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Purdue Graduate School News

May 6, 2020

Graduate School announces excellence in teaching and mentoring awards

The Purdue University Graduate School announced the recipients of the Graduate School Excellence in Teaching Award and the Graduate School Mentoring Award for Postdoctoral Trainees and Graduate Students.

The Graduate School Excellence in Teaching Award is considered the highest honor given to teaching assistants at Purdue. Recipients have demonstrated excellence in teaching and mentoring, along with accomplishments in service/outreach and scholarly publications.  The 2020 Graduate School Excellence in Teaching Awards recipients are Michael Lolkus, Aya Saleh, and Elle Rochford.


Michael LolkusMichael Lolkus is in his second year of his Ph.D. program in mathematics education under the supervision of his advisor, Professor Jill Newton. Michael’s research interests are centered around equity in mathematics education. Specifically, he is interested in exploring students’ and teachers’ mathematics identities and how site-based professional development influences teachers’ instructional practices and mathematical knowledge for teaching.  He earned an M.A. in mathematics education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.S. in mathematics education at Purdue. After graduating from Purdue, he joined Teach For America and taught at his placement school in Newark, NJ, for five years. Throughout his tenure, he served as an algebra teacher, mathematics department chair, and a member of the Instructional Leadership Team. While pursuing his master’s degree, he taught mathematics and developed curricular materials for students at Hunter College. His students said, “I really appreciated how Mike left us in the class to draw our own conclusions in the class discussions by incorporating excellent readings. Being that the class’s main purpose was to complete our research into practice paper, I felt that the workload outside of that paper was manageable. Mike was respons[ive] when we needed guidance but didn't micromanage our work process. I really appreciated that because it allowed me to really dive in and focus on what I wanted to for my research paper.”


Aya Saleh.jpgAya Saleh is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. She works under the supervision of Tamara Kinzer-Ursem, the Marta E. Gross Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering. Her research focuses on understanding the temporal and spatial protein dynamics in embryonic and adult tissues. She has published three first-author publications and presented her work in several national meetings. During her doctoral program, Aya received several awards and fellowships, including the Robert Truitt Fellowship, College of Engineering Outstanding Research Award, and Magoon Award for Excellence in Teaching.  Her students said, “Aya was one of the best TAs that I have had. She would not only explain things to us, but ensure that we had a good understanding of the material as well. Her teaching was interactive and made students think about and come to a conclusion about an answer rather than just telling the answer,” and “Aya was an indispensable resource for this course, her feedback in class and timely response to emails concerning lab were incredible. Aya clearly has vast stores of knowledge surrounding this class, and her grading on assignments was useful and constructive. Best TA I’ve had so far”.


Elle Rochford.jpgElle Rochford is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology. Elle Rochford completed her master’s degree at Purdue, and is now in her third year of the Ph.D. program supervised by Professor Rachel Einwohner. Elle said, “I believe teaching should be accessible to all students regardless of financial, medical, and personal circumstances. I build courses to be low cost, utilizing open access materials and online resources.” Rochford studies social movements, race and ethnicity, inequality, and political sociology. Her dissertation examines the reproductive justice movement through social media data. Her recent work explores political performances on Instagram. One of her students said, “I loved the material and all of the extra readings she gives to help people understand concepts in multiple different ways.”


The Graduate School Mentoring Award for Postdoctoral Trainees is awarded to trainees who have proven to be outstanding mentors in the lab, in the field, or in the classroom. Mentoring can be related to one or more of the following areas: research design and analysis, career and professional advice, and personal guidance. The 2020 award goes to Caitlin Proctor.

Caitlin ProctorProctor has received her Ph.D. and is currently a postdoctoral fellow, focusing on providing safe drinking water and understanding reactions during water delivery that might affect drinking water quality. As a postdoc, much of her work has been on urgent drinking water quality issues (e.g., wildfires affecting water quality in Paradise, California), and to address these issues in a timely manner, the success of the entire team is critical. She stated that, “Working with Purdue students has been an invaluable experience, and I’m proud of the success we’ve achieved together, as well as their individual successes.”  Proctor will begin a tenure-track faculty position at Purdue in ABE/EEE in January 2021. She looks forward to continuing to work with Purdue students in the upcoming years.  Her students said, “Dr. Proctor is engaged in providing students with opportunities to achieve the most out of their research endeavors. With a natural skill in organization, she is attentive in training and encouraging students in techniques that enhance their efficiency in writing and project execution. Dr. Proctor’s availability and approachability encourage mentees to seek her out for advice. She is also flexible in helping students troubleshoot issues that arise. One of my most memorable experiences with Dr. Proctor involved her showing patience and quick-thinking as she worked with me to process a time-sensitive career decision.”


Subramanian Chidambaram and Ashleigh Kellerman received the Graduate School Mentoring Award for Graduate Students. This award is presented to graduate students who have proven to be outstanding mentors in the lab, in the field, or in the classroom in research design and analysis, career and professional advice, or personal guidance and tutoring. 

Subramanin ChidambaramSubramanian Chidambaram is a third-year Ph.D. student working at the C Design Lab in the School of Mechanical Engineering. His advisor is Karthik Ramani, Donald W. Feddersen Distinguished Professor in Mechanical Engineering. He works in the field of Human-Computer Interaction, trying to develop advancements in computer software interfaces for mechanical engineering applications.  His students said, “His wise advice and willingness to explore and analyze my options gave me the clarity that helped me choose the path I am in now,” and “His advice on how to approach research advisors for a potential research opportunity, availability of potential teaching assistant positions all over campus, and exploring different aspects of job/internship hunt have been critical in my understanding of how things work in the United States.”


Ashleigh KellermanAshleigh Kellerman is currently a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Her advisor is Professor AJ Schwichtenberg. Broadly speaking, her research intersects family processes, clinical applications, and advanced methodologies to inform early autism detection and intervention efforts. One of Kellerman’s students said of her guidance: “Beyond research lab duties, Ashleigh was happy to share her story of pursuing graduate school. On multiple occasions, she gathered students to answer questions about the application process, work experience, and life as a graduate student. These chats were so insightful that they influenced my decision to pursue graduate education and certification in ABA Therapy (a treatment approach for children with autism).”

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