Harris named recipient of 2021 President's Award for Excellence in Teaching

Carolyn Harris lab photo

Carolyn Harris, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science, was selected to receive one of the 2021 President's Awards for Excellence in Teaching in recognition to her contributions to the academic excellence of Wayne State University students.

She joined the department in 2017 after serving three years as an assistant professor of neurosurgery in the WSU School of Medicine with a joint appointment in biomedical engineering. Harris teaches courses at the graduate level as well as for first and third-year undergraduate students.

"A central philosophy of Carolyn's teaching is that learning should be inspired. Students should have the excitement of discovery and a drive for deep learning," said Jeffrey Potoff, professor and interim department chair. "Carolyn Harris is an exceptional educator who understands how high quality teaching and mentoring can dramatically improve the success of our students."

For the last two years, Harris has volunteered to teach a section of BE 1200: Introduction to Engineering Design, a fundamental course taken by all engineering students at Wayne State. An internationally recognized expert in hydrocephalus, a brain disorder that causes an accumulation of excess cerebrospinal fluid, Harris used material from her own research to incorporate new real-world applications of biomedical and chemical engineering. Students completed a variety of models and prototypes related to hydrocephalus, winning 13 of 24 awards at the 2019 Spotlight on Design event, which highlighted the work of 275 first-year engineering students in BE 1200.

Harris also developed a new graduate course, ChE 7090: Writing for Engineering Research, to address a need for graduate students to acquire stronger technical writing skills. In its first offering during the Fall 2020 semester, the elective had the largest enrollment of any graduate course in the department.

"Carolyn pushes all of us to be a little better in our own teaching," said Potoff.

Since 1977, 288 Wayne State University faculty members have been recognized for their teaching with these awards.

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