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Graduate Student Excellence Awards 2005-06

Teaching Awards

Raed Al Tal, Art History

Raed Al Tal draws upon his experience as an architect in his native Jordan, an urban planner, a former city mayor, an instructor of architecture and an architectural historian to inform his students and help them look at architecture and art as aesthetic products and as the products of a specific historical, political and cultural period.

He has TA’d several times, and independently developed three new courses on contemporary Middle Eastern architecture, design and social uses of the mosque and a survey of desert architecture, all of which have been “crucial” supplements to the curriculum.

Al Tal arrived in Binghamton just before Sept. 11, and he has remained open, patient and intellectually and personally generous. “His desire to share the rich heritage of West Asian architecture with our students, and the model of responsible teaching he has offered, are particularly valuable at this time, and to my mind speak centrally to what has made Binghamton a wonderfully unique place to pursue an undergraduate education,” one nominator wrote.

Jennifer Bauder, Anthropology

One faculty member’s letter states of Bauder, “Jen’s behavior has taught me a new definition of ‘ideal.’ … Her maturity, intelligence, diligence and professionalism are simply without comparison.”

Bauder believes that learning is an active process, not a passive transference of knowledge, and her students have responded well to this philosophy. They see her as fun, interesting, dedicated, supportive and approachable.

Her student evaluations contain such statements as: “she’s the best TA that I have ever had,” “she’s the most caring and knowledgeable” and “fabulous.”

Her students consistently speak of her with respect, as someone who challenges them, but always in a fair and friendly way. Bauder’s dedication to teaching and to her students is a credit to Binghamton University.

Ariel R. Belasen, Economics

Ariel R. Belasen always tries to fi nd ways for students to relate to the material he’s teaching by engaging them in debates and showing them how topics such as probability and statistics can be applicable to everyday life.

This attention to each student’s ability and investment makes him able to engage students, arouse interest and convey diffi cult ideas. He is tactful yet decisive, independent yet open to suggestions. He is effective in teaching rather dry topics, such as statistics, and more obviously juicy ones, such as poverty and discrimination.

His students say that his style of teaching makes them want to learn more. He develops connections between the concepts at hand and the students’ natural curiosity, and he readily adopts different techniques for different types of classes.

Daniel P. Brennan, Chemistry

Daniel P. Brennan sees teaching as an exceptionally creative act, one that allows an instructor the opportunity to communicate his understanding of a discipline to students in a manner that enables them to better appreciate the world in light of this new awareness.

In their letters, students cite Brennan’s care and concern for their progress. He is described as prepared and patient, as well as generous with his time. His students often credit him with helping to bring the most complex of concepts down to a level that both facilitates their understanding and inspires their further pursuit of the sciences.

As a testament to his abilities as a teacher, and as a result of his high level of skill, responsibility and dedication, Brennan was the only NSF GK-12 Fellow offered an opportunity to have the fellowship for three years in a row.

Kellie Deys, English

In Deys’ teaching philosophy, she writes, “I strive to create an environment of mutual respect which fosters an analytical dialogue from which all involved can learn.”

Her recommenders characterize her as an “insightful, conscientious, vibrant and innovative instructor. … Kellie extends herself to her fellow TA’s, engages eagerly in peer evaluation and devises creative ideas about how to frame suggestions for students to develop theses and work fruitfully in work stations. In general she motivates them to become critical not just functional — literates.”

Her students describe her as available, willing to listen, approachable, fair and knowledgeable. A former student wrote that not only does she “alleviate anxiety and fear, but she makes the class genuinely enjoyable with her personal approach to teaching, as well as her ability to share and comprehend students’ ideas.”

Charles W. Kanyi, Chemistry

A fellow graduate student wrote that Kanyi is, “a very deserving individual who asks nothing of anyone else, but gives so much to others, not just in the way of knowledge, but in all aspects of life.”

Kanyi bases his teaching on three important classroom objectives: First, to provide a comfortable environment for students so that they feel free to ask questions and express themselves; second, to motivate students by relating the material to their everyday lives and leading them from the known to the unknown; and lastly, realizing that all students have different strengths and abilities, and tailoring his teaching to students as individuals.

Kanyi seeks to make students aware that “whatever they are learning has a purpose in life.”

A faculty adviser writes about his “great enthusiasm, full dedication and skills, as well as his characteristic ‘big smiles.’”

Lina Begdache Marhaba, Biological Sciences

In all aspects of teaching, Begdache receives high accolades. She is adept in creating a dynamic learning atmosphere, and in illustrating concepts to engage the students and make science less threatening. She is held in high regard and is much admired by faculty and students alike.

One faculty member states that, “Ms. Begdache is a model instructor who is devoted to her students. She is constantly developing and exploring new teaching tools and methods. She completes course tasks ahead of time and never has to be reminded to accomplish anything associated with the class. She is very, very highly revered by students in her courses, who seek her out for course help as well as vocational advice.”

In all respects and by every account, she is a dedicated, enthusiastic and approachable teacher.

Dawnelle M. Paldino, Psychology

In her philosophy of teaching, Dawnelle Paldino writes, “My approach to teaching begins with the enjoyment I receive from interacting with students and my passion for teaching. When teaching courses, and mentoring and supervising students in research, I am eager to get to know my students and orient them to the fi eld of psychology. I thoroughly enjoy serving as a model of enthusiasm for learning, and leading and guiding my students toward personal growth. I look forward to learning more about teaching, expanding my skills and gaining more experience.”

She regularly trains undergraduates in the lab. Early on, she excelled as a teaching assistant for general psychology, which requires a massive organizational effort. As a TA for developmental psychology, her faculty observer was especially impressed with her command of the material, her competence and everyone’s comfort in the classroom.

Paldino is a bright, articulate, talented and motivated teacher. She will be an outstanding asset to her profession and to her future students.

Vern Walker, Comparative Literature

Students in Vern Walker’s courses fi nd in their engagement of a piece of literature a different method to think about their lives. He believes that “no matter to which fi eld of study or work students dedicate themselves, the study of art opens up new possibilities in that other work that is a passion in their lives.”

Indeed, one of his former students wrote, “Studying to be a teacher myself one day, I look up to Vern’s charisma and confi dence … and hope to one day be viewed in the same light by my own future students.”

His supporters in comparative literature call him “the best teacher in our department.” They go on to say “we cannot imagine any teaching assistant superior to him within the University.”

Walker possesses an uncanny ability to evoke student participation, even when he teaches the most difficult texts. Students are excited by his mere presence.

Bronlyn Wassink, Mathematical Sciences

Comments from Wassink’s student evaluations speak for themselves. Here are some examples of what they’ve written:

“She was an excellent teacher. She explained the work well, was very nice, created a friendly environment and was very helpful outside of classes.”

“Ms. Wassink was very helpful and enthusiastic at all times. … Unlike past attempts to learn calculus, this time with Bronlyn’s help I was successful.”

“She is constantly putting herself out there for her students by making extra problem sets and solutions as well as constantly telling us to come to offi ce hours so she can help us further. In short, Bronlyn rocks as a TA.”

In her teaching philosophy she says, “I strive to maintain a lively, positive, active and constructive learning environment for each of my classes. I try to present information in multiple ways as to coincide with my students’ varied learning styles. … The results have made pursuing my goal of being an effective teacher very satisfying.”

Melyssa Wrisley, History

Melyssa Wrisley has become one of the History Department’s most successful TAs. She creates an exceptionally inviting, tolerant and engaging teaching environment in her classroom. As one of her students wrote, Wrisley’s “passion to teach week after week added life and excitement to the discussions and I looked forward to attending each week.”

Wrisley has used artifacts, music, video clips, pictures, magazines and even children’s games to give her students “a sense of lived experience that transcends a simple recitation of facts and fi gures.” In her teaching philosophy, she says she “wants to be able to communicate history’s importance to students from all disciplines, to show them new ways to conceptualize both themselves and the society we live in and help them to understand that academic concepts have concrete meaning in their own lives.”

She “has an extremely sharp and agile mind, … an easy rapport with students … and is a joy to be around,” writes a faculty member.

Research Awards

Jane Alberdeston, English

Jane Alberdeston is an exceptionally gifted writer with innate talent and promise. Since 2000, she has had eight publications, including stories, poems and interviews. Most notably, Alberdeston has a young adult novel forthcoming through Penguin Books titled Sister Chicas. Co-authored with two other writers, Sister Chicas is the story of three Latina friends, each facing the challenges of adolescence.

Through her writing, Alberdeston seeks to study the aspect of myth in contemporary short fi ction of women of color. In exploring her Puerto Rican roots, she “redefi nes what it is to be American.” A faculty member calls her work “not only gorgeous, but important.”

Alberdeston has been a generous writer in the community. She has given talks and led workshops with children and high school students, often to wonderful reviews. She has been an active and dedicated student and scholar who has enriched the experience of the students and community of Binghamton.

Satish Chaparala, Mechanical Engineering

Satish Chaparala’s current research on stress sensors imbedded within electronic chips may lead to improved performance of these systems as well as lower manufacturing costs. He has developed state-of-the art computer models for predicting the reliability of electronic systems, and even now his research is widely used at Analog Devices and other companies engaged in electronic packaging.

He has published three technical papers as the lead researcher and presented each at international electronic packaging conferences. He has also written several technical reports and made presentations to Integrated Electronics Engineering Center industrial partners. He has co-authored two additional packaging- related publications and his current research will result in at least two more publications.

His supporters are “very confi dent that over the years Mr. Chaparala’s work will be highly cited by many researchers in the fi eld. Through his hard work and dedication to excellence, he has made signifi cant contributions to his fi eld and garnered the respect of the faculty as well as his profession.”

Catherine Dent, English

Catherine Dent is a gifted writer with a promising future. She has an elegant sense of language, a subtle understanding and a highly original, quick intelligence.

Her recent publications in prominent national literary journals speak for themselves; she has published several stories, most notably in the Patterson Literary Review and The Portland Review. Her commitment to Binghamton University’s Harpur Palate has ushered the journal onto the national literary stage.

Her dissertation will soon be published, and she recently had the honor of being recommended to the Italian Fulbright Commission by the National Fulbright Committee for a full-year grant to do research in Italy for her latest novel. It is clear that Dent has the uncanny ability and gift to not only balance the tasks of academic life, but blend them together the hard work, research, cognition, art and creativity “to a greater degree than any student I’ve ever worked with,” writes a distinguished professor.

Tammi Doremus, Psychology

Tammi Doremus has made a number of important scientific contributions during her years at Binghamton, including her work examining behavioral effects associated with age-related differences between adolescents and adults and alcohol and drug consumption. Her research has helped study and explain increased drinking during adolescence and the subsequent development of alcoholism.

Doremus has received several awards for her research, has two published research articles, two more in press and several in line for submission.

“Tammi is a serious scientist,” writes a faculty adviser. She is a “bright and dedicated young researcher with an impressive record of research accomplishments during her graduate career at Binghamton. She is a truly remarkable, capable and unusually promising young scientist.”

Jan Lukas, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Jan Lukas’ research introduces a new direction in digital forensics: the use of pattern noise of digital imaging sensors that act as “fingerprints” that can be extracted from and detected in images. This kind of technology would be relevant in a courtroom, for instance, where it would be the digital equivalent of unique bullet scratches from a particular fi rearm, and there are countless other important military and industrial applications. In fact, Lukas’ algorithms have already been implemented in software that has been made available to the U.S. government and the FBI.

During his stay as a research assistant, Lukas developed two methods that constitute major advancements in the emerging fi eld of digital forensics. His ideas materialized in one U.S. patent application and one international patent application. Rather than incremental improvements of existing technology, Lukas’ contribution is a relevant, groundbreaking and innovative idea that has spun off further research. He is already a recognized leader in his field.

Christopher Parmeter, Economics

In his research, Christopher Parmeter uses nonparametric techniques to analyze the implications of hedonic price theory taking account of adjustments based on measures of quality in housing markets or the effect of multiple children on newborn health. He also uses nonparametric approaches in his work on the club convergence hypothesis, which integrates initial economic conditions with preferences, technologies, rates of change, government policies, etc.

He has co-authored five papers, one of which is already accepted for publication in a top econometrics journal, and another was accepted for publication in a book chapter. Parmeter also has several papers under review at excellent journals, and neither the faculty he has worked with nor his peers have any doubt that he will have many more publications to his name very shortly, and a fine research career as a serious scholar.

Robert Ristuccia, Psychology

Robert Ristuccia is an impressive young scientist whose rapid trajectory of research progress foretells a notable career. One example of his capability is his extraordinarily adeptness with experimentation, as exemplified by his persistence and care in setting up, trouble-shooting, modifying and validating ethanol inhalation procedures in the psychology department laboratory.

In addition, Ristuccia has a solid record of research accomplishments studying adolescent and adult use and abuse of alcohol and drugs he has an extraordinary published paper, another in press and several more well under way toward publication. He has presented numerous papers at meetings of professional research societies, and he holds an extremely competitive National Research Service Award fellowship funded by the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse.

He is in every respect an outstanding young researcher intelligent, creative, hard-working, dedicated and capable.

Natasha Shanker, Chemistry

Natasha Shanker’s research performance has been recognized twice before by the Department of Chemistry, with summer research fellowships in both 2003 and 2004. This award recognizes her continuing accomplishments.

Shanker’s prolifi c and important work has the potential of adding new fundamental knowledge to the development of truly special next-generation drugs for cancer treatment.

She has co-authored three publications that have appeared in outstanding journals: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, the European Journal of Organic Chemistry and Tetrahedron.

A fast and effi cient worker, Natasha embraces all of her responsibilities, honoring her teaching and service commitments with the same level of enthusiasm that makes her such a successful researcher. Another faculty member’s letter of support calls her “one of the most amazing graduate students ever to work in my lab.”

Joe Sharkey, Computer Science

Joe Sharkey’s research focuses on the optimization of multithreaded and multicore architectures for performance and powerefficiency in modern microprocessors.

He has done a significant amount of work, in terms of both quality and quantity, in various areas of computer architecture, and the results of his research have appeared in highly competitive peer-reviewed journals in the field of engineering.

“Mr. Sharkey is an exceptional young researcher who not only knows his stuff from a science and technology perspective, but who grasps the importance and possesses a rare ability to communicate the excitement and promise of his research to others for even the greatest idea or discovery will have no impact unless its importance can be translated to the rest of the world,” one faculty member writes.

Jozef Sofka, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Jozef Sofka has investigated the need for novel laser positioning systems. His research culminates in the development of the Omniwrist, a device that emulates the kinematics of a human wrist, and has the potential for becoming a new generation of gimbals for use in engineering simulations. This orienting device is a significant advancement over commercially available devices both because the current equipment is expensive and because his design has a significant performance improvement.

Sofka is pursuing a patent on his design through the SUNY Research Foundation.

Sofka’s colleagues and advisers all see him as creative, highly dedicated, successful and indispensable in every aspect of his career as a graduate student and researcher.

Rastko Vasilic, Materials Science

In his statement of research interest, Vasilic said his long-term goal is to “try to incorporate my knowledge into a framework of existing and still-to-be-found solutions that will inevitably be required to solve today’s energy puzzle. I intend to do my best in order to prove myself a valuable contributor to this task.”

Vasilic has two research papers already published, including one in Electrochemical and Solid State Letters. As fi rst author of both of these, Vasilic has demonstrated his ability and diligence.

A faculty member wrote that “his accomplishments, demeanor and heart have provided leadership for all of the students in the Materials Science Program at Binghamton University. He is not only polite, gentle, clear and concise, but also an expert in his fi eld and a superb graduate student.”

Markus Zisselsberger, Comparative Literature

Markus Zisselsberger is a fabulous colleague and a leader among his graduate student peers. Warm, kind and modest, he is a model student and model citizen of Binghamton.

His dissertation, “The Poetics of Illumination: The Reader W.G. Sebald,” explores the fi ction and criticism of this acclaimed writer, and links Sebald’s poetics and deep emotions to wider theoretical trajectories (including Kafka, Borges and Walter Benjamin). He is at work on what will certainly become an important book, one that will be a unique contribution to the emerging body of scholarship on Sebald.

Zisselsberger’s other publications include a piece titled “Cultural Nationalism in the Twilight of History: Robert Musil’s Austrian ImagiNation,” and he also coedited a recent book on Ingeborg Bachmann, who was one of the most significant post-war female writers in German language literature.

In addition to a dissertation fellowship from Binghamton University, he was awarded a prestigious Max Kade Dissertation Summer Grant in 2004.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08