Campus & Community

2024 Faculty Awards Highlight Research Excellence, Teaching Talent, Institutional Service, Thought Leadership

More than a dozen faculty are honored by leadership for exemplary teaching, research excellence, institutional service

Outstanding teaching and research were celebrated with the university’s annual faculty awards May 20 during a special ceremony conducted in the University Center Complex’s Tech Flex Auditorium.

Space science, energy research, teaching prowess

Provost Jianmin Qu and Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Faculty Affairs David Zeng kicked off the ceremony with brief remarks.

School of Engineering and Science Dean Jean Zu then began the awards portion by recognizing Hongbin Li, the Charles and Rosanna Batchelor Memorial Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, notifying the assembled that Li would receive the university’s annual honorary master’s of engineering degree at Stevens’ formal Commencement exercises two days later.

Li works in a number of fields, including radar, radio frequency sensing and wireless communication, creating applications that provide public benefit such as enhanced detection, navigation and security.

Stevens official David Zeng on podium at awards ceremonyVice Provost David Zeng served as host for the awards ceremonyZeng followed by introducing School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) Dean Kelland Thomas, who celebrated two retiring HASS faculty: longtime Music and Technology professor and program director Rob Harari (who joined Stevens in 2006) and literature professor Deborah Sinnreich-Levi, an expert in French medieval poetry and a professor at the university since 1990.

Harari was presented with a certificate of appreciation; Sinnreich-Levi was unable to attend, so Thomas read a message from the professor to the gathered audience.

Four recent National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award winners were then recognized:

  • Shima Hajimirza, a mechanical engineering professor who investigates the thermal properties of complex porous materials;

  • Christopher Sugino, also a professor of mechanical engineering, who investigates acoustic devices;

  • Johannes Weickenmeier, another professor of mechanical engineering, who studies neurodegenerative disorders of the brain, including white-matter disease, through a mechanical lens;

  • and Philip Odonkor, a systems professor and energy expert who optimizes planning and use of the power grid, intelligent buildings and connected communities.

Physics professor Adam Overvig was next recognized for his recent Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award to study metasurfaces used for spectro-spatial control of light.

Zeng and Zu then moved on to confer Stevens’ annual teaching, service and research awards.

Rod Kim, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, ascended the podium first, receiving the university’s Early Career Award for Research Excellence. Kim works in a number of space-related disciplines, including the design of millimeter-wave and CMOS-based sensing and imaging technologies and devices.

Kim thanked Dean Zu and Professor Li for recognizing his work.

“I’m going to continue to do my best teaching and doing research at Stevens,” he said.

Davidson Lab Director Muhammad Hajj, the George Meade Bond Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering, then received the university’s annual Award for Research Excellence.

Hajj helps develop novel oscillating wave energy-harvesting devices that can be deployed in the ocean and potentially power observatories, remote facilities and small communities. He also oversees the university’s pathbreaking flood- and surge-prediction tools, often consulted by regional and national planning and response agencies.

Dean Zu then presented Hajimirza with the Harvey N. Davis Distinguished Teaching Assistant Professor award.

David Darian Muresan, a teaching professor in the School of Systems and Enterprises, was the Henry Morton Distinguished Teaching Professor for the academic year — an award voted upon by Stevens students. Muresan teaches a number of courses on digital design, innovation, software architecture and software engineering and also advises software engineering design teams. He attributed his personal interest in teaching to his own early experiences teaching his young son mathematics.

Muresan thanked a number of faculty across disciplines for advising him as he transitioned into his role as a teaching professor at Stevens and for helping him to form a student Arduino club on campus.

Student support, curricular innovation, service

School of Business Dean Gregory Prastacos ascended the podium next, presenting longtime business professor Peter Koen with the Alexander Crombie Humphreys Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor for the year.

Koen helped created and continues to lead, update and team-teach the university’s signature first-year entrepreneurial-thinking course (MGT 103) — a course more than 500 Stevens students take each year.

“He has made major curricular contributions” to several of the university’s schools, noted Dean Prastacos, continuously innovating and updating those courses. “His passion for student success creates amazing results. His students love his teaching style.”

Koen’s student evaluations, added the dean, have been nearly perfect for years running.

“I’m really deeply grateful for this honor considering all the great faculty who teach at this university,” said Koen, who began by recognizing his wife Sheila. “I believe that many people measure their lives by the number of papers they publish, the number of grants they obtain and the salaries they make.”

“While these metrics are important, there are other metrics that are even more important in my life: the individuals you are able to help, one by one, to be a better person. I’m grateful to Stevens to allow me to have that opportunity to change people’s lives.”

Koen also thanked Prastacos for supporting him both personally and professionally, as well as his own children and their families.

Dean Prastacos next conferred the university’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising/Mentoring went to business professor Balbinder Singh Gill, who teaches and conducts research on finance, sustainability, health insurance and other topics.

Singh Gill is often seen in national media commenting on business topics and current events; he is also a member of the university’s Center for Research toward Advancing Financial Technologies (CRAFT). Prastacos thanked Singh Gill for advising a team that won a Global Scaling Challenge.

As he accepted the awarded, Singh Gill thanked fellow business professor Stefano Bonini as a mentor, positive influence and supporter.

Dean Thomas continued the ceremonies by awarding Theresa MacPhail, a professor of medical anthropology in HASS, the Jess H. Davis Memorial Award for Research Excellence.

Thomas explained that he nominated MacPhail for the award largely due to her national and international impact. MacPhail’s second book about public health, Allergic: Our Irritated Bodies in a Changing World, was published in spring 2023 by Random House — creating considerable media interest for its in-depth look at allergies as well as considerable attention around Stevens.

The book was also submitted as a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize by its publisher, and MacPhail has been frequently cited in national media (including MSNBC, NPR, Wired and other outlets) as a thought leader on public health topics including allergies and epidemics. MacPhail could not attend but sent her appreciative wishes to Thomas in a message he read aloud.

Dean Thomas then awarded Michael Steinmann, a professor of philosophy in HASS, Stevens’ Award for Distinguished University Service. Steinmann, former Chair of Stevens’ Faculty Senate, successfully advocated for enhanced benefits for faculty as well as voting rights for non-tenure stream faculty. He also has long mentored the promotion application process for faculty members entering that process and seeking guidance.

In addition, Steinmann is the recent author of a new book on Reframing Ethics Through Dialectics, and he also co-edited a separate recent volume on the Friedrich Nietzsche’s music, thought and work.

“It’s a great honor and privilege to receive this,” said Steinmann, noting that service in his view is a key part of university faculty life.

A reception with leadership followed.

All the 2024 Stevens faculty award recipients in a line