Siddharth Satpathy Awarded 2017 Hugh Young Graduate Student Teaching Award
By Emily Payne
As a teacher’s assistant (TA), Siddharth Satpathy, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Physics, is described as compassionate, dedicated, nurturing, helpful and “one of the best TA’s ever” by students and faculty alike. During the last three years, Satpathy, better known as Sidd, has taught five different sections of the introductory course Physics for Science Students and taught Calculus in Three Dimensions for the Department of Mathematical Sciences. He also served as an instructor for two years in Carnegie Mellon University’s Summer Academy for Math and Science for high school students. In recognition of his enthusiasm for teaching and unyielding dedication to going above and beyond for students, Satpathy has been awarded the 2017 Hugh Young Graduate Student Teaching Award.
Students have nothing but overwhelming praise for Satpathy and faculty members admire his initiative to do more than what is required of TA’s. He was first recognized in 2015 with the Physics Department Teaching Award.
As part of his duties, Satpathy regularly teaches recitation to first year students at 8:30 a.m. His love of physics is near tangible as he dives into concepts and questions during each recitation, which students often note is not during their favorite time of day. Despite this, Satpathy’s early morning recitations have become nearly as important as the lectures because of the care he takes with reviewing relevant lecture concepts and challenging students through practice problems.
“He was never put off when we needed him to explain something more than once, or in a different way, and his patience helped quell frustration when a concept was difficult to grasp. He respected our intelligence, and his enthusiasm for the material manifested itself as boundless energy, smiles and humor, which kept all students engaged,” writes Aileen Zhai, a physics and philosophy major.
A lot of students have a running joke about not knowing Satpathy’s office hours because he can always be found in his office and is more than willing to answer students’ questions, even students who no longer have him as a TA. During course center hours, Satpathy often won’t leave until every question and lingering confusion has been resolved, even if it means missing his bus back home.
One of his greatest assets as a teaching assistant is his ability to inspire his students as a mentor and friend. Satpathy encourages physics majors to explore the complexities of the subject more deeply while also inspiring non-physics majors to gain an appreciation for a subject they once dreaded.
In particular, he discovered an interest in astrophysics in two of his students and nurtured that interest by introducing them to current research in the field and connecting them to undergraduate research projects in the Department of Physics.
“Sidd not only teaches and helps his students understand the material, he takes an interest in their personal lives. He constantly encourages them to not give up and mentors and nurtures them to make sure they feel they can do the work and succeed in the course,” said Associate Teaching Professor of Physics George Klein. “I have heard innumerable students tell me, ‘I could not have done it without Sidd.’”