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Northwestern Recognizes Six with McCormick Teaching Excellence Awards

At a May 26 ceremony, six Northwestern University faculty members, including two from the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, will be awarded the University’s highest and only University-wide awards for teaching excellence. Wesley Burghardt and Michael Peshkin from McCormick, along with Dylan R. Penningroth from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will be named this year’s Charles Deering McCormick Professors of Teaching Excellence.

Renee Engeln-Maddox, Larry Stuelpnagel and Ingrid Zeller will be named this year’s Charles Deering McCormick University Distinguished Lecturers.

The Charles Deering McCormick Awards are given to faculty who have consistently demonstrated outstanding performance in classroom teaching or who have developed significant innovations that have influenced the teaching effectiveness of others. Designated as fellows of the University’s Searle Center for Teaching Excellence, the McCormick honorees will be celebrated at 4 p.m. in Northwestern’s Guild Lounge.

Wesley Burghardt, professor of chemical and biological engineering, in more than 20 years at Northwestern has repeatedly earned extraordinary course and teacher evaluations (CTECs) from his undergraduate and graduate students. As proof of his commitment to his students, from 2005 to 2009, he continued in his role as a student advisor while serving as departmental chair. His teaching is marked by an ability to bring clarity to very difficult concepts in some of the most rigorous and challenging courses in the engineering curriculum. He is widely respected for his ability to show connections between the real world and subjects with elegant mathematical underpinnings, including fluid mechanics and heat transfer. While committed to teaching through participatory lectures, Burghardt also emphasizes the importance of experiential learning. He currently is reintroducing a laboratory component to an undergraduate fluids course that was eliminated from the curriculum in the 1990s. His ability to combine teaching excellence and research is reflected in his more than 80 research publications, scores of lecture invitations from professional societies and universities and in his supervision of more than 30 graduate and research students.

A professor of mechanical engineering since 1987, Michael Peshkin has been a bold and creative innovator in his teaching. Peshkin strives to move students out of "homework mode" and to help them act and feel like engineers. He was one of the founders of the Engineering First program, and designed and wrote the text for a core course, System Dynamics, taken by all engineering freshmen. More recently, he has designed another new course, Electronics Design, which replaces the traditional lab with a portable electronics workbench that fits in a backpack. Students' laptops serve as power supply and oscilloscope display. Peshkin critiques the traditional lab's constraints on time and place as leading to lab exercises that are "written in reliable cookbook style," with little room for creativity. Freed from those constraints, students can work more like engineers. They can design their own circuits, and learn to methodically debug them, which Peshkin sees as a special skill in itself. The portable lab design has been adopted by other professors for their courses, and has allowed more students to take classes that had previously been capped due to limited lab space. Peshkin has also revamped the annual Design Competition, increasing the technical level of the competition robots that students build. He has added workshops and lectures for the participants, and provides one-on-one consultation. For his contributions to the curriculum and his excellence in the classroom, Peshkin has earned enthusiastic praise from students, who often mention his commitment to their success.

- University Relations