It's a Pattern Not a Trend: Biomedical Engineering PhD Students Earn Top Awards for Teaching

Biomedical engineering Ph.D. student Noah Perry has won the University of Virginia’s top recognition for graduate student teaching, the Class of 1985 Fellowship for Creative Teaching. The fellowship includes a $5,000 award.

Fellow biomedical engineering student Ridhi Sahani won $1,000 for the Distinguished Graduate Teaching Award in the STEM disciplines. These awards were among 18 All-University Graduate Teaching Awards presented by the Office of the Provost and Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs this year.

This achievement is not new to the department. Three years ago, then-graduate students Laura Dunphy and Kristen Fread won the same two awards.

So what makes these graduate students instructors so special? The following are some examples of what students and faculty had to say about these exceptional educators.

Noah Perry, a graduate student in BME at UVA

Noah Perry is a PhD Candidate in Mete Civelek's Lab.

Noah Perry Wins Class of 1985 Fellowship for Creative Teaching

"During class, Noah valued our participation a lot and a lot of it was about being creative and finding unique answers to show the concepts he was trying to convey. He welcomed all kinds of thought and urged us to brainstorm goofy responses and always accepted every answer he got. It made me feel like I could say anything and I would not be judged." -- Student in BME 4063 BME Capstone Design

"...Throughout the remainder of the hour and fifteen-minute class period, never once did the students lose interest. I marveled at Noah’s innate ability to deftly draw out students’ opinions and thoughts through Socratic questioning, while also managing his time perfectly and making it through the content he had planned in precisely the 75 minutes of the class period. I have rarely seen this level of preparation and skill even among experienced faculty members, let alone in a graduate student leading his first-ever class with such a large number of students! As a testament to Noah’s success in engaging the students, when the class ended, many students burst into applause—something I have never witnessed on Day 2 of a class in my 17 years as a faculty member! Noah then remained at the front of the classroom and fielded questions from multiple students for at least ten minutes after class." -- Professor Timothy Allen, from his classroom observation of Noah Perry in BME 4063 BME Capstone Design

"My ultimate ambition is to instill the belief that all problems can be solved, and empower students to see themselves as the one’s capable of doing so." -- Noah Perry, Graduate Instructor for BME 4063 BME Capstone Design

Photo of a Graduate Student in BME at UVA

Ridhi is a Ph.D. candidate in Silvia Blemker's Lab.

Ridhi Sahani Wins Distinguished Teaching Award in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

"Professor Sahani encouraged different methods of approaching problems instead of fixating on one particular method. Put another way, she encouraged us to use the most intuitive approach… She was willing to explain both ways to cater towards students who preferred one option over the other.” -- Student in BME 2220 Biomechanics

"Her willingness to accommodate diverse learning needs had clearly established a level of trust that made it easy for all students to speak up and ask questions. It was clear that she had created a learning environment in which students were motivated to work hard to understand the material, feeling encouraged, supported, and safe to “fail” or be wrong in front of their peers and their instructor." -- Shayn Peirce-Cottler, Professor and Chair, from her classroom observation of Ridhi Sahani in BME 2220 Biomechanics

"In recognizing that as instructors, we learn as much from our students as they do from us, we held a mid-semester evaluation with the Center for Teaching Excellence. This feedback was invaluable, and we worked to address comments from our students, such as spending more time explaining the “why” behind our approach to solving problems in class and allowing time for the students to think independently about the problems before beginning to solve them together." -- Ridhi Sahani, Graduate Instructor for BME 2220 Biomechanics