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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Romesh Batra

   

The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Romesh Batra, professor of Engineering Sciences and Mechanics, for excellence in teaching graduate level courses that prepare students to conduct cutting-edge research in emerging fields, and challenging them to critically examine their work and the assumptions made in proving a result.

Romesh Batra uses chalkboard, written reports, oral presentations, problem solutions, classroom discussions, PowerPoint slides, movies depicting simulations of physical phenomena, DVDs of lectures on the internet, and e-mail exchanges to promote students’ learning of concepts and their building of mathematical models of real world problems. Students in his classes work on a project which often results in a refereed journal publication. As a part of the final examination students present their work to peers, thus sharpening their communication skills.

Some examples of students’ development are briefly described here. His former mentee, S. S. Vel (Ph.D., 1999), won the 2006 American Academy of Mechanics Distinguished Young Researcher Award, and M. Porfiri (Ph.D., 2006) won a much coveted NSF Career Award in 2007, and was named 2012 Outstanding Young Alumni by Virginia Tech's College of Engineering. Shakti Gupta (Ph.D., 2009) received the Silicon Medal and a Certificate of Appreciation from the Indian Defense Minister on the National Science Day held at the Defense Institute, Poona, February 28, 2010. Of Romesh Batra's 19 former doctoral students at Virginia Tech, seven are faculty members, and 12 are employed in the public and the private sectors.

Dr. Batra's mentee, Bryan M. Love (Ph.D., 2004) writes, “Through the constant revision and re-revision of journal papers prior to submission, Dr. Batra taught me how to effectively convey my research to the academic community. All of these resulted in me becoming a better researcher, approaching problems with meticulous attention to detail, producing a quality of work that frequently stands out from my peers in my current position.” H.-K. Ching (Ph.D., 2002) states, “Batra encouraged me to polish my public speaking skills by presenting the work in the [weekly group] meetings and always showed great patience listening to what I said. This training has proved to benefit my professional growth.”

Dr. Batra is a recipient of 2010 SCHEV outstanding faculty award, and has been included several times in Dean's list of excellent teachers.

Davide Spinello (Ph.D., ESM, 2006) reminiscences “Attending [Dr. Batra’s] classes in computational mechanics, I perceived him as a great teacher through his capability to communicate to students his knowledge and his passion. Because of this peculiarity, typical of great and devoted scientists, I decided to move to the ESM department after having received the Master Degree at the University of Roma, 'La Sapienza,' and I have been honored to have him as my advisor."

Brad Klenow (Ph.D., AoE, 2009)has the following to say about Dr. Batra's teaching: “The first aspect of Dr. Batra’s classes that stands out is his respect for his students. As a student I felt Dr. Batra respected my willingness and drive to learn. In turn I, and all of his students I know, always respected Dr. Batra, for both his professional achievements and his willingness and drive to educate. This mutual respect fostered a unique classroom experience where Dr. Batra treated us, the students, as he would a colleague. . . . Secondly, Dr. Batra constantly challenges you to think about the material during the class period as he posses questions to the class or allows a student’s question to be answered by the group. The combination of these two teaching methods along with Dr. Batra’s drive to educate, create a classroom atmosphere where knowledge is continuously absorbed through the teacher, other students, and individual students themselves. In my experience as a student this unique type of educational atmosphere in a classroom greatly facilitates the learning experience."

Wesley Slemp (Ph.D., AoE, 2010) describes Dr. Batra's teaching as follows: “Of all my course work to this point in my academic career, Dr. Batra’s FEM (Finite Element Method) course was both the most challenging and the most rewarding. Dr. Batra is excellent at providing challenging educational assignments that truly help to facilitate learning. He was available whenever I needed assistance, but was diligent to only direct my efforts as opposed to showing me how to proceed. My experience with Dr. Batra on my Ph.D. committee is not different from that of a classroom section. In my Ph.D. preliminary exam, Dr. Batra asked a question to which I initially had no idea how to respond with regards to the difference between 'collocation methods' and 'Galerkin methods.' However, Dr. Batra asked additional directing questions through which I was able to deduce how to proceed. His warm but firm personality made a potentially stressful situation very educational. I would guess that very few people can honestly leave their preliminary Ph. D. exam and say 'I have learned something today.'"

Homepage: www.esm.vt.edu/~rbatra





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