Po-Shen Loh and Brooke McCartney Win Mellon College of Science Awards for Education
Po-Shen Loh and Brooke McCartney — winners of this year's Mellon College of Science awards for education — will be recognized at the university’s Celebration of Education event on April 26. Their accomplishments will be further celebrated at the Mellon College of Science annual meeting on May 2.
The Richard Moore Award: Brooke McCartney
Brooke McCartney, associate professor of biological sciences, received The Richard Moore Award for her substantial and sustained contributions to the educational mission of MCS. “Brooke is a model for us all: a dedicated, devoted and imaginative lecturer and mentor for our undergraduates, and an energetic contributor to all aspects of our undergraduate training mission at Carnegie Mellon,” wrote Biological Sciences Professor Aaron Mitchell when nominating McCartney for the award. For many years, McCartney has taught both introductory and graduate level courses in developmental biology, a subject with difficult concepts that can be hard for students to grasp. She has developed a variety of innovative approaches to help her students learn the details of development while fitting those details into the larger picture. “She really pushed us to critically evaluate the material and to apply our knowledge to real biological questions,” wrote one of her former students. “Even though she was teaching a course on developmental biology, she was really teaching us how to be scientists.”
McCartney has been a major player in providing authentic research experiences for the department’s undergraduate students. She was co-PI on an NSF grant that helped to support the department’s summer undergraduate research program for several years, and she served as the director of and instructor for the HHMI Summer Research Institute. Her own lab is a powerhouse for productive undergraduate research. She creates unique and insightful projects that have an appropriate level of complexity for each individual researcher. “Dr. McCartney was a mentor and a role model, and the lessons I learned from her continue to influence me as a scientist today,” wrote a former student who worked in McCartney’s lab.
Julius Ashkin Teaching Award: Po-Shen Loh
Po-Shen Loh’s constant energy and boundless enthusiasm have garnered him legions of fans. “I would take whatever class he teaches, any subject, any time,” a student wrote in support of Loh’s nomination for the Julius Ashkin Award for Excellence in Teaching. Loh, associate professor of mathematical sciences, teaches Discrete Mathematics, Extremal Combinatorics, Topics in Combinatorics, and the Putnam Seminar, an innovative problem-solving class inspired by the annual Putnam exam. Enrollment in the Putnam Seminar has doubled over the past few years, to about 200 students, thanks to Loh. As one of his former students put it: “I cannot overstate the effect that his passion for math has on students.” Loh kicks off each class by asking for student ideas on how to solve a given problem. He then runs with those ideas, guiding students through the problem-solving process and revealing the intuition behind the math.
Outside of the classroom, Loh is an ambassador for mathematics. He always finds time to chat about math with a student, even if it’s for five minutes in the hallway. He travels the world giving talks to diverse audiences, from fellow mathematicians to high school students. And he coaches the U.S. International Mathematical Olympiad team, which finished in first place at the 2015 competition in Thailand.