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Engineering Professors Receive Honors for Mentoring Aspiring Researchers

Two educators at The University of Texas at Dallas were honored recently with 2020 Provost’s Awards for Faculty Excellence in Research Mentoring.

The awards recognize faculty members who demonstrate leadership in guiding and supporting UT Dallas students in their research endeavors. The undergraduate honor has existed since 2013; the graduate award was established in 2017.

Dr. Fatemeh Hassanipour, associate professor of mechanical engineering, earned the Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring. Hassanipour has been at UT Dallas since 2009 and leads the Advanced Research on Thermofluid Systems Laboratory, which conducts research in bioengineering, health and energy management.

Dr. John Hansen, professor of electrical and computer engineering, received the Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Graduate Research Mentoring. Hansen, who holds the Distinguished Chair in Telecommunications, is the associate dean for research in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. Hansen joined UT Dallas in 2005 and leads the Center for Robust Speech Systems, which studies modern speech, language and hearing technologies for human and machine interaction.


Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring

Dr. Fatemeh Hassanipour
associate professor of mechanical engineering
Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

What has been the most rewarding part of your teaching experience here?

“The opportunity to influence the future generation and to equip them with the knowledge that enables them to make a difference. It has been wonderful to be involved with successive generations of students, watching their knowledge and self-confidence deepen, witnessing their graduations and hearing back from them — sometimes years after graduation.”

What advice would you give to aspiring student researchers?

“Believe in yourself; work hard; don’t give up; be kind; and give back to your community and society.”

What was the best part of the online teaching/mentoring experience during the final weeks of the spring semester?

“It has allowed me to observe the resilience and grit of my students, most of whom were graduating seniors. They already had uncertainty about their immediate future, the economy and the job market, and then in their last semester, they had to manage a new medium of instruction. With all that, they came through with flying colors. I am so proud of them.”


Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Graduate Research Mentoring

Dr. John Hansen
professor of electrical and computer engineering
Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

What has been the most rewarding part of your teaching/research experience here?

“The opportunity to work, teach and mentor students at UT Dallas is by far the most rewarding part of my work at UT Dallas. It has been so satisfying to see students graduate and advance the field by creating tools, software, technology and science breakthroughs. I am just happy to say that we at UT Dallas played a small part in shaping and motivating the path of students to be successful and make an impact.”

What advice would you give to aspiring student researchers?

“I try to encourage students to look further into the field than what’s currently considered an active research topic. A PhD takes time and, while trends can last for a while, it is always beneficial to approach problems knowing ‘what you know’ and ‘what you don’t know.’ For inspiration I tell students to look for ideas outside of their main area of expertise. And I tell them to be humble but motivated. They should know that much research has been done in the past, and learning from past scientists and innovators is a great way to grow one’s knowledge in the field.”

What was the best part of the online teaching/mentoring experience during the final weeks of the spring semester?

“I think some students are perhaps more comfortable in asking questions and engaging via online learning than in larger classroom settings. I now have many more one-on-one research meetings with students which, at some level, develop discussions and ideas that are more productive, primarily because sharing files and reviewing materials is easier online with screen-sharing. Given that our Center for Robust Speech Systems is focused on signal processing for speech, language and hearing research, the opportunity to record important moments, such as PhD qualifier exams, PhD proposal exams and defense exams, has given us new ideas on where to move in speech technology for team learning.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].