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Carl S. Weber Excellence in Teaching Award

About Dr. Weber

The Weber award was established in 2006 in memory of Dr. Carl S. Weber, Assistant Professor Emeritus in the UMBC Department of Biological Sciences, as a tribute to his passion for classroom teaching.  The annual award honors a faculty member at UMBC with exceptional dedication to teaching as demonstrated by his or her enthusiasm, up-to-date teaching materials, effective mentoring, community service in the teaching area, approachability, rigorous learning requirements, coherent teaching philosophy and inspirational teaching style. All CNMS faculty members who have been teaching in the college for the past five years are eligible to be nominated for the award.


Award Winners


Allison Tracy – Spring 2019

Allison Tracy is a senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  She attended the University of Delaware for her B.S. (Biological Sciences), obtained her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), and did postdoctoral research in molecular pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Since joining the faculty at UMBC in 2006, Allison has taught a variety of courses including general, organic, and biochemistry as well as the upper-level biochemistry laboratory methods course.  She has been responsible for innovatively overhauling the curriculum and instruments in the biochemistry laboratory and has introduced multiple opportunities for undergraduate students to design, run, and analyze results from their own experiments within this course.  Allison had the biochemistry laboratory course certified as a writing intensive course to allow students to integrate writing into the analysis of their data.  She was instrumental in introducing the SI-PASS program to the Chemistry and Biochemistry department which is aimed at enhancing student academic success in traditionally challenging courses.  Allison has served as the Undergraduate Program Director for the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program and has also served as a faculty advisor to multiple interdisciplinary studies majors.  She enjoys providing an interactive environment that encourages students to think critically about biochemistry while having fun, and she appreciates being part of a faculty at UMBC that supports and encourages innovative teaching strategies.


Jason Kestner – Spring 2018

Dr. Kestner is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan in 2009, where he also completed an elective teacher training program and was recognized as the 2004 Outstanding First-Year Graduate Instructor. After doing postdoctoral research at the University of Maryland, College Park, he joined the faculty of UMBC in 2012. Dr. Kestner has taught at all levels at UMBC, from an introductory physics discussion section to multiple upper division undergraduate courses and graduate courses. He is also quite active in mentoring student researchers at all levels, which has resulted in several peer-reviewed papers with UMBC students as first authors. Dr. Kestner’s research group focuses on developing control theory for physical devices that usefully exploit the strange features of quantum mechanics. A prominent example is a quantum computer, which could solve a certain important class of problems exponentially faster than any computer based on the current classical bit model. In particular, Dr. Kestner’s group calculates how to precisely control the spin state of electrons in a variety of nanoscale semiconductor quantum dot structures despite the noisy environment in which the electrons reside.

Steven Caruso – Spring 2017

Steven Caruso is a senior lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences at UMBC. He attended UMBC where he completed B.S. degrees in Biological Sciences and Psychology and a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences. Dr. Caruso joined the faculty of Department of Biological Sciences in 2001. An innovative teacher, he has taught a variety of laboratory and non-laboratory courses and currently teaches genetics, microbial and molecular biology, and bacteriophage genomics courses. In 2008, he was appointed as an Honors College Faculty Fellow and also began teaching eBiology – Phage Hunters I and II, a two-semester investigative lab course to non-STEM majors, which was then sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Science Education Alliance. In 2011, Dr. Caruso changed the focus of the Phage Hunters courses to provide biology majors with opportunities to engage in genuine, publishable research as part of their classwork. Undergraduate poster sessions that Dr. Caruso hosts and promotes each spring and fall in the lobby of the Biological Sciences building ensure that students in his laboratory courses have the opportunity to share their discoveries with the UMBC community.

Todd Pittman – Spring 2016

Pittman_toddTodd Pittman is an associate professor in the Department of Physics. He earned a B.S. degree in physics from Bucknell University, a Ph.D. in physics from UMBC, and did post-doctoral research in Quantum Computing at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.  At UMBC, he teaches undergraduate optics, quantum mechanics, and upper-level laboratory courses, as well as graduate courses in quantum electronics and electromagnetic theory.  Dr. Pittman is the author or co-author of 5 patents, and 45 publications that have been cited over 3,000 times. He enjoys bringing his passion and excitement for physics research directly into the undergraduate classroom, and is continually looking for new ways to inspire his students towards a lifetime of learning and discovery.

Phillip Sokolove – Spring 2015

sokolovePhillip Sokolove is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. He attended the University of California, Berkeley for his B.A. in physics, obtained his Ph.D. at Harvard University in biophysics, and did his postdoctoral research in neurobiology and behavior at Stanford University. At UMBC, he has taught the introductory core course in biology alone almost every semester since Fall 1996. Dr. Sokolove is always trying to learn new things about teaching and learning, and often participates in UMBC Faculty Development Workshops and Biology Department Teaching Circle meetings. The results of his science education research have been presented at regional and national conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. In 2002, he received the UMS Regents’ Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching and an Outstanding Faculty Award from the Maryland Associate for Higher Education. In 2004, along with Dr. Jeff Leips, he was named a 2004-2005 National Academies Teaching Fellow in the Life Sciences. In 2006, he was selected as UMBC Presidential Teaching Professor.

Sarah Leupen – Spring 2014

Sarah Leupen is a senior lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences. She attended Oberlin College for her B.A. (Neuroscience), obtained her Ph.D. at Northwestern University (Neurobiology and Physiology), and did postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School. At UMBC, she teaches anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and a seminar in the Honors College. Sarah is always trying to learn new things about teaching and learning, and is a certified trainer-consultant in Team-Based Learning. She co-coordinates the Biology Teaching Circle with Cynthia Wagner and is also part of UMBC’s team of the HHMI-funded  NEXUS collaboration, integrating quantitative concepts into introductory biology courses.  Another UMBC team she’s a part of, ALEF, is developing computer simulations of biological processes to improve conceptual understanding in undergraduate biology labs. In her spare time, she loves hiking, camping, and just generally being outdoors with her family.

Raji Baradwaj – Spring 2013

Rajalaskhmi (Raji) Baradwaj is dedicated to using different teaching methods to encourage and improve student learning. Since joining the UMBC Department of Mathematics and Statistics faculty as a Lecturer in 2001, she has taught a variety of courses and has served as the departmental coordinator for algebra, precalculus, and finite mathematics courses. She was instrumental in the redesign of the algebraic and elementary functions course and coordinates the innovative Quiz O, the preliminary quizzes given during the first week of classes to test student foundational knowledge in prerequisite topics needed for courses in the calculus sequence (MATH 150, 151, 152, 155, and 215). Ms. Baradwaj, who was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2012, actively supports a variety of initiatives on campus to enhance student academic success including SI (Supplemental Instruction) and the NSF-funded iCubed@UMBC project. Most recently, Ms. Baradwaj helped to create UMBC’s Math Gym, a laboratory classroom where students have the opportunity to improve their basic mathematical skills. She advises a number of undergraduate majors in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, serves on a variety of departmental committees, and volunteers as the adviser of the Hindu Student Council on campus. Ms. Baradwaj received a M.S. in Statistics from Texas A & M University in 1990, and a M.S. and a B. S. in Mathematics from the University of Madras, India in 1987 and 1984, respectively. Ms. Baradwaj held appointments as a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire from 1991 to 2001.

Mark Perks – Spring 2012

Dr. Mark PerksMark Perks received his BS degree in chemistry at Bucknell University. After graduation, he taught A-level chemistry in Ghana as a volunteer with the Teachers for West Africa Program. Upon returning to the U.S., he taught chemistry at the secondary level at Moorestown Friends School in New Jersey. He subsequently completed his Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins University and pursued a career in biomedical device research and development with Becton-Dickinson and then as an environmental scientist. Dr. Perks seized the opportunity to return to teaching as instructor at UMBC in 1993 and has been a senior Lectuerer since 2005. Dr. Perks remains actively involved in STEM outreach programs; including the Maryland Collaborative for Teacher Preparation (MCTP) initiative (1995-1997), VIP K-16 Partnership at UMBC, “Chemistry Distilled” Academy for elementary and middle school teachers in Washington County, and the “Finfty-Fifty” of the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Dr. Perks adopted active, collaborative, and constructivist learning as the keystone of his pedagogical philosophy starting from his experience with MCTP. He implements active and group learning in large lecture hall classes of hundreds of students in general and organic chemistry courses. Dr. Perks earned a role on the inaugural team to advance active learning methods in introductory chemistry, the pilot effort for what has become the renowned Chemistry Discovery Center.

James W. Sandoz – 2011

For decades, students have been the beneficiaries of the unique life experiences that James W. (Jim) Sandoz brought with him to UMBC. After being dismissed for academic reasons from Mount. St. Mary’s College in his second semester, Mr. Sandoz enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in San Diego, Hawaii, and Viet Nam. Mr. Sandoz was honorably discharged and then decided to pursue his higher education in earnest. He transferred to UMBC from Catonsville Community College earning his B.A. in Biology in 1976. Midway through his graduate studies, he was asked by Dr. Marty Schwartz to assume the position of instructor, which had unexpectedly become vacant. He worked two years and then took a leave of absence to finish his Master’s degree under the tutelage of Dr. Suzanne Rosenberg. His former position as instructor had been filled when he earned his M.S. in 1983, so Mr. Sandoz took a position as a lab technician in Jerry Klein’s lab at the Oncology Department of Johns Hopkins Hospital of Medicine. In 1984, Mr. Sandoz was asked to return to UMBC when the instructor position again became vacant. He gladly accepted and began an uninterrupted tenure at UMBC as an instructor of Biological Sciences. Mr. Sandoz, who is been active in using technology in teaching and in active learning,, was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2005. Mr. Sandoz has mentored high school students in projects in microbiology and genetics. He has served as faculty advisor to many Interdisciplary Studies majors for the Biology portion of their capstone projects. With Steve Caruso, he was appointed an Honors College Faculty Fellow, teaching a completely investigative course to non-majors, sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Science Education Alliance.  Mr. Sandoz retired from UMBC in 2012.

Jeff Leips – 2010

Dr. Jeff Leips was awarded the 2010 Carl Weber Excellence in Teaching Award at the fifth annual CNMS Student Recognition Day on Friday, May 7, 2010. Dr. Leips, who is an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in the Department of Biological Sciences, joined the faculty in 2001 after completing postdoctoral research at North Carolina State University   Dr. Leips regularly teaches the ecology section of UMBC’s Ecology and Evolution course and, since his arrival, has worked with his colleagues to design a new advanced course in evolution (Evolution: From Genes to Genomes) and has developed a new course for graduate students, Mentoring in the Sciences.Dr. Leips is very committed to improving undergraduate education in the biological sciences at all levels and was named a National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences in 2004.  In 2007, Dr. Leips became a member of the Geneticist Educator Network of Alliances (GENA), a project funded by the National Science Foundation and implemented by the American Society of Human Genetics.  The GENA project was designed to partner K-12 teachers with college faculty mentors to help develop up to date lesson plans for covering genetics and evolution.  Dr. Leips also has an active research program focused on ecological genetics and the genetics of aging. He received his bachelor’s and PhD degrees in biology from Florida State University.

Bonny Tighe – 2009

The inaugural award was presented at the CNMS Student Recognition Day ceremony on May 8, 2009 to Bonny Tighe, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics who started at UMBC as a full time instructor in 1988.  She is an outstanding educator who teaches four courses every semester.  In addition to coordinating and teaching an array of courses from Mathematics for elementary School Teachers to Calculus II, Ms. Tighe is a dedicated faculty member who serves on student-focused committees, trains teaching assistants, serves as a faculty mentor and advises a variety of student organizations.  Ms. Tighe also teaches mathematics for the annual Meyerhoff Scholars’ Summer Bridge Program.  She is an amazing person who, as the first recipient of the Weber Award, is a tribute to Carl Weber’s legacy of teaching excellence at UMBC.