Engineering Faculty and Teaching Assistants Celebrated for Teaching Excellence

Nov. 30, 2023 - The exceptional undergraduate teaching of Samueli School’s faculty and graduate students was acknowledged by the UCI Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation at UCI Teach Day and the 31st Annual Celebration of Teaching on Sept. 21, 2023.

Quoc-Viet Dang won the Excellence in Digital Learning award honoring his demonstrated exceptional use of teaching technology and digital course engagement. An assistant professor of teaching in electrical engineering and computer science, Dang was nominated by a fellow faculty member. While most course assignments only pertain to one class, Dang created and incorporated a single case study on autonomous robot navigation into several assignments throughout five different courses. This allowed students who were taking the series to continue investigating and discussing the same problems while building upon knowledge from the previous course. Furthermore, Dang’s initial problems were intentionally unsolvable to generate deeper discussions.

“Previously, student engagement in an assignment typically ended after it was submitted,” Dang explained. “For each subsequent course where a variation of the same topic was introduced, students began to more critically think about the requirements, inputs and outputs.”

Mo Li, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, was also acknowledged at the event as the Samueli School Dean’s Honoree. She teaches statics, a fundamental mechanics course for engineering majors at UCI. Her method incorporates real-world applications and case studies into the material, encouraging participation from students and emphasizing developing physical intuition and insight into the subject. Li views teaching as a challenging and rewarding process of continuous adjustment and searching for the most effective ways to bring out students’ full potential.

“I really like her real-life examples,” commented a student who recently took Li’s class. “Now, everywhere I go, I look at construction cranes, bridges and cantilevers, and all I can think of are equations from this class.”

Also recognized at the event were two engineering graduate students, Derek Kuan-Yu Hu of biomedical engineering and Rozhin Yasaei of computer engineering, who were named distinguished Pedagogical Fellows (2022). Fellows are competitively selected graduate students who are highly effective, exemplary teaching assistants.

In addition, four engineering professors – Bernard Choi, Beth Lopour, Brett Sanders and Mark Walter – were chosen for UCI’s inaugural class of Faculty Academy for Teaching Excellence (FATE), in honor of their focus on student growth, pedagogical development and community building in the Samueli School.

UCI Teach Day is an all-day event that includes a keynote speaker, panel discussions and networking opportunities. The day concluded with the Celebration of Teaching awards.

– Lilith Christopher