Two Engineering Junior Faculty Receive Excellence in Teaching Award

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Two assistant professors in UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering, Mahnoosh Alizadeh and Paolo Luzzatto-Fegiz, have been named co-recipients of the Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award. The annual award goes to junior faculty in STEM fields who have demonstrated excellence in their teaching techniques, activities, and lectures, as well as in their interactions with students, colleagues, and staff. 

“It’s very rewarding to know students appreciate my teaching efforts, especially at a research university,” said Luzzatto-Fegiz, an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department. “I feel it is extremely important to educate engineers who are both highly competent and excited about their profession.” 

Luzzatto-Fegiz specializes in fluid mechanics. He researches the effect atmospheric stability has on wind farm performance, and studies the forces of attraction that occur between sediment particles in moving liquid. His work, which recently included conducting space-based experiments aboard the International Space Station, could lead to new predictive models in coastal and aquatic ecosystems and more productive wind farms. 

Alizadeh joined UCSB’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in November 2016 after completing postdoctoral studies at Stanford University. Her research interests include technologies for integrating renewable energy, and designing scalable and decentralized control and economic mechanisms to optimize the energy grid. She says that receiving an award based on student input makes this recognition even more special. 

“I try to help everyone achieve their potential,” said Alizadeh, director of the Smart Infrastructure Systems Laboratory. “Our students come from different backgrounds and have different starting points, but with the right help and guidance, they all have excellent potential. My philosophy is to always provide encouragement if I see a student trying their best, even if they are not doing very well in class. It's the improvement curve that matters.”

The most important responsibility of a professor, according to Alizadeh, is providing students with opportunities for growth. 

“Seeing students challenge themselves when presented with exciting learning or research opportunities and watching their extraordinary academic and social growth have been the biggest joys of my career at UCSB,” she said. 

Like Alizadeh, Luzzatto-Fegiz is also passionate about teaching. To help students learn and discover their full potential, he creates a supportive environment and design a hands-on curriculum. 

“In-class demonstrations can show that surprisingly simple fluid mechanical setups can give rise to strange and unexpected phenomena, which can be explained and predicted through engineering theory,” he said. “We have exceptional engineering students at UCSB who routinely ask insightful questions. I try to make sure they understand how the knowledge they use was generated, and that they have the tools to learn more and to advance the subject.”

He says engaging the class in discussions about real-world applications of fluid mechanics keeps students motivated. Some of the most common topics are electric aircraft, and how to provide cheaper, easier access to low-Earth orbit, a field in which Northrop Grumman plays a leading role.  

Last year, Diba Mizra from the Department of Computer Science and Tyler Susko of the Mechanical Engineering Department received the Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award. 

Assistant professors Paolo Luzzatto-Fegiz (left) and Mahnoosh Alizadeh (right) are co-recipients of the Northrop Gumman Excellence in Teaching Award.