Professor David Schmidt of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department and Professor Sarah Perry of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department have been selected to receive the two 2017 Outstanding Teaching Awards in the College of Engineering. Schmidt was cited by the selection committee for his commitment to redeveloping both of the first-year courses in MIE and for his history of mentoring undergraduate and graduate research students. Perry was recognized for her approach and success in teaching first-year students and for her development of a novel course in microfluidics. The two awards will be celebrated during the COE Senior Recognition Celebration to be held on Saturday, May 13, 2017.
Schmidt joined the MIE department in the fall of 2000, was promoted to an Associate Professor in 2006, and then promoted to full Professor in 2012. Prior to that, he earned his master’s degree from Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison.
As MIE Department Head Sundar Krishnamurty wrote, “Professor Schmidt is an extraordinary teacher and mentor, as evidenced by the many teaching awards and recognitions he has received, his consistently very high student evaluations, the letters from his current and former graduate and undergraduate students, the innovation, initiative, and passion he has shown in his teaching, and the number and quality of his undergraduate and graduate advisees.”
In 2003, Schmidt was awarded the Professor of the Year in the undergraduate Mechanical Engineering program. In both 2003 and 2008, Schmidt was awarded the Advisor of the Year in the same program. In 2009, he was given the Ralph R. Teetor Education Award by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) for his outstanding contributions to teaching and curriculum development, along with his leadership in student activities. In 2017, he was selected as a Fellow of the SAE, the highest grade of membership that recognizes and honors long-term members who have made a significant impact through leadership, research, and innovation.
Among the numerous comments from Schmidt’s students on behalf of his teaching prowess, one student said that “His clear, engaging teaching style made dense concepts easier to grasp, and by the end of the semester I felt that I had developed a deeper understanding of the material than I had in most engineering classes.”
Another student noted that “He could explain complex concepts in multiple ways to help us fully grasp them. This kind of teaching is crucial for students with various undergraduate backgrounds who want to learn the material deeply.”
Yet another student declared that “I'm a very curious student, and it is extremely important to me to have these opportunities to have positive, supportive interactions with my professors, and Professor Schmidt does a great job at this.”
Perry came to UMass Amherst after earning B.S. degrees in both Chemical Engineering and Chemistry and a M.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Arizona and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also gained valuable experience as a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, and as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California Berkeley.
ChE Department Head John Klier cited Perry’s “commitment to undergraduate teaching, her tremendous motivation to provide students with an understandable, dynamic, and compelling classroom experience, and her willingness to put substantial extra effort to propose and develop innovative and teaching and outreach programs.”
Professor Klier added that “Sarah’s teaching record clearly demonstrates a documented record of excellence. Her SRTI results are outstanding, and she has a record of teaching accomplishment which represents a new standard in the department for a new faculty member.”
Perry’s SRTI scores, according to her department head, consistently exceed scores for both the UMass Amherst campus and the College of Engineering, thus “indicating outstanding performance across all SRTI metrics. She received particularly strong scores for preparation, clarity, inspiration, interest, feedback, fairness, and overall performance.”
However, said Klier, the most compelling testimony to Sarah’s teaching excellence comes directly from the students.
As one student wrote, “I absolutely loved the professor’s passion, professionalism, expertise, kind personality, her caringness, her ability to connect with the students, the way she went about preparing her material, and the way she taught (making it understandable and easy).” The student added that Perry made it clear how much she genuinely wanted to help the students.
Another student explained that “Apart from her incredible openness as a teacher, Professor Perry is also great at inspiring students’ interests in the topics that she is discussing.”
Yet another glowing comment explained that “Students are lucky to get the chance to learn from people as dedicated and inspiring as Professor Perry. When I look back at my time at UMass and the things that helped to get me where I am, nothing will compare to the kindness and caring that Professor Sarah Perry has demonstrated.” (April 2017)