School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Honors Faculty, Recent Graduates with Awards
Dr. Noah Sasson (second from right), recipient of the 2017 Aage Møller Teaching Award, works with doctoral students Kaitlin Sands (left), Kerrianne Morrison and Sydney Rowles (right).
According to associate professor Dr. Noah Sasson, most students walk into his research methods class prepared to dislike it. His goal is to change their thinking.
“My job is to convince them not only how important it is for them to get a good understanding of research methods, but also that their minds can be trained to think more scientifically about the world around them,” Sasson said. “Even for students who don’t go on to a research career, having an appreciation for the kind of rigor and scientific approach to evaluating evidence is incredibly important in today’s world.”
Sasson’s focus on engaging students and helping them think critically were instrumental in his being awarded the 2017 Aage Møller Teaching Award, one of several honors given to faculty members and students in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS).
The award was established in 2011 by Møller, Founders Professor of neuroscience, as a way to reward excellent teaching and promote the importance of teaching.
“Good teachers engage students in creative thinking and get them interested in the topics they teach,” Møller said.
Dr. Melanie Spence, BBS associate dean of undergraduate studies, said Sasson’s teaching exemplifies the spirit of the award through active engagement among the students he teaches.
“Noah is a valued teacher and researcher. He is able to instill critical thinking skills while making classes interesting for students,” she said.
Sasson, who also teaches introductory psychology and cognitive development, said he wants students to find the topics as interesting as he does.
“Some topics are more inherently interesting to psychology students than others, such as social psychology or child development, compared with talking about research methods or genetics. I have done this enough times so I’m able to filter away the things that are less effective and keep things that are effective and improve upon them,” he said.
Sasson credited his teaching style to Dr. Steve Reznick, who served as Sasson’s mentor in graduate school.
“He wasn’t a pushover, but he also wasn’t a stiff up there in front of the students. He was an actual human being and didn’t mind talking a little bit more personally about some of the topics involved,” Sasson said. “And I think that’s a good way of drawing students into the relevance of the material you’re sharing with them — forming real human connections to the things we’re talking about.”
In class evaluations, Sasson’s students indicated they see similar teaching traits in him.
“Dr. Sasson was clearly born to teach. He doesn't forget that, for most of us, this material is completely new even though he knows it well. He has an excellent way of introducing new concepts, is extremely personable and very ready to help in any way he can,” one student wrote.
Sasson said it is important for instructors to teach topics that they enjoy.
“We’re lucky that we often get to teach classes on topics in which we already are inherently interested — that’s why we’re in the field. You can convey your excitement about the material, which helps students take the material more seriously because they see that you care about it. And that’s important,” he said.
Sasson noted, though that sometimes instructors are obligated to teach on topics that may be outside of their specific areas of expertise and interest.
“You have to work a little bit harder in those cases,” he said. “But even in those cases you can probably find ways of connecting with the students about the material and why it’s relevant to them.”
BBS Awardsfor 2017 Graduates
Student Leadership Award
For contributions to student life and organizationsDaniel Guest, psychology
Dean’s Award for Excellence
For academic performanceShefali Chauhan, speech-language pathology and audiologyDaniel Guest, psychologySavannah Holtcamp, neuroscienceLinsey Thai, child learning and development
For those in program who complete service contributionsSheridan Helen Cavalier, neurosciencePriya Mary Mathew, neuroscience
For those in Honors Seminar who completed a thesisBhargavi Akkineni, psychologyKirsten Lee Anderson, psychology, child learning and developmentBenjamin D. Belfort, neuroscienceLydia Nicole Berger, speech-language pathology and audiologyDene Momtaz Betz, neuroscienceSheridan Helen Cavalier, neuroscienceDavelle May Cheng, psychology, child learning and developmentIan Joseph Gonzalez, neuroscienceDaniel R. Guest, psychologyFaraha Hasan, psychology, child learning and developmentSandra Sharon Joshua, psychology, child learning and developmentLu Yi Kang, neurosciencePriya Mary Mathew, neuroscienceVignesh Raj Murugavel, psychologyAjay Venkatram Somaraju, psychologyTina Zamanipour, psychology
Note: All students listed earned their bachelor’s degrees.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].