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Richard Hennig, MSE, Michael Tien '72 Award

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Michael Tien '72 Excellence in Teaching Award

Richard Hennig aims to make his courses very interactive. "I stop my lectures frequently to ask questions, to have short in-class discussions and problem-solving activities," he says. "This helps the students to understand the material better and to identify the important points and keeps them focused.

"I also added a lab component to my computational materials science course where once a week we perform materials simulations using the CNF supercomputer," Hennig continues. "In addition, in this course the students propose and complete a project in which they use computational tools to study a material."

Hennig doesn't consider his techniques unusual by today's standards. "But when I went to college myself not that long ago, none of my classes were interactive," he says. "So the teaching style at universities has certainly changed over the last decade or so."

"Since his arrival at Cornell University a rather short time ago, Richard has established himself as an excellent and dedicated teacher and an outstanding researcher," writes MSE director Emmanuel Giannelis in his nomination letter. "Richard is a superb teacher and has earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues because of his openness towards his students and his fun but challenging teaching style.

"His students always comment on his willingness to go the extra mile in making sure all of his students understand the concepts being discussed," continues Giannelis. "Most of all, Richard is known and well-liked across the engineering quad for being an approachable, kind person and mentor, whose door is literally always open."

"Lecturer was phenomenal, went above and beyond to make sure students understood," reads one student evaluation.

"He is able to take difficult concepts and explain them in a way that the whole class can understand. His lectures are very informative and organized. His notes are even much better than the course textbook," writes another student. "He is always willing to help students outside of class and is very accessible. I can definitely tell he puts a high priority on making sure his students completely understand the course material."

Hennig says he has learned that Cornell students can constantly surprise him. "I have seen some unexpected, clever and unique answers and solutions to questions as well as have been asked very insightful and intriguing questions during my teaching at Cornell," he says.

And their gratitude makes it all worthwhile. "It is most rewarding for me," he says, "when students come back a year or more later and tell me that what they learned helped them in their job or research to solve real-world engineering problems."