical Impacts of Technology.

Ethics is a topic Grossenbacher is passionate about, as she has served as advisor for the UW-Madison Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl and consistently incorporates ethics topics into her classes.

Grossenbacher has received numerous awards, grants and honors, and she has participated in various college committees and workshops. Her colleagues rave about her administrative abilities. “I can’t image a fairer, more honest, more industrious or more collegial director,” says one.

Another colleague says Grossenbacher’s success with students—whose evaluations include comments like “Laura is amazing” and “Give Laura a raise”—comes down to her ability to understand and appreciate engineering, though she comes from a non—engineering background. Her Ph.D. in English is from the University of Texas at Austin.

“This willingness to engage with her students in their own field of expertise makes her teaching style extraordinarily effective and sets a high standard for the entire program.”

James B. Rawlings

Harvey Spangler Award for Technology Enhanced Instruction —
James Rawlings, Paul A Elfers Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Alongtime proponent of technology–enhanced learning, Paul A. Elfers Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering James B. Rawlings draws on a suite of new and existing technological tools to engage students in such subjects as chemical process modeling and computational modeling of reactive systems.

In four chemical and biological engineering courses, Rawlings capitalizes on the powerful campus wireless network to transform simple campus classrooms into interactive teaching laboratories in which he and his students use laptop computers to tackle web–based problems in real time. Among these courses is CBE 255, Introduction to Chemical Process Modeling, a required course for sophomores that launched in 2007. Rawlings collaboratively developed the course with colleagues in engineering physics and civil and environmental engineering under an engineering problem–solving with computers linked–courses project.

In CBE 255, students in small groups use laptops to access online modules in which they solve problems and learn advanced computational tools for decision–making in complex situations. “These modules provided information in an interactive format that was searchable, clear and concise in a topic that frequently dealt with scenarios that would have been impossible to replicate within the limitations of a piece of paper,” says a former student. “Graphs, equations, diagrams, data sets, customized MATLAB code, and further resources were all available through these instructional modules.”

While his multifaceted teaching approach has enriched and improved engineering students’ learning experiences on campus, Rawlings co–authored a textbook and supervised creation of a software modeling language that have benefited students and researchers around the world.

Co–authored with John G. Ekerdt, the text, Chemical Reactor Analysis and Design Fundamentals, takes advantage of computing and communications technology advances to prepare students to use computational methods for solving reactor–modeling problems. The 609–page book provides the educational materials to support Rawlings’ technology–enhanced instructional style in both undergraduate and graduate–level reactor–modeling courses. It contains 60 examples and 248 figures paired with online computational software and supports MATLAB (commercial software for numerical scientific computation) and the language Octave for all calculations.

As a PhD student in 1992 (and now an associate researcher) in Rawlings’ group, John W. Eaton authored and is the principal architect of Octave. Compatible with MATLAB, the free, open–source programming language enables students and researchers to solve reactor–design and other modeling problems quickly and robustly. Available for download at, it runs on Linux, Mac and Windows operating systems and myriad university departments worldwide use it. “I see Jim’s passion for a new approach to engineering learning where computer–generated solutions are not treated as a supplement to conventional textbook solutions, but instead computer–generated solutions to complex problems are the solution and play a central role in the education of students about chemical engineering principles,” says a colleague.

Paula King

Classified Staff Distinguished Achievement Award —
Paula King, Financial Specialist, Materials Science and Engineering

At heart, Paula King is a problem solver. As a financial specialist for the Materials Science and Engineering since 2001, King provides purchasing, payroll and financial support. She thrives on identifying the crux of department challenges and finding creative solutions to address those challenges.

King took the initiative to set up a tracking system for the funds provided to new faculty. Her system accounts for the commitments and expenditures in each account, and she provides advising to faculty to help them navigate the complexities of their start-up packages. “Her successful tracking system has allowed the department to understand its past, current and future resources and to plan for effective use of department resources in an enlightened way,” says a colleague.

King also spearheaded a new procurement card system for the department that provided each research group with its own card. King was dedicated to insuring the new system worked for everyone, and she facilitated each research group’s unique spending needs by developing individual strategies for reconciling transactions. According to a colleague, “There is no question that Paula is both the brains and the brawn of a complete range of grant and financial support services for our faculty, staff and students.”

Beyond her primary responsibilities, King is the first point of contact for many faculty and students with other university bureaucratic systems. “I’ve often had her say to me, ‘I don’t know,’ but that phrase is always followed with ‘but I’ll find out,’” says one faculty member.

When the department administrator unexpectedly retired in 2004, King stepped up to assume the majority of the administrator’s duties with little warning or training. Her experience with the department and willingness to take on the additional responsibilities helped the department navigate the transition.

King’s work ethic is complemented by her compassionate character, and those who work closest with her call her “intuitive” and “unfailingly cheerful and pleasant.” She strives to make others feel comfortable, and she is a patient advisor for graduate students dealing with the business practices of a large organization, often for the first time. “Even when I’ve made a mistake and created more work for her, she always gives me a kind word and a smile,” says a faculty member.

Jay Samuel

James G. Woodburn Award for Excellence in Teaching —
Jay Samuel, Senior Lecturer, Materials Science and Engineering

“Take care of people.”

Those four words are taped to the dresser of a former mechanical engineering student, and he credits the mantra to an instructor who has been imparting life and engineering wisdom to students for more than 30 years.

Jay Samuel joined UW–Madison in 1979 and was appointed a senior lecturer in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering in 1984. A dedicated teacher, Samuel has instructed thousands of students early in their engineering education, and through the years he has remained an effective—and memorable—lecturer.

Samuel consistently carries a heavy teaching load and averages 1,500 student contact hours per year. He has developed several manuals for his courses, including a 300–page course manual for ME 601/ME 427: Materials Selection, which he has continuously updated since first creating it in 1979.

When Samuel took over MSE 350: Introduction to Materials Science in the mid 1980s, he co–developed an innovative computer program to grade the homework sets of the more than 150 students enrolled in the required course every semester. His program, which was the first computer–grading program in the college, included statistics to indicate which concepts students were struggling to understand.

When a newer campus–wide computer grading system was introduced, Samuel reverted back to hand–grading all of his students’ homework to make sure he was keeping in touch with what they were learning. “Jam Samuel has had an extraordinarily positive influence on the quality of teaching in the college—not by talking about quality teaching, but by doing it,” says a colleague.

Students appreciate Samuel’s thorough, hands–on approach. Though high–enrollment, beginning classes generally receive poor student evaluation feedback, students acknowledge Samuel to be an outstanding teacher. Student comments range from the formal “This professor made learning the material enjoyable and interesting” to the more affectionate “Dr. J is money” and “Dr. J rocks.”

His interaction with students extends beyond the classroom. For the past 17 years, Samuel has been the advisor for the UW–Madison chapter of ASME, which has 150 current student members. He has participated in the Camp Badger program, Engineering Expo and Engineering Week—as a dunk tank “volunteer.”

He has received Outstanding Instructor Awards from Polygon and Pi Tau Sigma many times, and in 2000 Samuel received the College of Engineering Bollinger Academic Staff Outstanding Achievement Award.

Thatcher Root

The Benjamin Smith Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching —
Thatcher Root, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

The formula for making an impact on undergraduate students is a mix of meaningful instruction, curricular innovation and compassionate advising. It’s a blend that Chemical and Biological Engineering Associate Professor Thatcher Root exemplifies. He has become, according to one colleague, “the backbone of our undergraduate program.” “It is probably safe to say that every CBE undergraduate has taken a class from Professor Root at least once,” says another colleague. He has taught more than 2,600 students in 15 courses.

In the last four years, Root has developed CBE 562/511: Energy Technologies and Sustainability as part of the Engineering Beyond Boundaries (formerly COE 2010) programs. CBE 511 focuses on alternative and emerging energy technology and will be a strong contribution to the new Certificate in Engineering for Energy Sustainability. Non-engineering students also can take the class, creating an enriching, interdisciplinary learning environment.

Root was the first chemical engineering professor to participate in InterEngr 160: Introduction to Engineering, and he continues to present timely and engaging projects for the freshman level class. Root has also led a project to revise CBE 324: Transport Laboratory to include new lab experiments, modernize the existing equipment, record background lectures, and integrate statistics and data acquisition into the class.

Additionally, Root is the director of Summer Lab, a five-credit, five-week immersion course that is “much feared by undergraduates and much loved by alumni” as one faculty member describes it. Summer Lab holds sessions in Madison, as well as Vienna, Austria and Oviedo, Spain, and Root coordinates both the local and international classes. “This is a big effort that is rarely, if ever, overtly recognized as such by his faculty colleagues. Yet year after year Thatcher approaches the job with enthusiasm. He knows that the summer lab experience is central—it uniquely brands the Wisconsin chemical engineer,” says a colleague.

Beyond the classroom, Root is a favorite advisor for undergraduates. He regularly meets with students, even those not formally assigned to him. “When you meet with Professor Root, it is very apparent that you are talking to someone who really cares about your future and what you learn,” says one former student.”

Root has received student recognition via the Polygon Instructor Award five times. He has received a University Housing Distinguished Professor award and also is a UW Teaching Academy Fellow.

“Professor Root works for and cares about his students in such a way that his students want to work hard in return,” says another former student.

Marc Anderson

The Byron Bird Award for Excellence in a Research Publication —
Marc Anderson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

A pioneer in nanoscience, Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Marc Anderson is renowned for his creativity and groundbreaking research in controlled colloid synthesis.

His contributions to light–activated semiconductor oxide catalysts and sol–gel inorganic metal oxide synthesis span fundamental surface chemistry, novel spectroscopy applications, new oxide coating synthesis methods, new material forms, and new catalysts. “His remarkable output of publications, patents and PhDs display a beautifully balanced and combined academic productivity which is unmatched by any other U.S. academic in this area,” says David Ollis, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at North Carolina State University.

In particular, Anderson’s 1991 paper, “Semiconductor clusters in the sol–gel process: Quantized aggregation, gelation and crystal growth in concentrated ZnO colloids,” authored with then–visiting professor Lubomir Spanhel, sets forth synthesis and characterization methods that researchers still use to investigate controlled zinc–oxide particle growth. The sol–gel process enables researchers to transform a precursor chemical solution into a colloidal suspension. From this two–phase mixture of nanoscale particles or polymers, they ultimately can fabricate materials such as metal oxide ceramic membranes or thin films.

Since its publication, researchers have cited the paper an average of 40 times per year and worldwide, it is one of the nine most–cited original contributions in sol–gel work. “Professor Anderson is among the first to explore the synthesis of nanomaterials, exemplified by ZnS, using a sol–gel process that is amenable to scaling up at controllable size,” says C.P. Huang, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Delaware. “They have pioneered the synthesis of nanoparticles at least one decade ahead of everybody.”

Anderson has used nano–particulate materials such as zinc oxide (ZnO) to construct novel and commercially viable devices with such applications as air and water filtration or environmentally benign energy storage and delivery systems. Made from metal–oxide nano–particulate clusters, Anderson’s microporous ceramic materials also are used for photocatalysis, thermal catalysis, high–temperature gas–phase reactors, adsorbents, capacitors, batteries, fuel cells, and solar cells.

Anderson also is a clear U.S. leader in novel approaches to synthesizing and characterizing photo–active titanium oxides and zinc oxide, the central materials of photocatalysis, says Ollis. “He has been adventuresome in defining new fields for civil and environmental engineering, and has been creative in showing that the traditional area of colloid chemistry has a rich future in environmental processing and light–activated technologies,” he says.