Graduate students honored for excellence in teaching

The Princeton Graduate School has given awards to five graduate students in recognition of their dedication and effectiveness in teaching.

The annual Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni Teaching Awards are sponsored by the graduate alumni and are selected by the Graduate School administration. The four 2007 winners are Powell Draper of the civil and environmental engineering department, Luca Grillo of the classics department, Ngar Yin Louis Lee of the psychology department and Emily Zackin of the politics department.

A fifth student, Mihail Amarie of the physics department, received the Friends of the International Center Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given annually to an international graduate student.

All were honored at the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni's Tribute to Teaching Dinner on June 1 during Reunions.

Draper, a second-year student, earned bachelor's degrees from Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia. At Princeton, he served as a preceptor for "Engineering in the Modern World," "Structures and the Urban Environment" and "Design of Large-Scale Structures." Students from his precepts noted Draper’s "incredible knowledge as a structural engineer" and his "personal interest in his students." Professor David Billington said, "Powell is an extraordinary person, teacher and scholar."

Grillo came to Princeton four years ago after earning degrees from Catholic University and the University of Minnesota. This year, he taught precepts in "History of the Roman Empire" and "The Other Side of Rome." He also served as a language-section instructor in "Intermediate Latin: Catullus and His Age" and "The Origins of Rome: Livy and Vergil." Professors praised Grillo for his hard work, efficiency, creativity and personal warmth. Grillo has a special ability to draw out students, noted professor Robert Kaster. "He has been able to reach students in ways that I, with more than 30 years of experience, could not," Kaster said.

Lee, a fifth-year student, earned his bachelor's degree from University College London. He led precepts for a number of courses at Princeton, including "Cognitive Psychology," "Psychology of Thinking" and "Introduction to Psychology." Students and faculty remarked on Lee’s intellectual energy and enthusiasm, his openness to new ideas and his willingness to entertain a variety of scientific questions. As one student wrote, "Louis stands out as a charismatic and caring individual dedicated to helping his students not only survive tough classes, but excel in them as well."

Zackin, a third-year student, graduated from Swarthmore College and received a master's degree from Columbia University. She served as a preceptor for "American Political Thought" and "American Constitutional Development." One student said Zackin's precept "made me quickly remember why I wanted to come to Princeton in the first place." Another student wrote that having Zackin as a teacher "makes me really want to do the week's reading and think about the precept questions beforehand, not so I am better prepared for the exam or so I get a good grade ... but so I can have another great hour of intellectual discussion and debate."

Amarie, a fourth-year student and a native of Romania, received a bachelor's degree from the University of Bucharest. Amarie was a lab instructor for "Contemporary Physics" and "Future Physics," courses he has made popular for nonscientists. Students praised his patience and tireless ability to explain and re-explain concepts until every student understood them. Amarie "made physics an incredibly enjoyable, interesting and even exciting subject — a feat, surely, for a class without any physics majors," one student said.