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Professor Maria Garlock Received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching

Four Princeton University faculty members received President's Awards for Distinguished Teaching at Commencement ceremonies on Tuesday, June 5.  The department is pleased to announce that Professor Maria Garlock was one of the recipients.

The awards were established in 1991 through gifts by Princeton alumni Lloyd Cotsen of the Class of 1950 and John Sherrerd of the Class of 1952 to recognize excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching by Princeton faculty members. Each winner receives a cash prize of $5,000, and his or her department receives $3,000 for the purchase of new books.

A committee of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and academic administrators selected the winners from nominations by students, faculty colleagues and alumni.

Professor Garlock, a faculty member since 2003, focuses on research in structural engineering and also directs the interdisciplinary Program in Architecture and Engineering. Her innovative teaching approach and commitment to mentoring have inspired both undergraduate and graduate students. "I admire her insights as a mentor, her enthusiasm as a teacher and her drive as an individual," wrote one graduate student in nominating Garlock for the award. "Education to her is a holistic combination of teaching, research and mentoring."

Garlock's expertise includes the study of structural art, which a colleague noted offers an "educational thrust for students at Princeton, the broader Princeton community and the public." An important example of her activities in this arena was the 2008 Princeton University Art Museum exhibition that she collaborated on with Professor Emeritus David Billington titled "Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist," which used 19 structural models created by Princeton students under Garlock's guidance. Blending structural art and engineering is at the heart of Garlock's next major project — construction of a 90-foot model of the Golden Gate Bridge, which will be on display near the entrance of the actual bridge in San Francisco in a year's time. Structural art is also central to the course she co-developed, "A Social and Multi-dimensional Exploration of Structures," which debuted in fall 2010 with a focus on the design of tall buildings and required students to build a series of models. The course is designed to feature a new theme each time it is offered.

Colleagues and students agree that Garlock has a remarkable talent for turning what might be viewed as "dry engineering topics" such as "Design for Reinforced Concrete Structures" and turning them into "something irresistible." She has taken the helm in teaching one of the civil and engineering department's most popular courses, "Structures and the Urban Environment." One recent graduate who took the course wrote: "Throughout the lectures, Professor Garlock's passion for engineering was fully evident. I think the track record of this class attracting hundreds of undergraduates from all departments speaks to Professor Garlock's ability as a teacher." Another recent alumnus wrote that he has kept working with Garlock — on the Golden Gate Bridge project — because he "enjoyed his work with her so much he did not want to stop."

As an adviser, Garlock is known for her kindness, patience and ability to explain difficult concepts. One recent graduate wrote that thanks to Garlock's guidance, "My thesis turned out to be the single most rewarding aspect of my time at Princeton." One of her recent Ph.D. students, now herself a professor, wrote, "She has been a constant source of inspiration in my life and an influential mentor." Added another recent graduate alumnus, "It has truly been an honor to be her student."

Congratulations on a well-deserved honor.