UMBC engineering and IT faculty honored for excellence in teaching

By: Megan Hanks Mastrola
Jul 31, 2017

Lee Blaney, and Daniel Ocasio 17, chemical engineering, working in the lab.

Two faculty in UMBC’s College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) have received special honors, at the national level, in recognition of their contributions as teachers and mentors.

The Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Foundation recognized Lee Blaney, associate professor of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering, with the AEESP Award for Outstanding Teaching in Environmental Engineering and Science during the organization’s annual AEESP conference, held June 22. Each year, the award is presented to one professor of environmental engineering or environmental science to recognize their particularly meaningful contributions as an educator in the field.

“I was absolutely thrilled to receive the 2017 AEESP Award for Outstanding Teaching in Environmental Engineering and Science. As this is the premier teaching award for environmental engineering, I was immensely honored and humbled to be chosen,” Blaney says. “In putting together the documentation for the award package, I was able to reflect not only on teaching traditional courses, but also mentoring students in my laboratory and working with students to complete humanitarian service projects.”

In addition to his teaching, international infrastructure development work, research on water contaminants of emerging concern, and mentoring students in the field and in the lab, Blaney is now focusing on growing collaboration opportunities in Baltimore. As part of his recent NSF CAREER Award, he is developing and launching a citizen science program in Baltimore City. The program will help community members become more connected with their environment, and increase their scientific and environmental literacy, while valuing their contributions to the study of local water safety.

“The common thread in all of these activities is the hardworking, positive, and diverse UMBC student body. I am grateful to those students that have taken my classes, worked in my laboratory, and dedicated their time and effort to ensuring that others have clean water and safe sanitation,” he says. “They are my motivation, and I look forward to continuing to work with them in the coming years.”

Blaney also presented during the annual AEESP meeting. Using data from the American Society of Engineering Education, he discussed the demographics of students and faculty in the field, and and the importance of workplace diversity in engineering. Diversity in STEM fields is an area that both Blaney and UMBC are working to address in numerous ways. He says that supporting students from underrepresented groups as they pursue undergraduate degrees in environmental engineering plays a crucial role in encouraging their future success in graduate school, as researchers, and as educators.

Dr. Marie desJardins helps a Lakeland Elementary/Middle School student. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC. 

Marie desJardins, COEIT associate dean and professor of computer science and electrical engineering, has been named the recipient of the A. Richard Newton Education ABIE Award from the Anita Borg Institute. The award “recognizes educators for developing innovative teaching practices and approaches that attract girls and women to computing, engineering, and math in K-12 or undergraduate education.” The Anita Borg Institute will formally honor desJardins with the award during the upcoming Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, an annual conference that desJardins describes as “the heart of the movement to increase gender diversity in computing.”

Increasing gender diversity in computing has become both a professional focus and personal commitment for desJardins over the course of her career. “It’s part of a broader equity issue — for everyone to be able to envision themselves as creators of technology, and for the future of technology to be created by a diverse community of scientists and engineers,” she says.

This summer, desJardins shared her passion for encouraging girls and women to pursue careers in computing with nearly 150 elementary and middle school girls who attend the Mind, Body, Coding camp at UMBC. “Seeing these young girls whose lives could be transformed by greater access to computing is incredibly inspiring,” she says. “It’s a big part of what gets me energized every day to do the work that I do, from supporting diversity in K-12 computing education to mentoring junior female faculty who will train the next generation of computer scientists.”

Banner image: Lee Blaney, left, works with a student in his lab. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

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