Teaching Innovation Award-Celebration of Education - Carnegie Mellon University

Teaching Innovation Award

2017 Teaching Innovation Award Recipients

DJ Brasier & Maggie BraunD.J. Brasier  & Maggie Braun

Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Biological Sciences; Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, Mellon College of Science

The project, ‘Small-group discussions substantially increase the value of a primary-literature module in a large introductory biology course,’ began as a convergence between two different projects that both started in mid-2014: a Wimmer Faculty Fellowship that D.J. Brasier received to investigate how to best teach students from primary scientific literature in introductory biology and a Simon Initiative ProSEED grant that Maggie Braun received to expand active learning in the core biology curriculum. Their primary innovation was to rework an existing module designed for upper-division developmental biology courses to maximize its effectiveness in a large, heterogeneous introductory biology course (03-121: Modern Biology). In so doing, they discovered that peer instruction at a critically challenging point in the module significantly increased student performance on assessments.

In refining their approach, they found that student success was dramatically improved when one particularly challenging point in the sequence of lectures was identified and replaced with small-group discussions. Brasier and Braun believe that this has the potential to be adopted broadly as a way to help students past particularly challenging concepts in a wide range of courses. Their data suggests that identifying crucial lectures for these sticking points in any discipline and canceling the lecture in favor of peer-led, small-group discussions may improve student comprehension and performance on that material and on the related material presented in lecture. They hope that as their results are communicated within CMU and more broadly, this approach will be explored by other instructors.

Daragh ByrneDaragh Byrne

Assistant Teaching Professor, School of Architecture

Daragh Byrne is an assistant teaching professor at the School of Architecture and the Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where he explores the design of experiential media systems through process-oriented methods and human-centered exploration of emerging technologies. His teaching and research reflects this interest with a current focus on the Internet of Things and tangible interaction design. At CMU, and also in his previous role as an assistant research professor at Arizona State University’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering, he manages the NSF-funded XSEAD project. This has led to a partnership between CMU and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities to extend this project and deliver a new online platform for arts-integrative scholarship.

Byrne also leads the recently launched MakeSchools.org effort to catalog Making in higher education. He defended his Ph.D. at Dublin City University in August 2011, holds an M.Res. degree in design and evaluation of advanced interactive systems from Lancaster University and a B.S. in computer applications from Dublin City.

MCS First Year Seminar CommitteeMCS First-Year Seminar Committee

William Alba, Director, Sciences & Humanities Scholars Program; Director, Advanced Placement Early Admission Program, Mellon College of Science Dean's Office and Dietrich College of Humanities & Social Sciences Dean's Office

Maggie Braun, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Biological Sciences; Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, Mellon College of Science

Amy Burkert, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Biological Sciences; Vice Provost for Education, Carnegie Mellon University

Heather Dwyer, former Teaching Consultant, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Eric W. Grotzinger, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biological Sciences

Kunal Ghosh, Assistant Head For Undergraduate Affairs, Department of Physics

John Hannon, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, Carnegie Mellon University

Jon Minden, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

Veronica Peet, Senior Academic Advisor, Mellon College of Science

Karen Stump, Teaching Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies and Laboratories, Department of Chemistry

Russel Walker, Teaching Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences

Emily Weiss, Teaching Consultant, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

The MCS First-Year Seminar Committee created this course to introduce and support the new MCS Core Education, which challenges each of our students to grow in four dimensions: 1) as scholars who are deeply trained in their disciplines; 2) as professionals who are adept at communicating to broad audiences and working in diverse, multidisciplinary teams; 3) as individuals with a sense of wellness and balance; and 4) as people to build communication and teamwork skills.

Focusing on the habits of successful scientists and mathematicians, this course provides a unique opportunity to influence student development and the overall undergraduate experience of all MCS students.  Broadly, the course has several goals, including building MCS community, easing the transition from high school to college, and laying the foundation for their remaining MCS Core education requirements. We also provide practice in building communication and teamwork skills that will be important at CMU and beyond. We’ve generated a unique curriculum that allows students to interact with faculty, alumni and their peers throughout the semester and, importantly, they get to know themselves better through numerous reflective exercises.

Overall, we see the EUREKA! course as a highly innovative model for a first-year seminar at CMU and beyond. It offers an interactive and engaging experience that impacts student learning and improves campus connections in their first semester, while preparing them to be successful persons, professionals, scholars, and citizens.

Ryan TibshiraniRyan Tibshirani

Associate Professor, Departments of Statistics and Machine Learning

Ryan Tibshirani is an associate professor in the Department of Statistics and the Machine Learning Department. He joined Carnegie Mellon as a faculty member in 2011. Prior to that, he obtained his Ph.D. in statistics at Stanford University in 2011 and his B.S. in mathematics at Stanford University in 2007.  

His research interests lie broadly in statistics, machine learning and optimization. More specifically, he is interested in high-dimensional statistics, post-selection inference, nonparametric estimation, convex optimization and convex geometry. He is also interested in developing methods for epidemiological forecasting, particularly flu forecasting.

Tibshirani considers himself lucky to be at Carnegie Mellon University and has tremendously enjoyed his time collaborating with amazing colleagues and students, as well as teaching wonderful students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

David YaronDavid Yaron

Professor, Department of Chemistry

David Yaron is a professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, where he works on both computational chemistry and education research. In his computational work, he uses electronic structure theory to model the photophysical properties of organic materials. This includes the effects of disorder and dielectric screening on properties of relevance in light-emitted diodes and photovoltaics. More recently, he is exploring ways to use machine learning to lower the computational cost of electronic structure models.

In addition to teaching introductory chemistry at Carnegie Mellon, he develops and studies the impact of online educational materials for introductory chemistry courses. His ChemCollective project is a digital library supporting community use and authorship of these materials. A central feature of ChemCollective is a virtual laboratory that allows students to design and carry out their own experiments. The collection includes tutorials on difficult concepts and scenario-based learning activities. The materials are used worldwide, with over 900,000 unique visitors in 2016.

Yaron served as director of the Chemistry LearnLab within the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center and has authored chemistry materials for Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative. He also co-chaired the College Board committee that redesigned the AP Chemistry course to shift the course emphasis toward conceptual learning and use of chemistry to develop arguments and carry out investigations.


Teaching Innovation Award – NEW for 2016

This award honors specific teaching innovations implemented by full-time Carnegie Mellon faculty members. It recognizes teaching practices designed to improve student learning in online, blended or face-to-face CMU courses. Innovations may be any teaching strategy used in a course, class meeting, assignment or other learning activity. Annually, three to five faculty (or faculty teams) will be honored.

The award is intended to recognize and disseminate CMU teaching practices based on the:

  • originality of the teaching strategy
  • impact on student learning and/or engagement
  • potential for widespread adoption within or across disciplines
  • potential for scalability.