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CCEE Ph.D. students win Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards

CCEE Ph.D. students Nancy Abayo and Diyuan Wang and Ph.D. candidate S M Jamil Uddin won 2022-23 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards from the NC State Graduate Student Association’s Teaching Effectiveness Committee. The awards are the primary university-level recognition for exceptional contributions made by graduate teaching assistants (TAs) to the educational excellence of the university.

S M Jamil Uddin

Uddin, who is advised by Alex Albert, said it felt nice to be appreciated for the hard work TAs put forth throughout the school year. He serves as a TA for CE 301 Civil Engineering Surveying and Geomatics. 

“My favorite part about being a TA is being able to interact with the students and help them procure the knowledge they are seeking from the class,” he said.

Uddin, whose research focuses on improving construction workers’ health and safety conditions in construction workplaces, has aspirations to work in a higher education setting.

“I am very passionate about teaching and research, and I look forward to being a professor when I graduate,” he said.

Diyuan Wang

Wang, who is advised by Joel Ducoste and Francis de los Reyes, said she felt happy and thankful to win the award. As a TA, she has been responsible for teaching Principles of Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology lab sessions.

“My favorite part of being one of the lab TAs for this course is that we can interact with students, learn together and have a lot of fun from doing the lab work,” Wang said.

Although she said she was initially hesitant to teach, she now feels happy about helping others learn.

“After I started teaching, I learned I enjoyed it, and I feel my passion light up,”  said Wang, whose research involves assessing microalgae growth under stressed conditions and exploring the use of microalgae in biofuel production. “After graduation, I will stay in academia. Hopefully in the future, I can be a professor leading a lovely research group.”

Nancy Abayo

Abayo also feels passionate about teaching. Last year, she was accepted into NC State’s Preparing for the Professoriate (PTP), a highly competitive program designed to give doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars an immersive mentoring, teaching, and future faculty preparation experience.Abayo, advised by Drs. Ashly Cabas and Brina Montoya, has served as a TA for undergraduate soil mechanics and foundation design as well as graduate advanced soil properties courses.

“Specifically, I have taught the soil mechanics labs for three semesters and have also taught some lectures through the College of Engineering Mentored Teaching Fellowship program with Dr. Cabas during Spring 2022. I just completed a semester of teaching the whole course under the guidance of Dr. Montoya through the PTP program.”

Abayo said her favorite part of being a TA is the opportunity to learn with the students.

“I am always reminded that teaching is one of the best ways to impart not only knowledge but also a portion of who you are — such as your passions and values — to the learner,” she said. “While I think that comes with a lot of responsibility , it also carries much needed accountability to teach with empathy and compassion accounting for the different ways one can learn, to the best of our abilities. This is something that I am also working to develop more as I pursue a graduate certificate in Engineering Education.”

Abayo, whose research focuses on improving predictions of liquefaction-induced lateral spreading from seismic events, said she aspires to become a professor.

“The unmatched mentorship and the culmination of all the experiences the department and the graduate school has offered has definitely further solidified my pursuit of a career in academia,” she said. “More specifically, going into this semester of my first time teaching a full course, although excited, I was also extremely nervous for many reasons. But I am very grateful because Dr. Montoya has helped me a great deal in embracing different challenges that came with this particular experience.”