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Past Award Winners

Each year, the University Committee must select winners of the Graduate Awards of Excellence, recognizing outstanding graduate students in a variety of categories. We commend all graduate students, past and future, who strive for excellence academically and professionally.

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  •    2016 Award Winners

    • Award for Excellence by a Graduate Teaching Assistant

      Soheil Salehi Mobarakeh, Computer Engineering PhD, College of Engineering and Computer Science

      Mobarakeh is a doctoral student in the Computer Engineering PhD program. Mobarakeh was described as the most effective, responsible, innovative and caring GTA his adviser has ever had. He helps students have a better understanding of computer organization via hands-on experience. Mobarakeh’s teaching style is highly effective, and in fact, it is so innovative that a paper outlining his pedagogy has been accepted for presentation to the American Society for Engineering Education Southeast Section Conference.

      Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching 

      Arielle Gaudiello,  Mathematics PhD, College of Sciences

      Gaudiello is a doctoral student in the Mathematics PhD program. Gaudiello is a dedicated teacher who creates a welcoming environment in which students feel comfortable seeking her help and advice. Her teaching style is highly effective and students perform exceptionally well in her classes. Gaudiello also relates mathematical concepts to everyday uses and tries to integrate interesting and relatable topics into her lesson plans.

      Award for Outstanding Master's Thesis

      Jared Church, Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science 

      Church’s thesis is titled: Dishwashing Water Recycling System and Related Water Quality Standards for Military Use. His thesis focused on recommending water quality standards for dishwater recycling for military use. In remote locations with limited water supply, such as those in military instillations, it is imperative to conserve freshwater. The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy have been working on standards for greywater and they have requested his paper for future consideration. Church has published his results in several national conferences and also in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Church is continuing his studies in the Environmental Engineering PhD program at UCF and he has received the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium doctoral fellowship for 2015-2016. 

      Award for Outstanding Dissertation

      Dr. Juneyoung Park, Civil Engineering PhD, College of Engineering and Computer Science

      Dr. Park’s dissertation is titled:  Exploration and Development of Crash Modification Factors and Functions for Single and Multiple Treatments. Dr. Park’s research focused on a critical assessment of the newly developed Highway Safety Manual. He identified critical flaws in the manual and provided novel solutions to rectify numerous issues and improve the prediction of traffic accidents. His work has already been incorporated into the CMF Clearinghouse and will impact the future version of the Highway Safety Manual. Saving lives and suffering is the utmost objective for engineers, and his work will achieve that. His mentor was Mohamed Abdel-Aty, PhD.

      Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Life Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Robert Peale, PhD,  Professor of  Physics, College of Sciences 

      Dr. Peale's students describe him as an outstanding mentor and great physicist. His eagerness to teach his students has been described as extraordinary. Dr. Peale’s vision and support have enabled his students to become managers and leaders in their chosen professions, whether in academia or industry.

      Social Sciences, Humanities, Education, Business, Fine Arts and Health Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Carey Rothschild, PhD, Instructor, Department of Physical Therapy, College of Health and Public Affairs

      Dr. Rothschild's students describe her as a model of research expertise. She provides guidance and assistance where needed, yet allows students the autonomy to complete their research goals. She believes that professionalism refers to upholding the core values of the physical therapy profession: altruism, excellence, caring, ethics, respect, communication and accountability.

  •    2015 Award Winners

    • Award for Excellence by a Graduate Teaching Assistant

      College of Arts and Humanities :  Benjamin Lancaster, Film MFA

      Lancaster is a master’s student in the Film program in the School of Visual Arts and Design and has been a teaching assistant for three semesters. His lectures have been superior and his energy is infectious, as it gets the students excited about the material. While working hard in his academic life, Ben is also married, raising a toddler, preparing to shoot his feature thesis film and is holding down two jobs.

      Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching 

      College of Arts and Humanities :  Melissa Pompas Mansfield,  Rhetoric and Composition, MA

      Pompos Mansfield is a master’s student in the Rhetoric and Composition program. She is very dedicated to helping her First-Year Composition students become more effective writers and communicators. Based on her performance as a teacher during her first year as a GTA, Melissa was awarded the Department of Writing and Rhetoric’s Graduate Teaching Assistant Teaching Excellence Award in Spring 2014.

      Award for the Outstanding Master's Thesis

      College of Sciences:  Matthew Tye, Biology, MS

      Tye’s thesis is titles, Integral Projection Models Reveal Interactive Effects of Biotic Factors and Disturbance on Plant Demography. Tye’s research interests are in population modeling, theoretical ecology and biological conservation. His work aims to inform better management and conservation.  Tye’s mentor was Pedro Quintana Ascencio, PhD.

      Award for the Outstanding Dissertation

      College of Sciences:  Dr. Mohammad Ali Miri, Optics and Photonics PhD

      Dr. Miri’s dissertation is titles, Parity-Time and Supersymmetry in Optics. Dr. Miri’s research is mainly focused on the theory and applications of parity-time (PT) symmetry in optics and has made a number of significant contributions to this field. His dissertation research has led to more than 50 publications, including 18 journal papers. Most of them were published in the highest impact journals of optics and physics, including Science, Nature, Nature Photonics, and Nature Physics. His mentor was Demetrios N. Christodoulides, PhD.

      Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Life Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Mohamed Abdel-Aty, PhD, Department Chair and Professor of  Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering. 

      Dr. Abdel-Aty has supervised more than 50 Master’s and PhD students, served on 17 completed PhD committees at UCF as well as nine PhD committees at universities around the world. He currently supervises 10 PhD students. 

      Social Science, Humanities, Education, Business, Fine Arts and Health Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Rosemarye Taylor, Interim Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs in the School of Teaching, Learning and Leadership and Professor of Educational Leadership. 

      Since 2000, Dr. Taylor has chaired more than 50 dissertation committees for doctoral students, many of whom are administrators or faculty in higher education and leaders in schools or in school organizations.

  •    2014 Award Winners

    • Award for Excellence by a Graduate Teaching Assistant

      College of Sciences:  Alvar Rodriguez Garrigues,Physics,PhD

      Rodriguez Garrigues is the leading Graduate Teaching Assistant in a project to completely renovate and modernize the laboratories associated with the calculus-based introductory physics course to enhance interaction amongst students, instructors, and material. His tireless commitment to developing these innovations made him integral to the success of this project, for which he was honored as the 2012 Outstanding Physics Teaching Assistant Award by the American Association of Physics Teachers

      Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching 

      College of Education and Human Performance :  Jeremy Townsend,Education, Exercise Physiology Track, PhD

      Townsend plays an integral role in teaching students in the Sport and Exercise Science program where his enthusiasm has earned exceptional student ratings. By integrating his research into teaching, Townsend is able to deliver knowledge to the classroom that has not yet made it into the textbooks. His passion and commitment to infusing his class material with cutting-edge research captivates students and distinguishes him as an exceptional teacher.

      Award for the Outstanding Master's Thesis

      College of Engineering and Computer Science:  Steven M. Kraft, Mechanical Engineering, MS

      Kraft’s thesis, The Characterization of the Effects of Stress Concentrations on the Mechanical Behavior of Micronic Woven Wire Mesh, resulted in the development of a new anisotropic elasticity and plasticity theory for materials used in homeland security and water reclamation applications. His extraordinary thesis research has already received multiple citations from third party authors. Kraft’s mentor was Ali P. Gordon, PhD.

      Award for the Outstanding Dissertation

      College of Sciences:  Dr. Yuanwei Zhang, Chemistry, PhD

      Dr. Zhang’s dissertation, Squaraine Dyes, Design and Synthesis for Various Functional Materials Applications, focused on the modulation of optical properties of materials through supramolecular assembly, resulting in enhancements in his field and publications and significant contributions to papers in leading journals, such as Langmuir, Biomaterials, Biomedical Optic Express and ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. His mentor was Kevin Belfield, PhD.

      Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Life Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Kevin Belfield, PhD, Department Chair and Professor of Chemistry.

      Dr. Belfield feels it is his responsibility to be a mentor, both in and out of the research laboratory, and to lead by example. His weekly meetings with his diverse research group provide consistent input and encouragement when the research becomes challenging as well as opportunities for advice from and collaboration with other experts in the field. Dr. Belfield takes a personal interest in his students. “It is a true privilege to mentor students, and continually learn with them, and play an influential role in shaping their professional pursuits.”

      Social Science, Humanities, Education, Business, Fine Arts and Health Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Eduardo Salas, PhD, University Trustee Chair and Professor of Psychology.

      Dr. Salas’s outstanding reputation in the field and as a mentor draws students to the University of Central Florida. He develops the competencies needed for students to be successful scientist-practitioners in the field: how to collaborate, how to be adaptive, how to think on your feet. He recognizes students’ abilities, providing opportunities to further their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses, promotes critical thinking, and ensures that his students leave as confident professionals.

  •    2013 Award Winners

    • Award for Excellence by a Graduate Teaching Assistant

      College of Business: Meghan DiGiacomo, Business Administration, MBA

      Meghan is mentored by Kathie K. Holland, MBA, who notes that Meghan truly wants each student to succeed and regularly receives compliments about Meghan's exceptional work. Meghan is known for her timely assignment grading, detailed feedback, and office hours held each workday. She was a GTA for four semesters in How to Start a Business as well as Strategic Management.

      Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching 

      College of Business: Sean R. McMahon, Business Administration, Management Track, PhD

      Sean instructed multiple Capstone and Moral Foundations of Business courses. Sean's mentor, Marshall J. Schminke, PhD, says Sean helps students become not just better business students, but better business people. With very high course evaluations from 4.7 to 4.8 out of 5, Sean is considered the best the College of Business has to offer.

      Award for the Outstanding Master's Thesis

      College of Engineering and Computer Science: Ashley Ewh, Materials Science & Engineering, MS

      Ashley's thesis is entitled Effects Of Allotropic Transformations On Interdiffusion Behavior In Binary Systems, and it investigates the diffusional interactions that occur between the metallic materials that make up the fuel and cladding components of a nuclear fuel plate. Ashley's mentor was Yongho Sohn, PhD.

      Award for the Outstanding Dissertation

      College of Engineering and Computer Science: Dr. Abhishek Saha, Mechanical Engineering, PhD

      Abhishek's dissertation is entitled Evaporation, Precipitation Dynamics And Instability Of Acoustically Levitated Functional Droplets, which used optics, laser-based experiments, and ultrasonic levitation to detail droplets that are only hundreds of microns in diameter. Abhishek's mentor was Ranganathan Kumar, PhD. 

      Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Life Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Dr. Peter Delfyett, University Trustee Chair and Professor of Optics, ECE, and Physics

      Through the large research group he oversees, Dr. Delfyett believes that successful mentoring involves instilling a sense of belonging, building confidence and being supportive, as well as setting high expectations of the student. He ensures his students feel they are integral in the success of the research group and that their contributions are significant to the overall knowledge of science and engineering communities. Dr. Delfyett regularly acts as the “group cheerleader”, with the conviction that “if the mentor doesn’t believe in the student’s capability (i.e., cheering the student on) it is difficult for the student to believe in their own potential for greatness.”

      Social Science, Humanities, Education, Business, Fine Arts and Health Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Dr. Glenn Lambie, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational and Human Sciences and Director of the School Counseling Program

      Dr. Lambie aims to model the behaviors that he wants to foster in his mentees. He believes doctoral students learn much of what it means to be a faculty member based on their observations of their mentors. Therefore, he models effective research and scholarly productivity to his students, for example, by frequently offering opportunities for the students to engage in research that leads to refereed national publications. 

  •    2012 Award Winners

    • Award for Excellence by a Graduate Teaching Assistant

      College of Engineering and Computer Science: Andrea Cumming, Environmental Engineering, PhD

      Andrea is mentored by Dr. Steven Duranceau. She was a GTA for multiple Chemistry and Biology lab sessions. Andrea was well-known amongst her students for being organized, prepared, friendly, approachable, and extremely helpful.

      Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching

      College of Education: Dr. Kelly J. Grillo, Exceptional Education, PhD

      Kelly instructed mixed mode and online courses and consistently received class evaluations ranging from Very Good to Excellent. Dr. Lisa Dieker, Kelly's mentor, says Kelly is one of the most passionate, bright, and forward thinking students she has met in her career.

      Award for the Outstanding Master's Thesis

      College of Engineering and Computer Science: Zhao Wang, Electrical Engineering, MS

      Zhao's thesis is entitled Nonlinear Estimation and Control for Assistive Robots, and it centers on the development of smart assistive robot arms that can aid individuals living with paralysis. Zhao's mentor was Dr. Aman Behal.

      Award for the Outstanding Dissertation

      College of Engineering and Computer Science: Dr. Haitham Bahaitham, Industrial Engineering, PhD

      Haitham's dissertation is entitled A Framework for Quantifying Sustainability of Lean Implementation in Healthcare Organizations. Haitham's research was the first to address factors of lean in a balanced manner, says his mentor, Dr. Ahmad K. Elshennawy.

      Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Life Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Dr. Gita Sukthankar, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

      As an advisor, Dr. Sukthankar's goal is to train students to be capable and persistent researchers who are able to tackle the challenges of the future. “I teach my students to be good problem solvers, to be self-educating, and how to work in teams. My belief is that those skills never go out of style and are critical to post-graduation employment success,” Dr. Sukthankar says. The students she advised highlighted her constant professional and personal support. 

      Social Science, Humanities, Education, Business, Fine Arts and Health Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Dr. Rosa Cintrón, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational and Human Sciences, Higher Education and Policy Studies 

      Dr. Cintrón says she offers her students her brain to pick, her ear to listen, and a solid push in the right direction, when needed. “My aim is to always develop students so that they will surpass me,” says Dr. Cintrón. She offers moral and personal support, encouraging her students to open up about their important, personal matters because she believes that what happens outside their classroom matters. Dr. Cintrón also holds a Dissertation Writing Group (DWG) that meets every four‐five weeks at her dinner table and simulates a classroom environment.

  •    2011 Award Winners

    • Award for Excellence by a Graduate Teaching Assistant

      College of Sciences: Aaron Muth, Chemistry, PhD

      Aaron was a GTA for both the General Chemistry and the Organic Chemistry Labs, which Otto Phanstiel, PhD, Aaron’s mentor, says is a challenging endeavor. Aaron also skillfully lectured to classes with enrollment ranging from 1000 to 1500 students.

      Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching

      College of Sciences: Timothy P. Colyer, Sociology, PhD

      Timothy taught courses in the Sociology department. His mentor, James Wright, PhD says Timothy developed a loyal following of students by making the coursework relatable, interesting, and fun, and received outstanding student evaluations.

      Award for the Outstanding Master's Thesis

      College of Sciences: Kathryn Windes, Biology MS

      Kathryn’s thesis is entitled Treefrog (Hyla Squirella) Responses to Rangeland Management in Semi-Tropical Florida, USA. Her research enhanced conservation practices of amphibians by developing tree frog shelters and studying the frogs' genetic variations.

      Award for the Outstanding Dissertation

      College of Sciences: Dr. Carlos Toro, Chemistry, PhD

      Carlos’ dissertation is entitled Polarization Dependent Two-Photon Absorption Properties of Chiral Molecules. His research was the first to measure the difference in absorption between left and right circularly polarized light in optically active systems. 

      Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Life Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Dr. Linwood Jones, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of the Central Florida Remote Sensing Laboratory

      Dr. Jones has more than forty years of experience in NASA, DOD, and commercial space programs. His philosophy for mentoring is to “pay it back” for those who have mentored him throughout his career. “I consider it a privilege to mentor the graduate students, who are my research assistants,” Dr. Jones says. “It is very rewarding to see them graduate and become productive members of the engineering and scientific community.” He continually works to improve himself because he believes learning is bidirectional.

      Social Science, Humanities, Education, Business, Fine Arts and Health Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award

      Dr. Lisa Dieker, Professor of Exceptional Education and Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar 

      Dr. Dieker was known for her honesty about the benefits and challenges of the exceptional education field. She stressed that a great future faculty member is one who realizes the importance of a healthy balanced academic, personal, and professional life. Dr. Dieker’s students say she had the ability to identify students’ untapped talents and worked to develop them. She provided encouragement, but also pushed students out of their comfort zone toward a path of excellence. 


 

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award degrees at the associate, baccalaureate, master’s, specialist, and doctoral levels. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call (404) 679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of the University of Central Florida.

Please note the commission's expectation that contact occur only if there is evidence to support significant non-compliance with a requirement or standard. For other information about UCF’s SACSCOC accreditation, please contact the university's SACSCOC liaison in UCF's Office of Academic Affairs.

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