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February 18, 2020

College honors eight outstanding faculty and staff

Written By: Staff


Our college accomplishes great things, and that is in no small part due to the contributions of every one of our faculty and staff. On Feb. 18, 2020, Ian Robertson, Grainger Dean of the College of Engineering, recognized eight of those individuals, who are not only outstanding citizens of our college and our campus, but whose impact is felt within their field and throughout the world.

Byron Bird Award for Excellence in a Research Publication

Barry Van Veen
Lynn H. Matthias Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

 Barry Van VeenIf you try to measure the brain’s electrical activity by placing sensors on the scalp, you’ll encounter lots of signals coming from all directions within the brain. But Barry, who is renowned for his expertise in signal processing, has pioneered a method for locating and separating sources of that electric activity. This spatial filtering method allows researchers to non-invasively estimate the brain’s electrical activity through EEG and MEG techniques, which measure electric or magnetic fields on the scalp’s surface.

In 1997, he and his collaborators detailed their new approach in a seminal paper in IEEE Transactions in Biomedical Engineering. That paper’s annual citations have steadily increased over the past 20 years, surpassing sixteen-hundred total citations by the end of 2019. And Barry’s spatial filtering method—or variations of it—have been implemented in the most widely used open source software for reading and analyzing EEG and MEG data, allowing researchers to study the brain in ways that previously were impossible.

Bollinger Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award for Research Excellence

Todd Molfenter
Senior Scientist in the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies

 Todd MolfenterAs an expert in implementation science, Todd plays a leading role in our nation’s efforts to develop and disseminate solutions to challenges in the addiction and mental health fields. In his role with CHESS, he directs three federally funded technology-transfer centers focused on addiction, prevention, and mental health—and UW-Madison’s designation as the regional center is a testament to his experience, expertise and commitment to supporting addiction and mental health care. As a member of the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network coordination and translation center, he is leading implementation of a national trial to test evidence-based approaches to treat opioid use disorder in criminal justice settings. And though all his work, his goal is to disseminate innovations developed through his own and others’ research to the addiction and mental health professionals who can put them into practice.

Harvey Spangler Award for Innovative Teaching and Learning Practices

Greg Harrington
Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

 Greg HarringtonNearly 20 years ago, Greg began the task of implementing a capstone design course in civil and environmental engineering. Over time, and with continued innovations, the course has earned national awards and is recognized—or perhaps envied—by our peer institutions as a model program. The list of ingredients in Greg’s recipe for success continues to expand. It includes connections with community partners, status as a community-based learning course, many professional engineers who are mentors and co-instructors, a multidisciplinary approach, technological advances, and active learning approaches, among others. He has adopted a similar approach across his teaching, including a freshman design course and an online master’s degree course. In addition, he has contributed to curriculum and education innovation at the department, college, university and national levels.

Benjamin Smith Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching

Christina Remucal
Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

 Christina RemucalIf you talk with Christy, you will quickly come to understand her enthusiasm for water research. She applies that same passion in her teaching. In both graduate and undergrad-level courses, she aims to create a dynamic classroom that facilitates student involvement and active learning. To make core objectives more understandable, she links course material to current events and offers field experiences at nearby Lake Mendota. And not only does she develop her students’ technical knowledge, but she also focuses on improving their oral and written communication skills. Likewise, she has been committed to continuously improving as an educator, and she has completed several courses through the UW-Madison Delta Program. She is one of three members of the Environmental Chemistry and Technology graduate program academic planning committee and is the faculty advisor for our student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. Feedback from colleagues and students related to her teaching contributions includes words and phrases such as “so knowledgeable and enthusiastic,” “approachable,” “making it easy to learn, but making the course challenging,” “great presence in the classroom,” and “great role model.”

James G. Woodburn Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Joe Krachey
Faculty Associate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

 Joe KracheyIn his role as a faculty associate, Joe is an exceptional, innovative educator who has used evidence-based methods and best teaching practices to thoughtfully reconstruct several core courses in electrical and computer engineering. Today, students enjoy a state-of-the art learning experience centered on group and experiential learning. He also brings his industry background to bear, infusing his courses with speakers and projects from industry, as well as real-world design challenges the students themselves identify. But that’s only part of the story. He also has led the strategy, planning, design and fund-raising—including several gifts from corporate partners—for several lab spaces in the department. He advises about half of the computer engineering students in ECE and serves on the department’s undergraduate curriculum committee. In short, he approaches his work with students’ development in mind, and student feedback about his teaching includes words such as “rewarding,” “useful,” “favorite” and “confident.”

College of Engineering University and Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award

Xiaodong Wang
Senior Instrumentation Technician in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

 Xiaodong WangOverseeing more than ten thousand square feet of geoengineering laboratory space, Xiaodong has directly supported research and education for thousands of undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering for the past twenty-five years. He is a willing and creative innovator who custom-designs equipment, develops new automated measurement techniques, incorporates the latest technologies into lab stations, and ensures that students and faculty have the knowledge and tools to work effectively and efficiently. The impact of his innovations also extends beyond UW-Madison and into geoengineering practice; his methods have been integrated into numerous ASTM International standards. When describing Xiaodong’s contributions, students, former students and colleagues use phrases such as “routinely went above and beyond,” “providing the best learning opportunity for students,” “kind, accommodating and helpful,” and “tremendous asset.”

Ragnar E. Onstad Service to Society Award

Shiyu Zhou
Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

 Shiyu ZhouWhen they’re working as they should, smart, interconnected devices—known collectively as the Internet of Things—enable us to take advantage of useful automations in our homes. They also provide valuable data and powerful decision-making capabilities that today enable us to remotely personalize medical treatments, monitor a product’s quality, anticipate a machine repair, and much, much more. Shiyu is a recognized expert in industrial data analytics, systems monitoring and control. He has made pioneering contributions in data analytics and machine learning that solve monitoring, diagnosis, prognosis and control challenges in these smart, connected systems. He shares this knowledge with students in his courses, while in his role as director of the UW-Madison Internet of Things Systems Research Center, he provides expertise and solutions that benefit more than 20 industry partners, including Mercury Marine, GM and Toyota Materials Handling Systems.

Equity and Diversity Award

Jenn Sheridan
Executive and Research Director of WISELI

 Jenn SheridanRecognized around the world for her pioneering, research-based work in addressing climate in academia, Jenn has spent her career promoting diverse, welcoming and inclusive environments in local and national higher education settings. For example, through our Women in Science and Leadership Institute, she developed the “Study of Faculty Worklife” survey that universities nationwide now use to assess how diverse groups of faculty experience their campus climates. From its results, she and others design evidence-based interventions, including the workshop, “Breaking the bias habit,” which focuses on promoting a diverse, welcoming and inclusive campus. Several hundred faculty, staff and students in our own college have participated in this workshop, which Jenn and her colleagues described at an American Society for Engineering Education conference in 2019.