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2021 Excellence in Teaching

Dean's Award for Excellence

Jonathan Boreyko

Associate Professor and John R. Jones III Faculty Fellow, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Jonathan Boreyko
  • The undergraduate fluids course taught by Jonathan Boreyko includes a group video presentation for students to showcase an experiment they conducted to teach a concept to a high school audience. In doing this, students are creative in designing their own hands-on experiment on a topic they find interesting.  His classes are interdisciplinary by showing various journal papers or videos that illustrate real-life phenomena and how they connect to the equations being developed.  For example, when teaching about Laplace pressure, he showed how trees utilize a negative Laplace pressure to pump water up to their leaves, and how we can mimic this with synthetic trees.  In addition, he also composes and performs song parodies to help teach difficult concepts.  An example is him developing a song parody of a selection from the musical Hamilton to help teach students the Bernoulli equation.

  • In Jonathan Boreyko’s custom-made graduate course, Interfacial Fluid Mechanics, he teaches students how to utilize scaling analysis to enable simple analytical solutions to complex interfacial flows.  In doing this, it teaches students how to analytically model their results without resorting to brute-force numerical simulations.  Also, it overviews various non-dimensional techniques, for example cautioning about the limitations of Buckingham Pi analysis and instead teaching how to nondimensionalize governing equations that fully capture the physics.

  • Jonathan Boreyko is the principal investigator of the Nature Inspired Fluid & Interfaces laboratory.  He has published over 50 journal articles cited over 3,000 times. His advisees have won over 30 research awards and scholarships.  His research has received international media coverage from outlets such as PBS, CNN, NPR, Washington Post, and New York Times. He has received a John R. Jones III Faculty Fellow Award, an NSF CAREER award, and an AFOSR YIP award.  He is also involved with the Bio-Inspired Science and Technology center, the Macromolecules Innovation Institute, the Center for Soft Matter and Biological Physics, BIOTRANS, and the BioBuild program at Virginia Tech.

  • Mentoring 46 undergraduates in research projects over the last six years showcases Jonathan Boreyko’s commitment to inspiring undergraduate students to excel in the lab in addition to the classroom. As a result, these students have achieved 45 total undergraduate authorships. 

Kimberly Ellis

Associate Professor, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Kimberly Ellis
  • When teaching, Kimberly Ellis strives to promote problem solving and systems-thinking skills for engineering students within a challenging, engaging, and nurturing environment. She integrates experiential activities and problem-based learning techniques with traditional lecture time, while exploring opportunities to improve her teaching techniques. She also incorporates examples from her industry-sponsored research projects and her previous professional experiences into her courses. 

  • One of the highlights of an undergraduate course Kimberly Ellis teaches is The Production Planning Game, a culminating game that requires teams of students to form a company and develop production plans for the assembly of three different products. When developing the production plans, students address most of the decision problems covered in the course as they strive to maximize their profit. The plans are developed by students outside of class and then executed in several high-energy evening sessions. In 2020, she co-led an effort to develop, implement, and evaluate an on-line version of the Production Planning Game. 

  • In 2021, Kimberly Ellis received the Wine Award for Teaching Excellence. Industrial and systems engineering undergraduate students honored her as the ISE Outstanding Teacher Award in 2019. She has also received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence from Virginia Tech and been recognized as a Faculty Fellow and Dean’s Award for Service Excellence in the college.

  • Kimberly Ellis serves as the faculty advisor for Alpha Pi Mu (APM), the industrial engineering honor society. She meets regularly with the officers to mentor them to and to plan internal events to enhance the experience of ISE students and external events to reach out to local elementary school kids. The Virginia Tech chapter of APM has been recognized as the Outstanding National Chapter for 12 of the last 13 years.    

Aaron Noble

Associate Professor, Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering

Aaron Noble
  • In courses taught by Aaron Noble, he often hosts numerous guest speakers, particularly industry and government experts from non-engineering backgrounds, such as business or natural resources. These speakers challenge the students to consider their contributions from other contexts, and students participate in activities and work through assignments that further engage these conversations. He strongly emphasizes communication, even in technical classes.  His assignments cover a broad range of communication media and his classes explore how to best match the media to the intended audience.

  • In the last two years, Aaron Noble has developed a new course on Leadership for Responsible Mining. This sophomore level class provides new mining engineering students exposure to leadership principles through the context of sustainable development. The curriculum then revisits these concepts periodically in their discipline-specific design courses.

  • Aaron Noble is the Associate Director for the Center for Advanced Separation Technologies (CAST) and chairs the recruiting Committee for the Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering.

  • In 2020, Aaron Noble was honored with the Student Engineering Council’s Engineering Undergraduate Research Advisor Award. In 2018 and 2019, he received his department’s teaching award. The common thread for all of these awards is that they are selected by the students. His approach as a teacher is to get to know each of his students on an individual level, utilize many modes of communications, and work to learn their likes, dislikes, needs and goals, providing the opportunity to tailor the support to the individual.      

Anne Staples

Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics

Anne Staples
  • In moving her Fluid Mechanics I - Control Volumes class online for Fall 2020, Anne Staple organized the course into weekly modules that began with an example of fluid dynamics in everyday life and gave students an extra-credit opportunity to explore the topic more deeply using hands-on at-home experiments like producing a hydraulic jump in their sink. Additionally, she sought out and won funding specifically for undergraduate research and mentored 18 undergraduate researchers in her laboratory on interdisciplinary projects.

  • In order to implement a case-based course structure based on fluid dynamics in everyday life, Anne Staple redesigned her approach to the Fluid Mechanics I - Control Volumes class. The case study examples that motivated the weekly topics included the fluid dynamics of the Marvel characters Ant-Man and the Wasp, orthostatic hypotension, how to escape a sinking car, artesian wells, carotid artery stenosis, kitchen sink hydraulic jumps, and the fluid dynamics of coughing and droplet dispersion, a particularly relevant topic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, she made sure the course documents were always rated better than 90% accessible by Canvas’s Accessibility Checker. She used the social learning application, Flipgrid to facilitate engagement and community in the online course, and maintained the traditional capstone video project in the course. One early Flipgrid assignment in the course had over 2,300 views in the class of 76 students. (The assignment can be viewed here:, Guest password: ESM3234fall2020.)

  • Each week of the Fluid Mechanics I - Control Volumes class in Fall 2020, Anne Staples held a 50-minute problem-solving session. Throughout the semester, she made a point of replying to student emails within 2-3 hours and expanded office hours. In addition, she recognized the needs of her students by being understanding when they were dealing with personal challenges and needed extensions on assignments.      

  • Anne Staples directs the Laboratory for Fluid Dynamics in Nature in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. Her research group focuses on the intersection of computational fluid dynamics and biological, biomedical, and geophysical flows. She was a Virginia Tech Scholar of the Week in 2015, and was a 2015-2016 Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar. She serves on the editorial boards of the journals Fluids and Frontiers in Insect Science, and is the Vice Chair of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society.

Team of faculty from the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering

  • Aurélien Borgoltz, Research Associate Professor
  • William Devenport, Professor
  • Nanyaporn Intaratep, Research Assistant Professor
  • Matthew Kuester, Research Assistant Professor
  • Máté Szőke, Senior Research Associate
Aurelien Borgoltz
Aurélien Borgoltz
William Devenport
William Devenport
Nanyaporn Intaratep
Nanyaporn Intaratep
Matt Kusester
Matthew Kuester
Mate Szoke
Máté Szőke
  • When faced with the potential cancellation of labs in March 2020, a team of five faculty in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering devised a remote experimentation format that offered an immersive experience to the undergraduate students of AOE 3054. The goal was not only to find a way to offer as real of an experiment as could be at the time, but also to offer a sense of normalcy to students at a time when their world was upended.

  • The faculty team was able to prepare, implement, rehearse, and execute the remote lab in over a period of five weeks. An exit survey showed the team managed to provide an overwhelmingly positive experience for the students and maintain the educational mission of the university under extraordinary circumstances. The format that was devised has the potential to be implemented widely and provide a glimpse into the future of experimental education.

  • Students received a high-quality visually immersive data representation of the measured physical quantities during the labs. An immersive visual representation of the labs was developed at the SWT (cameras, data streaming, etc) so that the students have a near real-life experience of working in the SWT. Students were given access to all the visual feeds in the facility while being actively engaged in the lab by an expert-at-a-distance (typically a faculty or graduate student) and the facility personnel.

  • The success of this online experimentation format shows the potential of offering experiments to students should they be unable to be on campus for health or do not have access to such facility/instrumentation during but also outside of a pandemic. Indeed, since its inaugural implementation in April 2020, this remote format was used in three other courses, most recently in April 2021 in AOE3054.