Goorsky, Margulis named UCLA Distinguished Teachers

Jun 13, 2016

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Two engineering faculty members – Mark Goorsky, professor of materials science and engineering; and Steve Margulis, professor of civil and environmental engineering – are among six across the campus who have received a 2016 UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award.

The award, first handed out in 1961 by the UCLA Academic Senate, recognizes extraordinary teachers who have made a significant impact on their students through classroom teaching and curriculum development. This is the first time that two engineers have received the honor in the same year.

Professor Mark Goorsky
Professor Mark Goorsky

Goorsky, who teaches several courses in materials science, started at UCLA in 1991. He noted that while the underlying concepts of his undergraduate courses has remained much the same, the technology and therefore the course content has changed significantly over the decades.

“For courses that involve technology, it is important to present new technological developments,” he said. “In many cases, however, the principles behind the technology have not changed so it is important to present the foundational issues and explain their importance.

In addition to the distinguished teaching award, Goorsky was also named for Harvey L. Eby Award for the Art of Teaching. He is also the department’s vice chair for graduate studies.

Margulis, who joined the UCLA faculty in 2002, teaches undergraduate and graduate classes on hydrology and numerical modeling. He’s the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department’s vice-chair for graduate affairs.

Over several quarters teaching an introductory hydrology course, Margulis did not find a textbook that perfectly fit the course.
“I tried many things, including using ones that didn’t quite fit what I wanted to cover and ones that could be used as a reference across multiple courses,” he said. “All of this was in the context of rising textbook prices.”

Professor Steve Margulis

Spurred by those issues, and a desire to experiment with new ideas of what a textbook should provide, he created a free, open-access electronic textbook, that contains multi-media material and modeling tools in addition to fully covering course topics. In offering the textbook publicly, colleagues at many other universities have adopted the book for their courses.

Both Goorsky and Margulis agreed the best part of teaching at UCLA are all of the bright students who bring enthusiasm to the classes.

“I try to convey to students that I want to push them hard so they can achieve great heights, perhaps even more than they expected of themselves,” Margulis said. “For this to be successful, though, students need to be both highly capable and very willing to participate in what is asked of them. I find our students to generally have both.”

For Goorsky, he noted it’s particular rewarding to hear students questions that go beyond the course. “When students ask such things, it shows that they understand the concept and have considered how that concept applies to real world situations,” he said.

Goorsky, Margulis and the other recipients of the 2016 distinguished teaching awards will be honored in fall quarter at UCLA’s annual Andrea L. Rich Night to Honor Teaching ceremony. Selected by the senate’s committee on teaching, winners receive an honorarium of $6,000.

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