Singer, Ober, Umbach, Wiesner earn teaching, advising awards

A genuine devotion to students, a rising star with captivating lectures, and a passionate instructor who has inspired many budding engineers – those are some of the ways students and colleagues describe MSE faculty members honored at the 2022 Cornell Engineering Fall Faculty Reception hosted Sept. 22 in the Statler Ballroom.

Four MSE faculty were presented with teaching and advising awards at the reception, which is an annual tradition that recognizes outstanding faculty efforts to modernize curricula and provide advising to students.

This year’s materials science and engineering awardees were:

Andrej Singer, Assistant Professor
Dorothy and Fred Chau MS '74 Teaching Award

Singer was described as an educator who has “quickly become one of our rising stars in research and teaching” by nominators. He was lauded for his “compelling lectures” taught with enthusiasm, charisma and humor, and for “an ability to engage a broad range of students and draw them into the subject matter regardless of if they are MSE Ph.D. students, MSE undergrads or engineering students from other majors.” Students specifically mentioned his lecture demonstrations and experiments as one of the methods Singer uses to keep them engaged.

Chris Ober, the Francis Norwood Bard Professor of Metallurgical Engineering
James M. and Marsha D. McCormick Advising Award

Ober was recognized for prioritizing the wellbeing and success of students, who describe him as “kind and enthusiastic,” and note admiration for his “lightheartedness and indefatigable diligence.” Nominators touted the amount of time Ober dedicates to meeting with students, especially first-year students and those seeking pre-enrollment. Said one student: “Professor Ober is always extremely friendly. He makes it known we can talk to him about anything, and made the seminar feel like a safe space. He really cares about our well-being.”

Christopher “Kit” Umbach, Senior Lecturer and Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies
Canaan Family Advising Award

Umbach advises all MSE transfer students, including several graduating seniors each year. His advising is recognized as going above and beyond, with colleagues noting the genuine care he possesses for students, especially when they are struggling. One colleague noted that his enthusiasm plays a large role in piquing student interest in the MSE major. Said one transfer student of Umbach: “I was continuously impressed by his sense of responsibility, sympathy, and ability to connect with the students. Without his professional advising, I would had never had such a smooth transition at that time and would never have had later success at Cornell MSE.”

Uli Wiesner, the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Engineering
Fiona Ip Li '78 and Donald Li '75 Teaching Award

Wiesner brings to the classroom an enthusiasm, dedication, and care for students, according to nominators. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced remote learning, Wiesner embraced the opportunity to try new teaching techniques, such as a ‘flipped’ classroom curriculum, that he continues to use today with rave reviews from students. Said a colleague: “This story is quintessential Uli – he takes obstacles and turns them around into chances to experiment and often he succeeds, as he did with the flipped classroom.” Another example of Wiesner’s adoption of alternative pedogeological approaches is his use of an oral exam format, which one student said “made me study the material in a different way.”

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