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Three Receive First Spira Awards

Three School of Engineering faculty members have been selected as the first recipients of the Ruth and Joel Spira Awards for Teaching Excellence, Dean Joel Moses has announced.

They are Dr. Martha L. Gray, J.W. Kieckhefer Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering; Dr. Norman C. Rasmussen, McAfee Professor of Engineering and professor of nuclear engineering; and Dr. Ain A. Sonin, professor of mechanical engineering.

The recipients were selected by Dean Moses and Associate Dean David N. Wormley, with the assistance of the Engineering Council, made up of all the department heads in the school. Nominations had been solicited in the fall.

The $1,000 awards were established a year ago by Joel and Ruth Spira. Their daughter, Dr. Susan Hakkarainen, and son-in-law, Dr. S. P. Hakkarainen, received their PhDs in nuclear engineering from MIT. Joel Spira, a Purdue University graduate, is the founder, chairman, chief executive officer and director of research of LUTRON Electronics Co., Inc., of Coopersburg, Pa., makers of electronic dimming controls.

In a letter to Mr. Spira informing him of the selections, Dean Moses gave these descriptions of the teaching accomplishments of the award recipients:

"Professor Gray joined the MIT faculty in 1987. She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and has distinguished herself both by her research and by the breadth and quality of her teaching. Her principal HST teaching responsibility has been Renal Pathophysiology. Within EECS, she has taught recitation sections in. . . the common-core electronics subject and in. . . the common-core subject on linear systems. To paraphrase one of her senior colleagues, Professor Gray can do kidney function for medical students one term and the Fourier transform for engineers the next.

"Professor Rasmussen has a long and distinguished record of service to his department and the profession. . . Professor Rasmussen took over the teaching of. . . Introduction to Applied Nuclear Physics and. . . Principles of Nuclear Radiation Measure and Protection. . . Over the period of a few years, the nuclear physics subject experienced a 150 percent increase in enrollment, due in large measure to out-of-department interest based on excellent student reviews of the subject and of Professor Rasmussen.

"Professor Sonin is a senior faculty member [who] has served as Graduate Officer for Mechanical Engineering and as chair of the department's Graduate Policy Committee. He is most widely recognized for his role in teaching. . . Advanced Fluid Mechanics, the first level graduate course in fluids. Despite its widespread reputation for being a demanding subject [the course] consistently draws between 60 and 90 graduate students, making it the single largest graduate course in the mechanical engineering curriculum."

A version of this article appeared in the July 15, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 1).

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