Five Department Members Honored with College and Campus Awards

Five members of the Department are among this year's recipients of college and campus level awards, the highest such number in recent history: Bruce Berndt has been on the faculty of the Department since 1967, and since 2009 holds the title of Center for Advanced Study Professor, one of the highest distinctions bestowed on faculty members on this campus. He is the author of twelve books and over two hundred papers in analytic number theory and related areas. Since the mid 1970s the focus of his research has been on proving the thousands of claims in the notebooks left by the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, a monumental task for which he received the 1996 AMS Steele Prize.

Berndt's record of advising graduate students is nothing short of phenomenal: thirty students have received their PhD degree under his direction, and four more students are currently working on a thesis under his direction. In the one hundred year history of our department, only two faculty members have had more PhD students than Berndt. As astonishing as these numbers are, they only begin to tell the story. Berndt's dedication to his students, his willingness to make time for each of his students, and his open door policy are as legendary as the homemade ice cream at Berndt's house where he and his wife frequently host his students. Letters solicited from former students consistently speak to Berndt's near superhuman devotion to his students. One former student writes: "No matter how long it took, he made the time to answer each of my questions in detail. [...] It is difficult for me to fathom how he accomplishes all that he does and still manages to be such a thorough and thoughtful reviewer of his students' work."

Perhaps the greatest testament to Berndt's mentoring skills are the successful careers that nearly all of his former students are now enjoying. His former students and postdocs occupy academic positions at institutions ranging from small liberal arts colleges to large state universities in the U.S. and leading universities in Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, India, and Turkey, as well nonacademic positions at prestigious industry research labs.

Jeremy Tyson joined the Mathematics Department as Assistant Professor in 2002, was promoted to Associate Professor in 2008, and was designated 2008-09 Helen Corley Petit Scholar by the LAS College. The author of more than forty articles and two monographs, he is internationally known for his research at the interface of geometry and analysis.

Tyson has an exemplary record of classroom teaching that earned him eleven appearances on the List of Teachers Ranked Excellent since 2006 and the Department's Distinguished Teaching Award for Tenured Faculty in 2011. He has taught at a broad range of instructional levels, from large lecture calculus courses to honors calculus courses, service courses in differential equations, upper level honors courses, and graduate courses. He excels in all of these settings, with an average instructor rating of 4.6 across all courses. His students describe his classes as both challenging and rewarding and rave about the exceptional quality of his lectures. One former student writes: "Prof. Tyson always delivered exceptionally clear lectures and it was a pleasure to listen to him. He revealed the mathematics as fundamental, natural, and beautiful. I looked forward to working on the problem sets."

Tyson is particularly interested in facilitating the transition from undergraduate courses to the graduate curriculum. He regularly teaches courses in the Math Honors Sequence, he has developed new courses for this sequence, and he has advised and mentored undergraduate students and helped prepare them for graduate studies. One of his former mentees went on to earn a PhD from the University of Chicago and is now Moore Instructor at MIT.

In addition to his own extensive instructional activities, Tyson left an indelible mark on the teaching mission of the Department through his service as Chair of the Department's Teaching Awards Committee during the four year period 2004--2008, the longest and most productive such service in recent history. Thanks to his leadership and initiative, the Department instituted in 2007 departmental teaching awards that complement the college and campus level awards and provide an added incentive for all instructors to excel in their teaching.

Jane Butterfield entered our graduate program in 2006 and is expected to receive her PhD in August 2012 under the direction of Professor Jozsef Balogh. The college and campus level teaching awards she earned this year cap an impressive list of honors and accomplishments that include the 2010 Brahana TA Instructional Award, multiple fellowships, and a Masters degree in Mathematics Education.

Her teaching philosophy is rooted in the principle that "a good teacher is not a solution manual." Describing her approach to teaching she says: "Rather than being a solution manual, I am a solution catalyst: I encourage solutions to occur in the students around me." She stresses the importance of "learning through doing rather than just watching" and often answers a student question with another question. While such a student-centered instructional style demands more of the students than a traditional lecture style, it is very effective, and students come to realize the benefits of this approach, as reflected in comments such as the following: "This frustrated me to no end, but I am very thankful she did this."

Butterfield employed this philosophy to great success teaching courses in the Department's Merit Workshop program - a long-running, highly successful program which offers active learning discussions within the calculus sequence. She taught Merit sections in both recitation and standalone format, developed course materials for Merit sections, and served as mentor to other Merit TAs; she has become one of the most successful instructors in the history of this program.

Her exemplary teaching earned her consistently high student evaluations, five appearances on the List of Teachers Ranked Excellent, and effusive praise by students. One student writes: "Having Jane as my TA has greatly influenced the career I have had at the University. [...] she helped shape me to realize what kind of tutor and future teacher I want to be."

Andrew Hunte entered our graduate program in Fall 2008 under a Fulbright scholarship from his native country Trinidad and Tobago, and is working towards a PhD in Mathematics Education. In addition to his college and campus level teaching awards, he is a recipient of the 2012 Departmental TA Instructional Award. Hunte has been teaching a wide range of courses, from Introductory Algebra (Math 002) to Business Calculus (Math 234), both as standalone classes and as discussion sections attached to large lectures. He has done an outstanding job in all of these instructional settings and formats, appeared on the List of Teachers Ranked Excellent for all but one of his courses, and for his most recent Business Calculus course received a perfect 5.0 instructor rating in a class of thirty students - an almost unheard-of score for a course of this type and size.

Student testimonials describe Hunte as "game changer", as someone who can turn around students who are failing in mathematics and restore confidence in the math abilities of students who had lost faith in their math skills and were afraid to take math courses. A self-described "career terrible math student" wrote that, in Hunte's calculus class, "for the first time I was thinking, `Wow this actually makes sense'." A student, who called math "the bane of my existence," ended up with an A in Hunte's calculus class, saying that Hunte "made me believe in myself and changed my views on math." Another student writes: "He is not only the best math teacher I have ever had, he is the best teacher I have ever learned from, period."

Andrew Hunte has been compared to Jaime Escalante, the high school math teacher portrayed in the 1988 movie "Stand and Deliver", who turned his class of underachieving students into one that would pass the AP Calculus exam in record numbers. Like Escalante, Hunte has a unique ability to instill a passion for mathematics in his students, turn math haters into math lovers, and math failures into success stories. Like Escalante, Hunte has had a profound impact on the lives of students who were fortunate to have had him as a teacher. Andrew Hunte has the right makeup to follow in Jaime Escalante's footsteps and become one of the truly inspirational and life-changing teachers on a national scene.

Wendy Harris, a winner of the LAS Academic Professional Award and the Chancellor's Academic Professional Excellence (CAPE) Award, is the Director of Budget and Resource Planning in the Department of Mathematics and does a truly exceptional job. Wendy plays many roles to perfection, touching on most aspects of the department's finances and facilities. In particular, her nomination materials prominently cited her leadership on the department's Feasibility Study Oversight Committee, which worked on the Feasibility Study for the renovation and restoration of Altgeld and Illini Halls. She was the 2011 recipient of the department's Exceptional Merit Award in Mathematics for Non-Instructional Staff.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences extends the LAS Academic Professional awards annually. The CAPE awards are campus-wide awards presented annually by the Chancellor. Both of these awards are based on work contributions, personal contributions, and professional contributions. Wendy excelled in each of these categories.