Engineering News

Northwestern Engineering Names Winners of 2019 Cole-Higgins Awards

Daniel Abrams, Sara Owsley Sood, and Kathleen Stair received this year’s awards

Three members of the Northwestern Engineering community have received the school’s annual awards for outstanding teaching and advising.

Daniel Abrams, associate professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics, and Sara Owsley Sood, associate professor of instruction in the Department of Computer Science and the Chookaszian Family Teaching Professor, received the 2019 Cole-Higgins Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Kathleen Stair, professor of instruction in materials science and engineering and assistant chair of the materials science department, earned the Cole-Higgins Award for Excellence in Advising.

Daniel AbramsAbrams’s research interests include nonlinear dynamics, the physics of social systems, mathematical geoscience, and pattern formation. He was noted for his integration of theory and application to engage students in applied mathematics courses.

“Danny helped fulfill my purpose of applying to Northwestern: to be academically challenged in a fair, productive way. His lectures not only provide the right balance between theoretical math and practical applications, but are also focused on allowing students to develop their own strategies to solve problems,” one student nominator said. “The projects are challenging but feel hand-picked to provide the full scope of the subject, including interesting real-life applications. Professor Abrams helped me achieve intellectual growth I never imagined having in my first quarter of college.”

Sara SoodSood, who earned her MS and PhD in computer science from the McCormick School of Engineering, co-teaches CS 111: Fundamentals of Computer Programming, a required course for CS majors and Northwestern Engineering’s most popular class for non-majors. She was recognized for clearly conveying complex topics in computer science while making every student feel welcome and empowered.

“Sara Sood is the best professor I've ever had at Northwestern,” one nominator said. “She cares, she understands, and she knows her students. She has made me want to be a CS major and has helped me get over insecurities of feeling like I'm not smart enough to be here. Every female engineer should have Sara as a professor because she is inspiring and an incredible mentor.”

Kathleen StairStair’s work focuses on undergraduate materials education and outreach, laboratory instruction, and advising. She was lauded for expertly helping students navigate unusual academic paths through Northwestern Engineering and Northwestern University.

“Professor Stair seemingly advises only what we (as a group of advisees) consider ‘problem children.’ That is to say, she has to deal with pre-med students, dual-degree students, and students who switched to their major later than expected,” one student nominator wrote. “Professor Stair has been incredibly helpful in figuring out how all classes I take can be used toward my degree, even when my first-choice schedule doesn’t work. Additionally, she has helped me choose what classes to take, not only based on whether they are required, but also based on feedback she has received from other advisees about these classes.”