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2010 News Releases



Department announces award winners

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Faculty, staff and students of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering recognized graduating seniors, department award winners and retiring faculty members at the annual awards dinner held Friday evening, May 14 at the MIT Faculty Club.

Department head Professor Andrew Whittle served as master of ceremonies. He thanked Professor Chiang Mei and Professor David Marks, who will retire in July, for their years of dedicated service to the department. Whittle congratulated Professor Steven Lerman on his new position as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at George Washington University, a position Lerman will take up July 1. After presenting graduating seniors with frames for their diplomas, Whittle announced the evening’s award winners.

Julia Roberts, a senior majoring in civil engineering, received the Steinberg Prize, which is awarded to an undergraduate student for academic achievement and demonstrable interest in construction management.

Edna Ezzell, a junior majoring in civil engineering, received the Leo (Class of 1924) and Mary Grossman Award, which honors Leo Grossman, a highway designer and planner. This award is given to an undergraduate who has a strong academic record and interest in transportation.

The Marvin Goody Award is given to a graduate student whose thesis explores the bond between good design and good building, extends the horizons of existing building techniques and materials, and fosters links between the academic world and the building industry. This award went to Rory Clune for his thesis proposal, “The Immersed Environment Approach to User-Controlled and Algorithmically Driven Explorative Structural Design.”

The Tucker-Voss Award was established in memory of Professor Ross F. Tucker and Professor Walter C. Voss, the first two heads of the Department of Building Construction (Course 17), which merged with the Department of Civil Engineering in the 1950s. The award is given to a student who shows particular promise in the field of building construction. This year, M.Eng. student Mohamed Abdellaoui Maane received the award. Maane’s thesis is titled, “Study of a Modified Friction Device for the Control of Civil Structures.”

Two students received the Trond Kaalstad (Class of 1957) Fellowship: Pierre Ghisbain and Gajan Sivandran. The award is named for the department’s long-time administrative officer and recognizes graduate students who display leadership and/or contribute significantly to the well being of the CEE community.

In nominating Ghisbain for the Kaalstad Fellowship, Professor Jerome Connor said: “Pierre has made a major contribution toward the success of the MIT steel bridge team … Without his guidance on design issues and the many hours he devoted towards fabricating the bridge during evenings and weekends, the student team would not have been as successful.”

In her nomination of Ghisbain, junior and steel bridge team member Emily Moberg said: “Pierre is the most dedicated graduate student I have ever met. He was always the person who put in the extra effort to understand what was going on with the bridge, to figure out what needed to be done and to guide the undergraduates through the tricky intricacies of the calculations … Students on the team very seriously say, ‘I hope to someday be like Pierre.’”

In his nomination of Sivandran, Professor Dara Entekhabi said: “Gaj has shown an incredible level of commitment to student life and learning within the department community. He has added new energy to the MIT chapter of Engineers Without Borders. He has inspired the graduate and undergraduate students, actively participated in recruitment and fund-raising and set up new projects as the student leader of the water group. Gaj has also revitalized the extracurricular activities … He has volunteered for several community activities and led the development of new extramural sports events and sports teams. He radiates an enthusiasm that is impressive and serves to inspire good citizenship among his colleagues.”

Teaching awards

The Maseeh teaching awards are made possible by Fariborz Maseeh-Tehrani, who received his doctorate of science from CEE in 1990. This year, the Maseeh Award for Excellence as a Teaching Assistant went to Chelsea Humbyrd, teaching assistant for the undergraduate subject 1.060 (Engineering Mechanics II).

Humbyrd’s undergraduate student nominators said: “Chelsea is by far the best T.A. I have ever had at MIT. She is organized, prepared and on-the-ball at every encounter … She knows the answer to every question asked of her and can explain concepts clearly and efficiently … Because she made the concepts we learned tangible, it was much easier to get a grasp of the material. She also made recitations fun; they almost never seemed like two hours long! … She is funny, generous with her time, great at explaining difficult material and one of the sweetest people I have met in the department.”

Two faculty members were recognized with the Maseeh Award for Excellence in Teaching: Professor Harold Hemond for graduate subject 1.75 (Limnology and Wetland Ecology) and Professor Daniele Veneziano for graduate subject 1.151 (Probability and Statistics in Engineering).

Nominators of Hemond said: “I have chosen to nominate Professor Hemond for one simple reason: he cares. His class was great; we covered a great deal of material in a good deal of depth and were also given the tools to explore topics more deeply if we wanted … He takes special care to explain how a topic fits into the context of current research and is also careful not to dumb down topics for students; if there is a tricky intricacy, he explains it rather than glossing over it. He also places an emphasis on practical measurement and analysis, which is invaluable in actually applying what is learned.”

In nominating Veneziano for the award, his students said: “The professor is a great teacher. His lectures were well organized and he clearly expressed concepts through theory and examples. He was always willing to answer any question fully and fairly … He is able to simplify the complexity of new arguments in such a way that you are not left with unanswered questions … His teaching was excellent. He had very clear presentation of material, good combination of deriving/proving some results while still keeping the focus on applications instead of mathematical formality.”

Photos / Angela Rowlings