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Amy Burkert

Vice Provost for Education and MCS alumna Amy Burkert was honored with the university’s Robert E. Doherty Award for Sustained Contributions to Excellence in Education.

Burkert joined the Mellon College of Science in 1983. Through her many roles, Burkert advised students from a range of majors, giving her a strategic vantage point to not only understand the college’s unique curricula but also identify needs and new opportunities. She helped to establish the interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science and Arts degree, the Science and Humanities Scholars Program, the unified major in biological sciences and psychology, the healthcare policy and management minor and the biomedical engineering minor for non-engineering students.

As vice provost for education, a position she has held since 2010, Burkert continues to bring her passion for curricular innovation, talent in interdisciplinary collaboration and unwavering dedication to student success, launching the Simon Initiative and Tartan Scholars Program, expanding the Summer Academy of Math and Science and establishing the new Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion.

“She is continually lending a listening ear to the student body and spearheading innovative initiatives with the ultimate goal of better preparing and supporting all students,” said Amanda Willard, advisor for biological sciences students, in supporting Burkert’s nomination.

President Emeritus Jared Cohon also praised Burkert’s ability to deliver an exceptional educational experience for every Carnegie Mellon University student.

“She has put interdisciplinary collaboration at the center of her education initiatives. She is a fervent champion for diversity and inclusion. Her entire career — as a teacher and administrator — has been about educational innovation for excellence.”

Biological Sciences Faculty Recognized with Carnegie Mellon’s Teaching Innovation Award

For the lab instructor team behind the new introductory lab course Frontiers, Analysis and Discovery in Biological Sciences (FADS), the class is about more than just exposing first-year MCS students to hands-on concepts in biology.

“The most important innovation of FADS is the way that this course develops community building,” Veronica Hinman, head of the Department of Biological Sciences, wrote in nominating the group, comprising Carrie Doonan, director of undergraduate laboratories; Lynley Doonan, special lecturer; and Assistant Teaching Professors Natalie McGuier and Emily Drill, for Carnegie Mellon’s Team Teaching Innovation Award.

“My first semester of college would not have been half as wonderful if I had not had the opportunity to experience lab with [the FADS instructors] and my fellow peers.” – Veronique Wright

The instructors achieve this by bringing together the first-year students with juniors in the Experimental Techniques in Molecular Biology lab course. Together, these teams of students present to each other on important things they’ve learned from their research and work together to analyze it.

In describing their teaching strategy, the lab instructors noted this collaborative arrangement could be extended to other fields and courses outside of the Department of Biological Sciences and MCS.

“While it took additional time and planning on the instructors’ part, the benefits provided a unique rewarding experience for students and instructors,” they noted.

Beyond getting to know their peers better, FADS also allows first-year students to meet with biological sciences tenure-track faculty to learn about their work and careers in research and academia.

“My first semester of college would not have been half as wonderful if I had not had the opportunity to experience lab with [the FADS instructors] and my fellow peers,” biological sciences student Veronique Wright said.

Gizelle Sherwood

Gizelle Sherwood Honored with Julius Ashkin Teaching Award

Assistant Teaching Professor of Chemistry Gizelle Sherwood received MCS’s 2020 Julius Ashkin Teaching Award for her devotion and effectiveness in teaching.

Sherwood is an energetic, creative and enthusiastic teacher who has positively influenced the lives of students both in and outside of the classroom.

Though Sherwood’s courses have a reputation for being challenging, she constantly empowers her students to succeed. Students credit her meticulous notes, engaging lectures and real-world example problems for helping them digest the difficult material.

“Gizelle represents the philosophy of our department, which is to show a genuine concern for students’ success while challenging them appropriately and effectively,” wrote Chemistry Associate Teaching Professor Lenny Vuocolo in nominating her.

Within the department, Sherwood has been invaluable in developing new courses that pull students in from across the university. She co-developed the lab course The Design and Making of Skin and Hair Products, a popular cosmetic chemistry course that has attracted students from five of CMU’s seven schools and colleges.

Beyond teaching, Sherwood regularly offers workshops on macromolecules and water quality at the Gelfand Center, co-teaches a forensics lab to students in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Sciences and runs a program for Boy Scouts to earn their chemistry merit badge.

barry luokkala

Barry Luokkala Receives Carnegie Mellon’s Ryan Award

For nearly six decades, the William H. and Frances S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching has annually recognized a Carnegie Mellon faculty member who demonstrates “unusual devotion and effectiveness in teaching.” That description fits Physics Teaching Professor Barry Luokkala to a tee.

“Over his almost 40-year career, Barry’s dedicated efforts have made him truly one of our stellar teachers,” wrote Luokkala’s nominators.

After initially joining Carnegie Mellon as a lab demonstrations technician, Luokkala began teaching physics at CMU in 1983. He also earned his Ph.D. in physics from CMU while teaching and working full-time.

In addition to designing, teaching and writing textbooks, Luokkala has also leveraged his personal passion for science fiction into developing two courses based around connecting the science and technology seen in films to what’s possible in the real world.

Outside of teaching, Luokkala has played a pivotal role in leading the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences at CMU and in mentoring dozens of undergraduate, graduate and high school students.

“Throughout my career, from my earliest years as a student and even to the present day, I have been blessed with a series of outstanding role models and mentors,” Luokkala said. “My role as a teacher is to do for my students what was done so well for me over the years — to do all I can to encourage the next generation to be the best that they can be.”

Faculty Briefs

Faculty Honored with Professorships

L-R: Alison Barth, Luisa Hiller, Veronica Hinman, Benjamin Hunt, Curtis Meyer and Sandra Kuhlman

MCS Faculty Honored with Professorships

Six Mellon College of Science faculty members have been honored with professorships to support their work in biological sciences and physics.

In the Department of Biological Sciences, Professor Alison Barth received the Maxwell H. and Gloria C. Connan Professorship in the Life Sciences; Associate Professors Luisa Hiller and Sandra Kuhlman received the Eberly Family Career Development Professorships of Biological Science; and Professor Veronica Hinman was appointed as Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor and Head, Department of Biological Sciences.

In the Department of Physics, Assistant Professor Benjamin Hunt was named to the Falco DeBenedetti Career Development Professorship in Physics, and Professor Curtis Meyer received the Otto Stern Professorship of Physics. 

Additional Faculty Honors and Awards

Biological Sciences’ Huaiying Zhang received a New Investigator Award from the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation.

Physics’ Markus Deserno was elected as a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Chemistry’s Newell Washburn received Covestro’s global Science Award.

Physics’ Fred Gilman was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Institute for Green Science was announced as a core academic partner in an innovation hub established by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation selected Carnegie Mellon University as a recipient of a 2020 Beckman Scholars Program Award.

Chemistry’s Ryan Sullivan won a Carnegie Science Award in the environmental category from the Carnegie Science Center.

Chemistry’s Stefanie Sydlik was selected by the World Economic Forum to be part of the 2020 Community of Young Scientists.

Janus bases, which were invented by Chemistry’s Danith Ly, was named one of the Top 10 Innovations of 2019 by The Scientist magazine.

Chemistry’s Newell Washburn received a grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

Biological Sciences’ Aryn Gittis was awarded a grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Biological Sciences’ Eric Yttri received a 2019 seed grant from the Brain Research Foundation and an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Physics’ Tiziana Di Matteo was awarded a grant from the Astrophysics Theory Program at NASA.