Graduate School Honors Faculty and Staff award winners for their Contributions to Graduate Education

Author: Mary Hendriksen

As it does every Commencement season, the Graduate School has honored three University faculty and staff members for their distinctive contributions to graduate education.

James A. Burns, CSC Award

Dr. Thomas Corke, Clark Equipment Professor of Engineering
Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

2014 James A Burns CSC Award Winner Thomas Corke, PhD
2014 James A. Burns, CSC Award Winner Thomas Corke, Ph.D., Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

Winner of the 2014 James A. Burns, CSC Award, Dr. Corke specializes in the study of fluid mechanics. Within that field, his research is amazingly diverse. Most recently, his research on plasmas has been emulated worldwide for flow control applications. He has twice received the NASA Achievement Award, as well as the University’s research achievement award, and the prestigious American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Aerodynamics Award. He is the author of Design of Aircraft, which has been adopted as the capstone design text in aerospace departments around the world. Dr. Corke is also the author or more than 250 archival publications and the holder of 33 patents.

Dr. Corke’s most singular accomplishment on behalf of graduate students has been through his role as the founding director of the Notre Dame Center for Flow Physics and Control, known as FLOWPac. With FLOWPac’s establishment, he changed the nature and direction of the graduate program in flow physics and control and made it one of the University’s flagship programs. Between FLOWPac and the Hessert Laboratory for Aerospace Research, which Dr. Corke also directs, his efforts currently impact more than 75 graduate students and three postdoctoral scholars.

Dr. Corke’s mentorship of his own graduate students is legendary. He has advised 18 Ph.D. recipients at Notre Dame, and has an additional 13 students preparing for their doctorates. Under his mentorship, students have gone on to become faculty members or researchers at such prominent institutions and companies as the Naval Research Laboratory, the United States Air Force Academy, Boeing, GE Aviation, Sandia National Laboratory, and the University of Notre Dame.

Read more: Professor Corke’s website

Director of Graduate Studies Award

Dr. Gregory Snider
Department of Electrical Engineering

2014 Director of Graduate Studies Award, Gregory Snider, PhD
2014 Director of Graduate Studies Award Winner: Gregory Snider, Ph.D., Electrical Engineering

While running his own large lab-based research program and teaching an innovative course on integrated chip fabrication, Dr. Snider has served as the department’s director of graduate studies since July 2006. In winning the Director of Graduate Studies Award, Dr. Snider’s initiatives and dedication were recognized for their role in contributing to an ever-rising trajectory in Electrical Engineering’s national reputation.

A hallmark of Dr. Snider’s tenure as DGS is his engagement with students in the program. One of his first actions when assuming his role as DGS was to sit down in small groups with every graduate student in the department to understand how they saw the program, its faculty, and its requirements.

Since 2006, graduate enrollment in the program has jumped from an average of 99 students to 120 — an increase of 21 per cent. Last year, Electrical Engineering graduated 20 doctoral students — the largest number in its history, and a cohort that included the Shaheen award winner in engineering.

Dr. Snider has spearheaded a significant change in the format of the department’s qualifying exam — so that it better provides insights into each student’s ability to work on open-ended problems and to communicate ideas. This innovation and other practices have dramatically reduced the time-to-attrition of Electrical Engineering graduate students — a trend that conserves University resources and benefits students as well.

The chair of Electrical Engineering, Professor Thomas Fuja, says that Dr. Snider is “constantly seeking ways to improve the quality, robustness, and reputation of our program — but to do so in a way that is humane and consistent with Notre Dame’s mission.”

Read more: Dr. Snider’s webpage

Graduate Administrative Staff Member Award

Ms. Debra Bennett
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

2014 Graduate Administrative Staff Member Award Winner, Debra Bennett, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
2014 Graduate Administrative Staff Member Award Winner Debra Bennett, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Ms. Debra Bennett has served as the graduate studies administrative assistant in her department since 1983. During that time, the number of graduate students has grown from approximately 80 to 182 — making it the largest graduate program at the University. It is Ms. Bennett’s dedication to the students and the program, her organizational skills, and a fervent desire to make the chemistry and biochemistry graduate program ever better that make her “indispensable,” her DGS says, in administering a program of this size and caliber.

Ms. Bennett was recognized for her key role in the department’s recruiting efforts and for her superb organizational skills. Moreover, she has built an outstanding rapport with students.

“When I initially arrived to the department,” one student wrote in support of her nomination, “I felt pretty much like an outsider. I felt that no one would accept me — only a lowly graduate student with changing ideas about my research focus and my own struggles. Deb was the first person who made me feel welcome … and were it not for Deb, I would not have graduated … She recognizes that good research starts with a good attitude and a sense of belonging to a community … and she always provided kernels of wisdom to challenge me to keep pushing forward.”

Ms. Bennett is the fourth winner of the Graduate Administrative Staff Member Award.