Engineering Professor and Student Honored at the "Celebration of Teaching" Event

Professor Payam Heydari and TA Peter Dillon recognized for their excellence in education

July 18, 2005 – Samueli School faculty member, Payam Heydari, Ph.D., and doctoral student, R. Peter Dillon, were each recognized for their excellence in education at UC Irvine’s 12th annual “Celebration of Teaching” event, sponsored by the Instructional Resources Center (IRC) at the University Club on campus.

Organized each year by the Dean of the Division of Undergraduate Education and the Senate Council on Student Experience, the “Celebration of Teaching” event is designed to recognize and celebrate excellence in education and teaching.

Heydari, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and affiliated with the Center for Pervasive Communications and Computing, was bestowed with an “Excellence in Teaching” award, honoring his outstanding contributions.

He was nominated by the School’s Associate Dean for Student Affairs, John C. LaRue, Ph.D., who wrote a recommendation letter on Heydari’s behalf, outlining his prominent teaching accomplishments.

Teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses, Heydari said it is very important to interact with his students and constantly keep them motivated and involved.

“My students don’t feel that they’re lost in the process.  I allow them to present their views, and I think they appreciate the fact that their instructor pays attention,” he said.

Heydari also said he makes a special effort to incorporate both practical and industrial examples in his courses, in addition to teaching the standard collection of abstract materials.

For example, he said that he uses his love of rock music as a practical demonstration in his communication circuit course.  Playing an FM radio and changing music stations, he talks with his students about the frequencies, interferences, and traveling from one place to another, all while enjoying the music.

“I motivate them to understand what is happening,” he added.

Plus, he said that his students have had an indirect, positive impact on his own research, simply by questioning current technological issues and exposing him to new ideas and research angles.

Dillon, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science was presented with a “Most Promising Future Faculty Member” award.

Nominated by faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and teaching assistants (TAs) for excelling in his teaching, research, and service to UC Irvine, Dillon was one of two recipients selected as a promising future faculty member.

As part of this award, Dillon will receive a dissertation fellowship and fee waiver for one-quarter, allowing him the time and resources to focus on his own research dissertation.

Joining UC Irvine in 2000, Dillon said that he has received at least half of his Ph.D. program funding by working as a TA.  He has been given his first solo class this summer, teaching an introductory sophomore-level course, Principles in Materials Science.

“Being a TA the past four years, I’ve seen how much I enjoy working with students and the interaction I have with the undergraduates.  It is wonderful to be part of their experience and help them move towards their path of success,” he said.

Since 2003, Dillon has also been apart of the campus TAPDP program, or the “Teaching Assistant Professional Development Program” program.  This is sponsored by the IRC, and includes 16 hours of instruction that helps prepare TAs for their positions through interaction and skills-based training.

Further, Dillon has participated in the Pedagogical Fellows Program through the IRC, where he has worked to develop training for incoming TAs.  This program is designed as a mentorship opportunity and transition for experienced graduate students to junior faculty.

He said that both his advisor, Martha L. Mecartney, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and the IRC have played an important role in his development as an instructor and as a TA.                                   

“They have been a big influence on how I do things in the classroom,” he said.

Dillon also said that Mecartney has encouraged him with many teaching opportunities, and has been supportive with all of his extra training from the IRC.