Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

2020-2021 Wimmer Faculty Fellows

We are pleased to announce the 2020-2021 Wimmer Faculty Fellows. These fellowships are made possible by a grant from the Wimmer Family Foundation and are designed for junior faculty members interested in enhancing their teaching through concentrated work designing or re-designing a course, innovating new materials, or exploring a new pedagogical approach. Fellows work in close collaboration with Eberly Center colleagues and receive a stipend to acknowledge the work it takes to improve one's effectiveness as an educator. 

Nesrine Affara headsotNesrine Affara
Assistant Teaching Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Mellon College of Science
Carnegie Mellon University - Qatar

Nesrine is redesigning Human Health and Diseases, a course aimed at teaching students outside of the Biological Sciences program how the human body works and to diagnose simple malfunctions of the organ systems. When Nesrine first taught this course in Fall 2019, she observed students struggling to connect conceptual frameworks to their real-world implications. It wasn’t until the end of the course where the “why” and the “how” seemed to come together for students: for example, why is vaping and cigarette smoking harmful for our lungs and how does a malfunction in the body express itself? To address this learning challenge, Nesrine plans to incorporate a series of clinical case studies at the end of particularly challenging units. In small groups, students will learn how to use critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills to identify and justify a diagnosis based on the clues and diagnostic tools provided in the case. Student groups will be able to present their diagnoses to an audience of their peers and discuss, as a whole class, which diagnoses are the most efficient and effective for the patient described in the case.


Michael Hilton headsotMichael Hilton
Assistant Teaching Professor
Institute for Software Research
School of Computer Science

 

 

Joshua Sunshine headsotJoshua Sunshine
Director, Undergraduate Research Program and Senior Research Fellow
Institute for Software Research
Human Computer Interaction Institute 
School of Computer Science 

 Michael and Josh are designing a new course entitled Crafting Software. This course will teach programming to students who need these skills as part of their undergraduate or graduate research, but whose work does not fall within the domains of computer science and computer engineering. Students will learn how to, for example, identify and correct problems with their code as well as how to read, organize, parse, and transform data. Alongside the content of the course, Michael and Josh aim to improve students’ sense of self-efficacy when it comes to programming and to help students feel like they belong to the community of programmers. This process will involve surveying students at the beginning of the course, using this data to develop targeted interventions, and continuing to measure students’ self-efficacy and sense of belonging throughout the course. 


Stephanie Rosenthal HeadshotStephanie Rosenthal
Assistant Teaching Professor
Department of Computer Science
School of Computer Science

Stephanie is redesigning Autonomous Agents, a senior-level, artificial intelligence (AI) course that she developed to give students a chance to deploy and test an AI system in the form of an autonomous greenhouse. Students work in teams to deploy and test their systems, and in the first version of this course, students struggled to work together effectively. As a result, groups failed to properly test their code and their AI systems did not perform as well as they could have. To address this challenge, Stephanie will be redesigning the assignments using the framework of Think-Pair-Share, an active learning activity consisting of individual, small group, and large group components. Students will first complete an assignment individually to practice new concepts (Think). Then the project teams will complete assignments geared towards practicing debugging and deployment of code (Pair). Finally, project teams will present on their progress and share their assessment of the deployment and lessons learned (Share). Not only will these assignments encourage all team members to participate in the work, but they will also build towards the larger AI greenhouse project. Stephanie will be collecting data on the assessments as well as data on group dynamics and the distribution of work. 


Vickie Webster-Wood HeadshotVickie Webster-Wood
Assistant Professor
The Biohybrid and Organic Robotics Group
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Department of Biomedical Engineering, by courtesy
College of Engineering

Vickie plans to design interactive demonstrations and to build virtual labs for the course “Gadgetry:  Sensors,  Actuators,  and  Processors.” Demonstrations and labs will leverage active learning to help students connect mathematical and mechatronics concepts to the real world. The virtual labs will allow enrolled students to troubleshoot measurable outputs, such as voltage and current, that industry experts have identified as essential skills for mechanical engineering graduates. Questions that accompany the labs will also ask students to report on their thinking and decision-making strategies. Vickie hypothesizes that these demonstrations and labs will improve students’ mechatronic intuition. 


Natalie McGuier HeadshotNatalie McGuier
Assistant Teaching Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Mellon College of Science

Natalie's Wimmer project is focused on designing a new lab research course on brewing science to complement her existing course called “Beer: A Yeast’s Perspective.” Her previous course helped non-biology majors to develop data analysis skills and to use the scientific method to examine microbiological and biochemical processes in an everyday setting. The goal of the new, complementary course will extend the focus on brewing science and provide students who may not otherwise have the chance to do formal research the "opportunity to conduct research in a popular, multidisciplinary field without having to volunteer their time or commit to an extended summer research program." A local brewery will provide samples for students to analyze, and students will produce data that will likely be of interest to the brewery's operation. In addition to course content, Natalie is interested in assessing student attitudes and self-confidence toward scientific literacy and research proficiency, as well as student intentions to pursue scientific pursuits in the future.