Awards of Excellence

By: Graduate Studies on

Last week, the UCF College of Graduate Studies recognized several graduate students for excellence in research, mentoring and teaching at an awards ceremony during the Graduate Research Forum.

Annually, the Graduate Council Program Review and Awards Committee carefully review all of the college nominations and recognize graduate student recipients for the University Graduate Awards of Excellence. The nominations are very competitive and the selection is especially challenging each year.

The Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching recognizes students who have independent teaching responsibilities. This award focuses on the quality of the teaching activities and academic contributions made by those who have the sole responsibility in a classroom for the instruction. 

The University Award Winner is Melissa Pompos Mansfield from the College of Arts and Humanities.

Melissa PomposPompos Mansfield is a master’s student in the Rhetoric and Composition program. She is very dedicated to helping her First-Year Composition students become more effective writers and communicators. Based on her performance as a teacher during her first year as a GTA, she was awarded the Department of Writing and Rhetoric’s Graduate Teaching Assistant Teaching Excellence Award in Spring 2014. Having demonstrated her considerable teaching abilities and knowledge of the curriculum, Pompos Mansfield was invited to serve on the Department’s Composition Committee and the ENC 1101 E-portfolio Assessment Committee during the 2014-2015 academic year. It is rare that Graduate Teaching Assistants are invited to take on such assignments, but given her professionalism and keen insights, as well as her abilities to motivate her students, it was clear that she had a great deal to contribute to those committees.

The Award for Excellence by a Graduate Teaching Assistant recognizes excellence by GTAs who are responsible for a lab section or similar teaching assignment under the direction of a faculty instructor of record. Students are recognized for their assistance to the instructor and to the students in the class.

The University Award Winner is Benjamin Lancaster from the College of Arts and Humanities.

Benjamin LancasterLancaster is a master’s student in the Film program in the School of Visual Arts and Design and has been a teaching assistant for three semesters. His lectures have been superior and his energy is infectious, as it gets the students excited about the material. He also possesses solid judgment when it comes to assessing students’ work and behavior. As his supervisor, Lisa Peterson states, “I consult him as I would a more seasoned colleague because his perspective and opinion is as good as mine.” Lancaster is generous with his time and knowledge, and the faculty like him. Students respect his experience in the field in which they want to succeed and they are grateful for his generosity in sharing his knowledge. While working hard in his academic life, Lancaster is also married, raising a toddler, preparing to shoot his feature thesis film and is holding down two jobs. He clearly knows not only how to manage his time but also how to excel. 

The Award for Outstanding Master’s Thesis focuses on the quality and contribution of a student’s completed master’s thesis.

The University Award Winner is Matthew Tye from the College of Sciences. Matthew isfrom the Biology program and was mentored by Dr. Pedro Quintana Ascencio. His thesis is entitled:  Integral Projection Models Reveal Interactive Effects of Biotic Factors and Disturbance on Plant Demography.

Tye’s research interests are in population modeling, theoretical ecology and biological conservation. His work aimed to inform better management and conservation. His interest in developing models that explore less conventional approaches, including spatially explicit models, multispecies models and models with complex interactions, is important to note. Tye is the coauthor of a paper in Population Ecology and the leading author of two manuscripts in review by primary ecological journals. He is an excellent mentor and was responsible for the genetic laboratory undergraduate classes during four semesters. He is an experienced field researcher and a team player and has provided generous assistance in multiple occasions to support research. Tye is currently pursuing his PhD under the supervision of Nina Sletvold at Uppsala University, Sweden.

The Award for Outstanding Dissertation focuses on the quality and contribution of a student’s completed dissertation.

The University Award Winner is Dr. Mohammad Ali Miri from the College of Optics and Photonics.  Dr. Miri is a graduate of the Optics and Photonics PhD program and was mentored by Dr. Demetrios N. Christodoulides. His dissertation is entitled: Parity-Time and Supersymmetry in Optics.

Mohammad MiriDr. Miri’s research is mainly focused on the theory and applications of parity-time (PT) symmetry in optics and has made a number of significant contributions to this field. His dissertation research has led to more than 50 publications, including 18 journal papers. Most of them were published in the highest impact journals of optics and physics, including Science,Nature,Nature Photonics, and Nature Physics. To have not one, but four papers published in this highest tier of prestigious journals, at such an early stage in one’s scientific career, is truly exceptional. Ali also gave several invited and contributed presentations at some of the most reputed conferences in optics, photonics and laser science. According to Google Scholar, his work has received over 530 citations in less than three years—a rate that far exceedseven that of exceptional cases in institutions like MIT, Caltech and Stanford. Dr. Miri’s research has drawn considerable attention within the international scientific community and his dissertation will have a lasting impact on the field of optics and photonics for years to come.

The following students were nominees for the university-level award of graduate excellence, as they received the award within each of their colleges. The quality of work and achievement of those students nominated were remarkable, and all nominees are to be applauded. 

Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching – College Winners

  • James Atkinson – College of Sciences
  • Stephanie C. Bolyard – College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Abdullah Makki – Rosen College of Hospitality Management
  • Melissa Pompos Mansfield – College of Arts and Humanities 

Award for Excellence by a Graduate Teaching Assistant – College Winners

  • Muamer Ali Abuzwidah – College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Benjamin Lancaster – College of Arts and Humanities
  • Hilal Peker-Ozbay – College of Education and Human Performance 

Award for the Outstanding Master’s Thesis – College Winners

  • Robert L. Clarke – College of Arts and Humanities
  • Erica R. LaBerge – College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Marcus Otte – College of Graduate Studies
  • Matthew Tye – College of Sciences 

Award for the Outstanding Dissertation – College Winners

  • Dr. Marcy Galbreath – College of Arts and Humanities
  • Dr. Stacey Hardin – College of Education and Human Performance
  • Dr. Mohammad Ali Miri – College of Optics and Photonics
  • Dr. He Shen – College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Dr. Walter B. Wilson – College of Sciences

Congratulations to all our winners!

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