Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, September 8, 2014

2014 Departmental Awards

2014 Graduate Student Service and Teaching Awards

Pieter Spealman and Ming Zhang received the Department of Biological Sciences Graduate Student Teaching and Service Awards, respectively. The annual honors, which are now in their tenth year, were awarded at the Elizabeth Jones Departmental Retreat held at Hidden Valley Resort on September 6th and 7th.

Spealman, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate working in Joel McManus’ laboratory, was awarded the Graduate Student Teaching Award for his work as a teaching assistant for Dr. Dannie Durand’s Phylogenetics course. When describing Spealman’s teaching contributions, Durand stated, “Phylogenetics would be a much weaker course without Pieter's involvement.  He made contributions far in excess of what I would normally expect of a TA, on his own initiative and without prompting from me.”

Spealman had the drive to volunteer to give class lectures during the course, while also having extended office hours when students showed a need. He also “participated in mentoring and grading the independent projects of 03-727,” said Durand.

On Spealman’s efforts in assisting the Phylogenetics class, Michael Setzer, an undergraduate, said, “Pieter was an excellent teaching assistant and one of the best I have worked with over my four years as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University. Pieter put intense effort into his role as teaching assistant while still retaining a sense of humility and respect for his students.”

Zhang, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate working in Alan Waggoner’s laboratory, was awarded the Graduate Student Service Award. An active member of the biological sciences community, Zhang has served in a prominent role as a member of the Student-Invited Seminar Series (SISS) committee since its revival two years ago. The series, funded by Howard Hughes grants, gives graduate students in the department a chance to nominate a distinguished scientist they would like to invite for talks each semester.

He has also helped shape the Sciences Teaching Club. Since his first year in the program, Zhang has been involved in the Teaching Club, coming to preside as vice president and then president. “Ming has revitalized the teaching club,” said Shanna Bowersox, fifth-year Ph.D. candidate. “He led the effort for the Sciences Teaching Club’s very first off-site high school outreach event. Without Ming’s hard work, the outreach event would not have been a success.”

Along with his involvement in these clubs, Zhang has consistently attended and been involved with the yearly graduate student recruitment events, having hosted multiple students during both recruitment and orientation. His efforts show a dedicated member of the department who is actively committed to its continued success.

Congratulations to Pieter and Ming for their amazing efforts within the department and the CMU community!