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Friday, July 11, 2014

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Four professors honored for excellence in mentoring graduate students

Four Princeton faculty members have been named the recipients of Graduate Mentoring Awards by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning and will be honored during the Graduate School's hooding ceremony on Monday, May 31, in McCarter Theatre.

They are: Sarah Kay, professor of French and Italian and department chair; Igor Klebanov, professor of physics and associate director of the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science; Stephen Kotkin, the Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History with a joint appointment as professor of international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; and Margaret Martonosi, professor of electrical engineering.

The McGraw Center, together with the Graduate School, instituted the mentoring award in 2002 to recognize Princeton faculty members whose work with graduate students is particularly outstanding. It is intended to honor faculty members who nurture the intellectual, professional and personal growth of their graduate students.

Graduate students nominate faculty members for the award and, along with faculty members, serve on the committee that selects the winners. One faculty member in each academic division (engineering, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences) is chosen. In addition to being honored at the ceremony, each receives a $1,000 award and a commemorative gift.

Kay, who joined the Princeton faculty in 2006, is a specialist in medieval French and Occitan literature. Her interest in modern thought and theory led her in 2003 to publish the first monograph in English on the work of Slovenian cultural critic Slavoj Žižek. Her graduate seminars include medieval French literary topics such as "Cosmology and Melancholy" and "Skin, the Self and the Book," as well as the poetry of the troubadours and its reception, and philology and text editing.

"It is in her capacity as an adviser that Sarah truly shines," said one student. "Her heartfelt encouragement, exacting critiques and precise advice on how and where to publish were all responsible for my first published article. … She has pointed me in the direction of a theoretical framework I could not have conceived of on my own, and has asked questions that have both guided how I go about my research and forced me to reevaluate my findings."

Klebanov, who earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1986 and joined the University faculty in 1989, teaches graduate courses in theoretical physics, including quantum field theory, general relativity and string theory. His course titles have included "Selected Topics in High-Energy Physics" and "Introduction to Relativity." Much of his research work centers on the relations between string theory and quantum gauge theory.

Remarking on Klebanov's collaborative style of mentoring, one former student said, "He is an outstanding teacher and mentor who carefully guided me through all stages of the graduate program. … We met frequently, not only talking about my current progress or planning future research but also discussing recent talks and papers and even brainstorming together. In general I see Igor's style of mentoring as a form of partnership [where] students are promoted to collaborators. This facilitates professional growth as well as helps develop a student's own field of interest and expertise."

Kotkin
, who joined the Princeton faculty in 1989, directed the University's Program in Russian and Eurasian Studies from 1996 to 2009. His research focuses on authoritarianism, geopolitics, global political economy, empire, and modernism in the arts and politics. His graduate course topics include authoritarianism and the Soviet empire and its successor states.

In their letters of nomination, current and former students praised Kotkin's open-mindedness toward unconventional theories while also remarking on his enthusiastic and challenging teaching style. "Kotkin's courses were remarkable in challenging what we thought we already knew," recalled one former student. "His probing questions -- in response to seminar papers, talks and dissertation chapters -- offered a model of intellectual curiosity, critical engagement and creative thinking. He was always generous with his time and ideas, and equally energetic in pushing his students to improve themselves."

Martonosi, who joined the Princeton faculty in 1994, focuses her research on computer architecture and the hardware-software interface, with particular attention to power-efficient systems and mobile computing. In the field of processor architecture, she has done extensive work on power modeling and management, and on memory hierarchy performance and energy. Martonosi teaches a graduate course titled "Great Moments in Computing," in which students learn about the discipline's most fundamental topics by reading and discussing primary-source materials from scientists and industry pioneers including George Boole, Alan Turing, Maurice Wilkes and Gordon Moore.

In addition to her broad technical knowledge, several current and former students cited Martonosi's passion for guiding them through their graduate studies as her greatest asset. "Margaret's mentorship shaped me both as a person and researcher," said one former student. "Margaret has shown me how much being a good researcher extends beyond doing the technical work. She has always put a lot of emphasis on making sure all her students represent themselves and their work with the highest quality, and that we have significant and fruitful exposure to the world outside our lab. … The effects of her mentorship still carry their signature in my work since graduation."

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