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University honors five faculty for teaching, scholarship and service

Five College of Engineering faculty received 2019 distinguished awards for teaching, scholarship and service from The Ohio State University.

Distinguished University Professor and Distinguished Scholar Award

Dorota BrzezinskaBrzezinskaRenowned scholar and leader in navigation, mapping and geodesy Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska, the Lowber B. Strange Designated Professor in Civil Engineering, received a 2019 Distinguished Scholar Award and was named a Distinguished University Professor—an honor bestowed on no more than three exceptional faculty per year.

Her research is primarily in the fields of Global Positioning System/Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GPS/GNSS), multi-sensor integrated systems for assured navigation and autonomous vehicle navigation. Brzezinska’s most significant contributions include a novel approach to GPS orbit determination, which provided high-precision orbits and demonstrated for the first time the unique capability of diurnal and semi-diurnal Earth rotation parameters estimation using GPS signals. This pioneering work led to the advanced development of a NASA-sponsored new approach to kinematic/reduced dynamic precise orbit determination for Low Earth Orbiters. Brzezinska led an Ohio State team in the groundbreaking project Airborne Integrated Mapping System, which delivered first-in-the-world fully digital directly georeferenced high-accuracy airborne mapping system prototype based on tight integration of GPS and inertial navigation system.

One colleague stated, "Professor Brzezinska has had a vital and lasting impact on satellite navigation for more than 20 years. She has established an impressive research group at The Ohio State University that is recognized around the world for their work on geodesy, surveying and precise positioning using GNSS."

She is the first woman from the university to be named to the National Academy of Engineering and is a Fellow of the Institute of Navigation (ION), the International Association of Geodesy and The Royal Institute of Navigation.

Distinguished Teaching Award

Kyle EzellEzellWidely recognized at Ohio State for his contributions to the classroom, Knowlton School of Architecture Professor of Practice Kyle Ezell received a 2019 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching. His past honors include the College of Engineering’s Charles MacQuigg Award, the Faculty Award for University Community Members Who Have Made a Positive Influence on Ohio State Students from the Ohio State Student Life Residences on 10th, and the Award for Outstanding Commitment to Student Education from the Ohio State Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association. When you hear from his students, the grounds for these accolades quickly become apparent.

“Professor Ezell brings an unprecedented level of excitement and passion to each class he teaches,” writes an alumna. “His enthusiasm is contagious, and as a student in one of his classes you can't help but feel the same amount of excitement towards what you're working on.

A graduate student describes the courses Ezell led in the design of focus groups to design living environments for individuals with autism—a partnership with the non-profit Autism Living. The project won the Ohio State Faculty Award for Excellence in Community-Based Scholarship. “We had countless conversations and thoughtful debates about what is equity in planning, and how to deal with the ‘otherness’ or diversity involved in any planning project,” writes the student.

From helping a student coming to terms with navigating college life as a member of the LGBTQ community to “going the extra mile” for a student who underwent a sudden heart surgery, Ezell’s students detail a record of caring that far exceeds the requirements of his job.

John HorackHorackOne of the first things you’ll notice the in the classroom of 2019 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching recipient John M. Horack are the words he writes on the board each day: “All are welcome.” As a student explains, “He does this to remind us that he wants us all to feel invited and that we all have a friend in him.”

That’s a mantra Horack, the Neil A. Armstrong Chair in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, lives in the classroom. An undergraduate woman of color describes a time that one of her classmates—also a woman of color—had difficulty expressing her thoughts about something because of cultural differences. “She stopped in the middle of her statement and said she did not want to go on because she thought Dr. Horack wouldn’t be able to understand with him being a white man… He assured her he wanted to hear what she had to say because he wanted to understand. After she shared, he commented on how brave she was for sharing and thanked her for giving him a new perspective.” Horack earned students’ respect that day, as they saw him genuinely interested in learning from his students and being unafraid to delve into subjects that might feel uncomfortable.

In his class on leadership, Horack models leadership for his students by being a leader in the classroom, including sharing his own insecurities and flaws. “It was really cool to have a professor who wasn’t afraid to show his flaws and admit his mistakes, because it taught us so much about leadership and gave us insight into Dr. Horack as a person,” writes a student. “It showed us that he is a human, which is always a great way to build connection and trust, which is something a leader must know how to do.”

Distinguished Faculty Service Award

Blaine LillyLillyAssociate Professor Blaine Lilly has long been a tireless champion for Ohio State, first as a student in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and since 1998 as a faculty member with a joint appointment in the departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Integrated Systems Engineering, and an adjunct appointment in the Department of Industrial, Interior, and Visual Communication Design. He received the 2019 President and Provost's Award for Distinguished Faculty Service in recognition of his contributions.

Lilly serves as associate chairperson for undergraduate programs and has distinguished himself through his commitment to advancing Ohio State’s institutional mission. He formerly served as chair of the university council on academic affairs and serves as co-project leader on the LIFT OMIC co-located internship program.

He advocates for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, serving on numerous department committees that benefit students, including the undergraduate studies committee and continuous quality improvement committee. Lilly has also been a driving force in the ongoing efforts between Marion and Mansfield campus faculty to create a new program in engineering technology that addresses Ohio’s growing need for technically adept employees.

In 2012, Lilly played a key role in developing significant changes to the mechanical engineering undergraduate curriculum—designing and piloting a new course that introduces sophomores to fundamentals of machining and assembly by providing opportunities for hands-on experience in building a six-cylinder air motor. More than 1,600 majors have since taken this course. Lilly likewise helped re-design a critical manufacturing course required for seniors.

Lilly has a strong record of scholarship with a unique focus on interdisciplinary approaches to product design. He has mentored nearly 60 student researchers at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In 2006, he received the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching and in 2014 was elected as a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Lecturer

Satya Seetharaman SeetharamanSatya Seetharaman brings an engineer’s approach to education: he builds a sturdy base of knowledge and then carefully scaffolds new ideas until, almost unbelievably, a grand structure is in place. An average lesson from the 2019 Provost's Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Lecturer recipient is peppered with jokes about the topics at hand, along with a series of challenging questions, all of which are designed to keep his class excited and engaged.

An integral member of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Seetharaman frequently teaches some of the department’s most challenging courses. Despite this—or perhaps because of it—he routinely receives glowing feedback from his students and the highest evaluation scores of any instructor, tenured or otherwise, in the entire department.

“I have never had a professor who has inspired me to learn and understand material for a class like I did in Professor Seetharaman's class,” writes one student. “He has pushed me to go above and beyond when it comes to my own education, yet guides me when I have trouble… He embodies qualities that every professor should have, and then he goes above and beyond that.”

In addition to being an outstanding teacher, Seetharaman has enriched the mechanical engineering curriculum by developing two new courses, including a hands-on experimental course designed especially for undergrads.