Susan Graul and Helmut Vogel Win Mellon College of Science Awards for Education
Susan Graul and Helmut Vogel—winners of this year’s Mellon College of Science awards for education—will be recognized at the University Celebration of Education ceremony on April 23. Their accomplishments will be further celebrated at the Mellon College of Science annual meeting on May 7.
The Richard Moore Award: Helmut Vogel
Physics Professor Helmut Vogel received The Richard Moore Award for his substantial and sustained contributions to the educational mission of MCS. Vogel joined the Physics faculty in 1983 and his teaching excellence was evident early on. Within his first six years at CMU, he won two teaching awards—MCS’s Julius Ashkin Award and the university’s William H. and Frances S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching.
“His excellence in the classroom and his dedication to the education of our students have not, in any way, waned since then,” wrote Physics Professor and Department Head Stephen Garoff when nominating Vogel.
Throughout his 33-years with MCS, Vogel has taught nearly every semester. His repertoire includes Concepts in Modern Physics (a course for non-majors), Electricity and Magnetism (for advanced physics majors), and virtually every Introductory Physics course offered by the department. Over the years, Vogel has made great efforts to establish new and better ways of teaching physics to majors and non-majors alike. He worked with members of the Center for Innovation in Learning, the predecessor to the Eberly Center, participating in the first large-scale study of their interactive learning software and collaborating on a “Language Across the Curriculum” project.
Vogel has excelled at communicating with and motivating students in the variety of introductory physics courses he has taught. From 2000-2010, his average FCEs were 4.8 for the instructor, and 4.6 for the course itself. Because of his great success with introductory courses and his clear understanding of how to help students succeed, the Physics Department asked Vogel to lead the team which is modifying and developing all six introductory courses so that they are in tune with the contemporary MCS core curriculum.
Over his many successful years teaching physics, Vogel has forged close bonds with his students, becoming more than a teacher—he is a mentor and a friend. Many alumni still keep in touch. “To this day, he maintains interest in what I am doing, how I am doing, and where I am going as a person and a scientist,” wrote a former student in support of Vogel’s nomination. “While Helmut started out as my professor, he quickly became my friend and I hope, at this point, I can also be called his colleague.”
Julius Ashkin Teaching Award: Susan Graul
Susan Graul, associate teaching professor in chemistry (as of 7/1/15), received the Julius Ashkin Teaching Award for her unusual devotion and effectiveness in teaching undergraduate students. Nearly every chemistry major passes through Graul’s back-to-back laboratory courses: Laboratory II: Organic Synthesis and Analysis and Laboratory III: Molecular Design and Synthesis. By the end of those two semesters, students say that they really start to feel like chemists.
“Looking back, it is almost mind boggling to think that I learned so much material in only two semesters, but it seemed almost effortless at the time due to Dr. Graul’s teaching excellence,” wrote a former student in support of Graul’s nomination.
Graul, who joined the faculty in 1992, has high expectations of her students, but she works very hard to support and encourage them along the way. Her students speak highly of her willingness to make herself available whenever they need help, whether it’s in the lab, during office hours or by email. They also rave about her clarity of communication and depth of knowledge.
Her colleagues commend her for continually updating the course material to improve not only her courses but also her students’ experiences in the courses. When enrollment in her Lab II course nearly doubled over the span of several years, Graul experimented with a variety of approaches to ensure that the quality of students’ experience was maintained despite the larger class size.
“Throughout her time in the department, she has established herself as our expert in laboratory education focused on organic synthesis and analysis,” wrote Karen Stump, Chemistry Teaching Professor, when nominating Graul for the award.
“I did not fully realize how much I learned from Dr. Graul’s classes until I was outside of the CMU environment,” wrote a former student. “During a summer research experience, I frequently found myself using the techniques I had performed in the labs…During interviews, I was able to answer questions based on the experiments I had done…And during the time I worked as a chemist, I was able to apply the concepts I had learned to the various projects I was working on.”