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March 1, 2017

College recognizes faculty and staff for important contributions

At a Feb. 17, 2017, ceremony, Ian Robertson, Grainger Dean of the College of Engineering, honored 10 faculty and staff for their exceptional research, teaching and service. The award recipients include:

Byron Bird Award for Excellence in a Research Publication
Recipient: David Beebe

David Beebe
David Beebe

In the field of microfluidics, David Beebe’s research is highly respected, and with good reason. The John D. MacArthur Professor and Claude Bernard Professor in biomedical engineering, Beebe is internationally known and has many published works in highly regarded journals such as Nature and Science.

In particular, four seminal papers, published from 2000 to 2002, represent remarkable fundamental contributions that have helped to shape the field of microfluidics. Collectively, these papers have been cited more than 4,800 times, and advance understanding of fluid flow, behavior and manipulation at the microscale.

This research has led to widespread adoption of microfluidics technologies in a variety of meaningful biological applications. Beebe’s contributions to the field have made possible many advances in biomedical fluidics, including organs on a chip, point-of-care diagnostics, single-cell genomics—and microfluidics technologies now are poised to address the forefront of precision and personalized medicine.

Trey Sato
Trey Sato

Bollinger Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award
Recipient: Trey Sato

As an associate scientist in the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at UW-Madison for more than eight years, Trey Sato has been an invaluable member of the growing renewable energy community.

Through 15 papers he has authored, he has made several important contributions through research on yeast bioconversion, particularly in identifying factors that improve plant sugar conversion to ethanol in yeast. He also has several awarded patents during his time with the GLBRC, and those have generated sponsored research and licensing interest from major biofuel producers. He seeks collaborative opportunities with researchers within the GLBRC, as well as throughout UW-Madison and around the country.

And in addition to his contributions in research, Sato also is instrumental in GLBRC teaching and outreach efforts, mentoring several students and researchers and engaging industry and the community through tours, talks and learning activities.

Gene Masters
Gene Masters

Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award
Recipient: Gene Masters

Through his years of service to the university, Distinguished Information Processing Consultant Gene Masters has worked tirelessly to develop and continuously improve systems that enable others to complete their work more accurately and efficiently—and he combines technical expertise with an emphasis on customer service.

Using his extensive knowledge of campus data systems, coupled with understanding of the many varied tasks people need to accomplish, Masters has built many tools that fill gaps in existing campus systems—for example, an online course enrollment waitlist system and course planning tool, a system used to track admission and progression of students in engineering majors, a system that connects prospective employers with engineering students, and an automated system that streamlines the student hourly hiring process, among many others. And whether suggesting improvements to existing systems or developing new ones, he focuses on the future and meeting the constantly changing needs of people in the College of Engineering.

Beth Johnson

College of Engineering University Staff Distinguished Achievement Award
Recipient: Beth Johnson

Beth Johnson is well known throughout the College of Engineering for her dedication, leadership and attention to detail. Johnson, a communications specialist senior in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, fills many important roles, carrying out her wide range of responsibilities with admirable accuracy.

She is the welcoming face of the department for most incoming students, families and alumni. She seamlessly manages numerous large-scale events, including the civil and environmental engineering annual golf outing and the College of Engineering’s new student welcome day and its graduate recognition ceremony, ensuring that every aspect of these important events occurs smoothly.

In addition to this expertise, Johnson also manages communications for civil and environmental engineering, geological engineering, and environmental chemistry and technology, and she is in high demand throughout the College of Engineering as a mentor and an agent for positive change.

 Barry Van Veen. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)
Barry Van Veen

Benjamin Smith Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching
Recipient: Barry Van Veen

Lynn H. Matthias Professor in electrical and computer engineering Barry Van Veen is a highly accomplished researcher, but he also is known for his skill as an instructor. Recognizing that students learn in varying ways and at different paces, Van Veen began developing video lectures that allowed students to review material they missed. Based on feedback, he then strategically improved the videos, organizing them by topic and cutting them into 10- to 15-minute modules.

Van Veen also implemented a flipped classroom style, tailoring it so that concepts better learned online were taught online, and concepts better taught in person were covered during class meetings. Students responded well to this style, reporting feeling comfortable and confident in his classes, and appreciating the connections and relationships built there via the interaction of a flipped classroom.

Van Veen’s passion for innovation in education extends to his leadership of the college Engineering Education Innovation committee and is evident in the widely ready paper, “Flipping signal processing instruction,” published in IEEE Signal Processing Magazine in November 2013. He also is committed to improving signal processing education worldwide through his website,, his YouTube channel, and the textbook, Signals and Systems, which he co-authored.

Katherine McMahon
Katherine McMahon

James G. Woodburn Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
Recipient: Katherine McMahon

Vilas Distinguished Professor in civil and environmental engineering Trina McMahon has fueled her career with enthusiasm for improvement.

Through a flipped classroom style, and an infectious exuberance for the material she teaches, McMahon skillfully and actively engages her students. In each of her courses, she applies evidence-based teaching practices and makes adjustments based on regular assessments of student learning outcomes. She maintains an open and relaxed atmosphere in her classrooms, and she strives to be a guide in her students’ learning process, helping them learn deeply through carefully constructed exercises, active discussion, and a combination of tools that facilitate learning in various ways.

McMahon also has been active in college, campus and national efforts to promote teaching and learning excellence, serving as chair of the college Education Innovation Committee, an active member of the UW-Madison Delta Program, and as an instructor for two MOOCs developed through the National Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning network at UW-Madison, among others.

Brian Esselman
Brian Esselman

Harvey Spangler Award for Technology Enhanced Instruction
Recipient: Brian Esselman

An associate faculty associate in the Department of Chemistry, Brian Esselman interacts with a large number of engineering students who take the large, two-semester organic chemistry sequence and lab course.

Esselman is an outstanding instructor who exceeds all expectations and holds the admiration of students and colleagues alike. Through his integration of computational chemistry techniques and flipped classroom approach to teaching the lecture course, he has been a trailblazer in transforming the chemistry department curriculum.

He has used a variety of technologies and software tools to create a wealth of online course resources. He also facilitates online dialog and has implemented a message-board-style online platform so that everyone can learn through anonymous student questions and instructor answers. Students leave Esselman’s course having actively participated in their own learning, and with a deeper understanding of and passion for the material.

 Laura Albert McLay (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)
Laura Albert McLay

Harvey Spangler Award for Technology Enhanced Instruction
Recipient: Laura Albert McLay

Industrial and Systems Engineering Associate Professor Laura Albert McLay is known nationally for her progressive and innovative teaching practices.

At the beginning of her teaching career, she did not feel that a traditional lecturing style was facilitating the learning objectives she set for her students, so she looked for new solutions. Key to her success has been her unique lecture environment, in which she incorporates various forms of media and technology to convey her thought processes and enthusiasm, as well as to create a more interactive, engaging educational experience for her students.

Albert McLay also maintains a dynamic social media presence, and she regularly creates posts on her blog, provides students with tutorials and videos on her YouTube channel, and incorporates tweets, memes and other relatable content in her teaching materials. In one of her courses, her students also write their own blog content.

In addition to her service in her department and on campus, Albert McLay also disseminates key ideas in technology-enhanced instruction through her blog and by sharing her expertise with faculty and instructors at other institutions.

John Archambault

Equity and Diversity Award
Recipient: John Archambault

As the director of Engineering Career Services, John Archambault is committed to assisting all students with their futures beyond graduation.

Archambault, who is the college assistant dean for student development, also has made an enduring commitment to making sure women in engineering can navigate a traditionally male-dominated field—both as engineering students and as they make the transition into the engineering workforce.

For example, through his “Professional Development for Women” series, Archambault has created additional opportunities for female engineering students to develop the skills and strategies necessary to thrive in a male-dominated field. In his efforts to additionally prepare women to lead and to succeed, Archambault also has collaborated with other college units to create events that have featured outside speakers, panel discussions, small-group discussions, listening sessions, and a showing of the film, MAKERS: Women Who Make America.

David Beebe
Naomi Chesler

Equity and Diversity Award
Recipient: Naomi Chesler

Vilas Distinguished Professor in biomedical engineering Naomi Chesler’s conviction that all students are a valuable resource to the College of Engineering drives much of her work.

In the Department of Biomedical Engineering, she nurtures diversity and inclusivity. For example, as an alternative to traditional gender-based mentoring programs, she developed mentoring schemes that would better serve women and people from traditionally underrepresented groups and improve their recruitment and retention in engineering.

She has shared best practices from her experiences in the department through professional societies at the national and international scale, enhancing the department’s reputation in the process.

She was the founding chair of the Inclusion and Diversity Committee of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers bioengineering division, and is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society diversity committee. In fact, the society now is recognized as a leader in promoting diversity.

Through these and other committees and initiatives, Chesler works to ensure a welcoming and positive experience for all, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.