The Right Equation for Teaching

November 30, 2004
The Right Equation for Teaching

 Photo: Les Todd


Throughout school, there have been a handful of teachers who have truly changed my academic perspective," wrote a student about her candidate for the Duke Alumni Association's Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award. "However, none have affected me in the same manner as the professor I nominated. After completing three courses with him, I have changed as a student; and to an even greater extent, I have changed as a person."

The student was describing teaching-award recipient Parviz Ghadimi Ph.D. '94. A visiting assistant professor in the mathematics department since 1999, he teaches engineering mathematics, differential equations, linear algebra, and two varieties of calculus.

Another student praised Ghadimi's formula for teaching, noting that he "knew we were all engineers," and fittingly provided "examples of his own research as they applied to what we were studying, thus making the math seem more practical."

There's a common denominator among the student nominations. "None of my professors, especially math or science ones, have put so much time and energy into a class," read one nomination letter. "None of them have devotions to their students that extend beyond the subject material." Others described him as approachable and affable, going "above and beyond to make sure everyone understood the subject matter," and "one of the few professors I know who does his best for his students."

Besides classroom kudos, Ghadimi was commended for his availability--from flexible office hours to major exam review sessions--and for maintaining a website that includes his lecture notes: He "made time to go to lunch with his students ... to get to know [them] and talk about other things besides math." Another student wrote, "He not only knows his students' names, but their majors, interests, individual abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and many aspects of their personalities as well as the goals they have established for themselves. This professor never forgets a student, and they surely never forget him."

Ghadimi earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at California State University, Long Beach. After receiving his Ph.D., he was a research assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. In addition to teaching at Duke, he is an adjunct assistant professor in the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University, in the math department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in the engineering department at Elon University. His research interests include thermohydrodynamic lubrication, microfluidics, and analysis of fluid flow and heat transfer through nonwoven fibrous materials.

The Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award is administered by a panel of undergraduates who select a recipient from letters of nomination submitted by students. Ghadimi, who has been nominated for the past four years, was chosen from a field of thirty-four nominations, representing twenty-five different faculty members. The award includes a $5,000 stipend and $1,000 for a Duke library to purchase material recommended by the recipient.