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2011 News Release



Seniors and award winners celebrated at annual CEE dinner

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Faculty, staff and students of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering recognized graduating seniors and department award winners at the annual awards dinner held Thursday evening, May 12 at the Marriott Hotel in Kendall Square.

Department head Professor Andrew Whittle served as master of ceremonies. He and Professor Philip Gschwend congratulated each graduating senior before Whittle began the awards presentation.

Infinite Mile Award

The first person to be honored was Sheila Frankel, lecturer, senior researcher, assistant director of the Parsons Laboratory, and one of this year’s winners of an Infinite Mile Award from the School of Engineering.

“I thought we should start the awards presentation this year by recognizing an individual who has worked selflessly for many years for the well being of the CEE community,” Whittle said of Frankel. “She is most familiar to the residents of Building 48 as the space czarina who takes care of everything from major laboratory renovation projects to the nitty-gritty details of Environmental Health and Safety, as ombudsman and mentor faculty and students alike. She is also known to many of our undergraduate students as the creator and leader of the Traveling Research Environmental Experience (TREX) program,  a field experience like no other.”

Department awards

Meena Viswanath, 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. She plans to go to graduate school at Georgia Tech to study geotechnical engineering.

Rebecca Heywood, 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 Paul L. Busch (1958) Prize is awarded to an undergraduate student in Environment Science and Engineering for academic achievement and contributions to the CEE community. Fatima Hussai, a senior in environmental engineering science, received the award. Following graduation she will pursuing graduate studies at Stanford University in environmental science and engineering.

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 M.Eng. student Marne Zahner for his thesis proposal, “Energy Dissipation Behavior of the Modified Friction Device.” (Zahner received his award in a separate presentation earlier in the year.)

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 Longfeil (Michael) Shentu received the award. His thesis is titled, “3-D Numerical Manifold Method Simulation.”

The Trond Kaalstad (Class of 1957) Fellowship was awarded to doctoral student Simon Laflamme, whose advisor is Professor Jerome Connor. Laflamme, who defended his thesis in April, will join the faculty of Iowa State University in August. The Kaalstad 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 presenting the award, Whittle said of Laflamme: “This student was an M.Eng. student from the class of 2007. Having both applied and research interests, plus a GPA of 5.0, he decided to dive into a Ph.D. program. While immersed in his research, he remained closely associated with the M.Eng. program, serving as a TA for three classes each year, helping students with both their group projects and their individual theses, providing tutorials for computer software systems such as SAP and MATLAB, and handling airplane and hotel reservations for approximately 20 students during their IAP study tours.

Maseeh Award for Excellence as a Teaching Assistant

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 Steven Cranford, teaching assistant for the undergraduate subject 1.050 (Engineering Mechanics I).

On of his nomination letters said: “What stood out in particular was his ability to relate to the students’ needs and to motivate them to excel in learning and applying the subject material. His recitation lectures were considered to be a key element in the subject’s learning experience, which is also reflected in her/his overall remarkable teaching evaluation rating 6.9/7.”

Maseeh Award for Excellence in Teaching

Professor Philip Gschwend was recognized with the Maseeh Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Nominators said of Gschwend: “His teaching style is unique, to say the least. His enthusiasm will keep you awake and the fear of being called on at any moment will keep you paying attention. He memorizes all of his students’ names on day one and by day two or three of the class, he has a pretty good idea of everyone’s knowledge level and intuition. For the remainder of the semester, he will systematically ask specific questions to each student. Questions that are just above each person’s comfort zone. Questions that make them think. Yes, he can be intimidating at times and yes, he can be relentless, but after taking a class with Professor Gschwend, you will never think about (this subject matter) the same way.”

“He has taught me to question everything with a scientific lens. He said, ‘There is no such thing as zero concentration of something. It’s just below their detection limit! If someone tells you they measured zero, they’re lying!’ His unique ability to force students to think beyond the problem at hand and incorporate health and political concerns with environmental contamination prepares his students for problem solving in their future careers beyond their time at MIT.”

Samuel M. Seegal Prize

Gschwend also received a teaching award from the School of Engineering: the 2011 Samuel M. Seegal Prize. “This award is made to a faculty member who inspires students in pursuing and achieving excellence. Needless to say (given the preceding comments on your teaching and mentoring) you were the perfect candidate for this award,” said Whittle.

The Course 1 Class of 2011 poses at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s annual Awards and Senior Dinner, held May 12. Photo © Angela Rowlings

Fatima Hussain, a senior majoring in environmental engineering science, accepts the Paul L. Busch (1958) Prize for academic achievement and contributions to the CEE community. Presenting the award is Professor Andrew Whittle, head of the department. Photo © Angela Rowlings

Graduate student Simon Laflamme receives the Kaalstad Award. Photo © Angela Rowlings

Graduate student Steven Cranford won the Maseeh Award for Excellence as a Teaching Assistant. Photo © Angela Rowlings

Philip Gschwend (left), the Ford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, accepts the Maseeh Award for Excellence as a Teacher. Photo © Angela Rowlings