2019 Faculty Awardees

Italia-Eire Foundation Distinguished Teacher of the Year
Funded by Joseph C. Allegra (BA ’70, Chem), a member of the CST Board of Visitors

Amy Freestone
Associate Professor, Department of Biology

Dr. Freestone joined Temple University in 2009 after a Smithsonian Marine Science Network Postdoctoral Fellowship. A dynamic teacher, Freestone teaches at both the introductory and advanced levels, including the required ecology course for biology majors and graduate seminars. During her time at CST, she has served as the primary advisor of six doctoral students as well as mentoring numerous undergraduates in her lab and at research sites across the country. She has also earned funding from the National Science Foundation and has published approximately 30 papers in top journals. 

Dr. Freestone is one of the most enthusiastic, passionate professors I have ever had. She connected her scientific research background in invasive species ecology to material covered in the lecture to help clarify concepts and to demonstrate their real-world implications. Her class was both engaging and challenging, with an emphasis on scientific data analysis. She was caring and understanding during her office hours, when she invested a tremendous amount of time with me individually to ensure meaningful understanding of material and success on exams.
 

William Caldwell Memorial Distinguished Teaching Award
Funded by Seda K. Tarzian (BA ’48, Bio), a member of the CST Board of Visitors

Vincent Voelz
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry

Dr. Voelz joined Temple University in 2011 after a stint as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. With a rare ability to communicate information with both insight and enthusiasm, Voelz has taught larger upper division classes required of majors, including Physical Chemistry I and II and Biochemistry I, and graduate-level courses such as Quantum Chemistry. He has played a central role in initiating, organizing and teaching several CST workshops and symposia, including the 2019 Summer Workshop in Computing and Statistics aimed at graduate students from across departments. 

Dr. Voelz is an inspiring instructor, who is able to link theory to real-world examples. During his class, I was able to connect to chemistry on a deeper basis because of his passion for the subject and teaching. When I first entered his classroom as a junior, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was unsure if I wanted to continue my education through medical school to become an anesthesiologist or if I wanted to pursue a career in chemistry, and if so, what branch of chemistry. Dr. Voelz’s teaching style allowed me to understand physical chemistry more than I ever thought I could and it led me to decide to become a chemist.

 

Dean's Distinguished Teaching Award
Funded by Barry Arkles (BA ’70, PhD ’76, Chem), a member of the CST Board of Visitors

Meredith Hegg
Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Mathematics

Since joining Temple University in 2015, Dr. Hegg has brought her considerable talents to enhancing course offerings in the Department of Mathematics through evidence-based best teaching practices and active learning techniques. She helped lead efforts to design a new set of worksheets for Precalculus and Calculus I, which have been adopted by many other instructors. With a strong passion for training future high school teachers, Hegg focuses much of her boundless energy on the TUteach program, including taking a lead role in improving the Functions and Modeling course.

Professor Hegg’s classroom is one in which students are encouraged and expected to be active participants in creating, not just making sense of, the mathematics content. She is deeply committed to student-centered instruction because she believes that it is the best way to develop deep, flexible, and complete understandings of the content and practices of mathematics. She cares deeply about her students and their learning, and she always supports them to the extent that she is able.

 

Dean's Distinguished Teaching Award
Funded by Barry Arkles (BA ’70, PhD ’76, Chem), a member of the CST Board of Visitors

Athanasia Polychronopoulou
Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Computer & Information Sciences

Joining Temple University in 2015 as a CIS instructor, Polychronopoulou is an exceptional teacher dedicated to student engagement and success. She overhauled the department’s database course, moving from lecture-only delivery to including live classroom demos and lab programming exercises where students use current industry-standard tools. Leveraging her physics background and advanced knowledge of SQL programming, database modeling, and overall database management, Polychronopoulou has been a significant contributor to interdisciplinary curriculum development at CST, including the computer science and physics major and a new Professional Science Master’s in medical dosimetry.

Professor Polychronopoulou is an enthusiastic and inspirational teacher who constantly goes above and beyond to give her students the most fulfilling education. As both a classroom and lab instructor to me, she shined in both, providing us with a quality education in the classroom, and then adapting the material in a meaningful way during the labs. The way Professor Polychronopoulou exposed us to the material allowed me to see the beauty in what I would have otherwise considered a bland subject, and inspired me to explore not only the material in her class, but other aspects of computer science that I formerly would not.
 

Dean's Distinguished Teaching Award
Funded by Barry Arkles (BA ’70, PhD ’76, Chem), a member of the CST Board of Visitors

Robert-André Rarig
Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Chemistry

Joining Temple University in 2016, Dr. Rarig is senior associate director of the college’s Post Baccalaureate Pre-Health Program. Rarig plays a crucial role in teaching and curriculum development for the program, especially a pre-med-tailored organic chemistry curriculum and laboratory. Despite the course’s density and pace, post-bacc students have responded enthusiastically to Rarig’s ability to break down complex concepts to facilitate learning. With a commitment to student success, Rarig teaches the undergraduate Organic Chemistry II and Honors General Chemistry labs and the general education courses Chemistry of Wine, and developed the Chemistry of Global Environmental Issues course.

Organic chemistry is an infamously challenging hurdle of the pre-med curriculum, and I would have achieved very little success or understanding of the subject had Dr. Rarig not been my professor. I believe there are many people that become teachers, but few that have a natural aptitude for teaching and a devotion to educating students. Dr. Rarig is the most talented and dedicated professor I have ever had, and you could not find a more deserving recipient of this award.

 

Dean's Distinguished Excellence in Mentoring Award

Daniele Ramella
Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Chemistry

Joining Temple University in 2015, Dr. Ramella is skilled at mentoring both undergraduate and graduate students. Offering encouragement and clear-eyed career advice, Ramella works with undergraduates through the Diamond Peer Teachers program and as the chemistry faculty advisor for students participating in CST’s Undergraduate Research Program. He also works with graduate teaching assistants in the best ways to present recitations in the General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry curricula. He has enthusiastically shared a variety of teaching methods with chemistry Tas, including active learning, student-centered learning and flipped classroom methods, wherein students learn material out of class and focus on problem solving in class.

Dr. Ramella conveyed a sense of excellence in his own teaching, and stimulated me to pursue and cultivate that excellence in my classroom. I felt as though I was emulating an athlete, who strove for a highly sought-after prize, and whose own preparation and training spurred me to do my absolute best. Of all the General Chemistry professors I have taught for, I can easily say that under Dr. Ramella I experienced the most growth, both academically and personally, and that I enjoyed the most meaningful TA-professor relationship with him.

 

Dean's Distinguished Award for Excellence in Research

John Perdew
Laura H. Carnell Professor of Physics and Chemistry, Department of Physics

One of the world’s most-cited physicists, Dr. Perdew is recognized for his groundbreaking role in the development of density functional theory, a computational modeling method used in physics, chemistry and materials science to investigate the structure of atoms, molecules, crystals, surfaces and their interactions. Perdew began working with DFT as a postdoctoral fellow, when it was little known and its predictive abilities somewhat suspect. But slowly, over time, DFT’s approximations improved. Perdew has likened DFT’s continual improvement to climbing Jacob’s Ladder. Much of Perdew’s groundbreaking DFT work was at Tulane University. He joined Temple University in 2013 and within a few years he and his team finalized a new functional, SCAN2015, which can describe and predict a wider swath of advanced materials such as high-temperature superconductors and other layered materials.

John Perdew's work is very highly cited by other researchers because of its broad utility across many fields of science, especially for understanding the chemistry and physics of materials, as well as processes occurring in solution and at surfaces.