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Buckeye engineering faculty and staff receive university awards

Five College of Engineering faculty and one staff member were honored with 2017 distinguished teaching, scholarship and service awards from The Ohio State University.

Distinguished Teaching Award

Dean David Williams and others surprised John Clay with the 2017 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching during class.Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Associate Professor John Clay received a 2017 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching in recognition of his superior teaching. He believes in preparing students as you would Olympic athletes—through rigorous training. He is simultaneously acknowledged among students as an outstanding teacher and one who assigns a significant amount of challenging homework.

One student nominator writes that Clay got wind of a class-wide late-night study session and drove through snow and sleet to review with the students for three hours—and bring them pizza. It is this commitment to teaching that inspires his graduate and undergraduate students alike, which is evidenced by student evaluations that place him among the ranks of the department’s most esteemed professors.

Curriculum development is one of Clay’s strengths, and he played a major role in re-envisioning the department’s centerpiece courses for the quarter-to-semester transition and the department’s move to the new building. He uses technology to increase student engagement and to measure and improve comprehension, and has introduced students to tools they will use in their careers. He creates an active learning environment that combines short lectures with hands-on problem solving and brings with him a wealth of real-world engineering expertise to better prepare students to work in the field.

Distinguished Scholar Award

Provost Bruce McPheron surprises Leonard Brillson with the 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award.One of the world’s foremost scholars in the field of electronic material surfaces and interfaces, Leonard Brillson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and physics, received a 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award. His contributions have led to an understanding of the fundamental importance of atomic scale chemical bonding, metallurgical reactions and crystalline defects at interfaces, and their effects on the electrical contact properties of semiconductors—the building blocks that drive computers, lasers, displays and cellphones.

Billson’s interdisciplinary research spans physics, materials science, electrical engineering and vacuum technology. His work has created a new framework for designing the contacts inside all electronics, impacting the choices of contact metals, semiconductor growth methods, the “reactive” vs “unreactive” nature of their interfaces and the use of “interlayers” to control interface chemistry and next generation electronic devices.

One of his colleagues stated, “Major areas of the surface research in electronic materials—fundamentals of surface and near-surface defects, semiconductor/metal contacts, interfacial diffusion, surface relaxation and reconstruction—would be much paler without Leonard Brillson’s illustrious and massive input. Starting with his pioneering work on metal-induced surface states, his seminal contributions to the development of surface photovoltage into a standard and ubiquitous experiential probe, through numerous other milestones and all the way to the complex nanoscale devices studied by Len and associates today, Brillson’s scholarly achievements have been truly exceptional.”

Brillson has authored or co-authored over 350 journal articles and four books. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Materials Research Society and the American Institute of Physics.

(from left): Dean David Williams, Sr. Vice President for Research Caroline Whitacre and Sr. Associate Vice President for Research Janet Weisenberger present the 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award to Bill Marras.Fellow 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award winner and Honda Chair in Transportation William Marras is a leader in the field of occupational biomechanics. A professor of integrated systems engineering, his greatest contributions include a patented system that allows researchers and safety professionals to quantitatively assess the risk of back injury to workers who perform material handling jobs and a sophisticated computational model of the human spine. This model allows spinal surgeons to visualize how specific pathologies are dependent on the dynamic loads that must be tolerated by various tissues. Marras formed the interdisciplinary Spine Research Institute in 2015 to systematically improve the prevention, evaluation and treatment of spine disorders through the identification of disorder causal pathways.

Said one of his colleagues, “I can state without any reservation, there is nobody in the field of ergonomics and human factors today who is more visionary, distinguished, accomplished or better recognized for their innumerable contributions to the science, education and practice of occupational biomechanics than Bill Marras—nobody.”

Marras has secured more than $31 million in research funding while at Ohio State. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He has received the Volvo Award for Low Back Pain Research and the Vienna Award for Outstanding Research in Physical Medicine. He has published more than 290 peer-reviewed articles in esteemed journals, including The Spine Journal, Clinical Biomechanics and Human Factors.

Award for Distinguished Faculty Service

Provost Bruce McPheron congratulates Ann Christy on receiving the 2017 President and Provost's Award for Distinguished Faculty Service.Engineering Education Professor Ann D. Christy, whose success in teaching, research and service to the university make her a well-rounded faculty member, received a 2017 President and Provost's Award for Distinguished Faculty Service. She consistently takes a leadership role in teaching, administrative and curricular matters, and her contributions have transformed the Engineering Education Innovation Center into a full-fledged academic department, the Department of Engineering Education. Not interested in resting on her laurels, Christy continues to serve the department and the college by developing a proposal to create an engineering education PhD program at Ohio State that would be one of only a few in the United States.

Her record of faculty service stretches back to the beginning of her career at Ohio State when as an untenured professor at the time, she participated in the ABET accreditation process and served as chair of the Departmental Academic Affairs Committee. With an aptitude for getting things done and a willingness to lend her time and talent for the good of the university, she is an asset to every project and committee in which she is involved.

While an associate professor, Christy was selected to serve as Interim Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Service, a role typically filled by a full professor, but granted to Christy for her exceptional interpersonal skills and collegiality. During the university’s semester conversion, she was recruited to by the Office of Academic Affairs to lead faculty to think big as they re-envisioned their curricula. She continues her legacy of service today on the advisory council for the University Institute for Teaching and Learning.

Award for Teaching by a Lecturer

Ryan McPherson's colleagues and friends were ready to celebrate when Provost Bruce McPheron presented him with the 2017 Provost’s Award for Teaching by a Lecturer.Electrical and Computer Engineering Lecturer Ryan J. McPherson was recognized for teaching excellence with a 2017 Provost’s Award for Teaching by a Lecturer.

In McPherson’s talented hands, a once-unpopular course has been revolutionized. Students rate the class significantly higher under his management for his ability to run the class efficiently, deliver real-world examples that improve comprehension and develop a rapport with students that encourages engagement. Students speak about McPherson in superlative terms, calling him the greatest and the best. They call his lectures fun—a word students did not use to describe this class in the past.

Faculty within and outside the department describe McPherson as refreshing, and his efforts in the classroom go above and beyond. He draws upon his own school experiences, allowing him to build stronger connections and empathy with his students. To improve engagement outside the classroom, he makes recordings of his lectures available online for students to review at their own pace, and he provides copious resources like old exams and problem sets with answers.

For his exceptional commitment to teaching excellence, McPherson has been appointed course supervisor for all 2000-level classes in the department. He also served on a committee to reorganize two major-entry courses into three new ones, leading the development of a course on circuits that has proven highly successful.

Distinguished Staff Award

Chad Bivens, aUniversity official surprise 2017 Distinguished Staff Award winner Chad Bivens during class. technical laboratory manager for the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, received a 2017 Distinguished Staff Award, which celebrates staff members who have made a significant impact at Ohio State.

Bivens has significantly improved the department through the transformation of machine shop operations, including helping direct a significant curriculum change during the semester conversion. Serving as a mentor to more than 1,300 students, he has provided unique hands-on, experiential learning for students throughout their time at Ohio State.

One nominator stated, “Over the past six years, Chad has become an indispensable part of our organization. In MAE, we pride ourselves on the quality of our teaching, and he is without question one of the best teachers in the department and a valued resource in every way.”