Engineering Professors and Recent Graduate Named UCLA 2020-2021 Distinguished Teachers

UCLA Academic Senate Award

Aug 16, 2021

UCLA Samueli Newsroom
UCLA Samueli School of Engineering professors Amy Rowat and Alexander Sherstov along with recent Ph.D. graduate Alexandra Polasko were recognized by the UCLA Academic Senate with the university’s highest honor for excellence in teaching.

The Senate selected the recipients based on a wide range of criteria, such as the teacher’s impact on students, abilities to foster an encouraging learning environment, employing innovations in the classroom and programming, incorporating community outreach and receiving high ratings in course evaluations.

Sherstov and Rowat were among six Senate members and Polasko was one of five teaching assistants honored for the 2020-21 academic year. Below are highlights of their accomplishments.

Amy Rowat
Amy Rowat, an associate professor of integrative biology and physiology with an appointment in bioengineering, received a 2020-21 Distinguished Teaching Award with Distinction in Teaching Undergraduate Research Mentorship. Rowat teaches Physical Science 7: “Science and Food.” The life sciences general education course covers the physics and biology of food, such as what makes lettuce crispy or meat chewy. The popular class also brings in chefs, bakers and food professionals as guest lecturers. It has been featured in several publications, including the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Scientific American and Eater. Rowat also teaches Physical Science 174: “Cell Biophysics,” which covers cells as materials in human health and disease.
Alexander Sherstov
Alexander Sherstov, an associate professor of computer science, received a 2020-21 Distinguished Teaching Award. Sherstov teaches undergraduate and graduate classes on theoretical computer science, including Computer Science 181, which is UCLA’s core undergraduate class on the theory of computation. Sherstov’s areas of expertise include computational complexity theory, quantum computing and computational learning. Sherstov also received the 2014 Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award at UCLA Samueli.
Alexandra Polasko
Alexandra Polasko, a 2021 Ph.D. graduate in civil engineering, received a 2020-21 Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award. She helped teach upper-division undergraduate classes on environmental engineering and water and wastewater treatment, as well as a graduate course on environmental biotechnology. She was also an instructor for a graduate teaching seminar. Polasko’s doctoral thesis was on how microbes interact with contaminants in water and on surfaces. Her advisor was Shaily Mahendra, professor of civil and environmental engineering. Polasko is now a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA School of Dentistry, studying biofilms that form in the mouth.
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