Four UC Berkeley professors to receive 1999 Distinguished Teaching Awards on April 22

By Jacquie Frost, Public Affairs

BERKELEY-Noted for their exemplary classroom skills, four professors at the University of California, Berkeley, are this year' s winners of the campus's Distinguished Teaching Award - UC Berkeley's top prize for teaching.

The award has been given annually since 1959 by the Committee on Teaching of the Berkeley division of the Academic Senate.

This year's award recipients are Anil Chopra, civil and environmental engineering; Richard Muller, physics; Oliver M. O'Reilly, mechanical engineering; and John Searle, philosophy.

They will be honored at a ceremony on Thursday, April 22, at Zellerbach Auditorium.

Anil K. Chopra, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

In the early 1990s, Anil K. Chopra realized he was dissatisfied with the lesson materials available for his students. So he threw out 25 years of lecture notes.

"This was a liberating event. I was free to start from scratch,"said Chopra, who is the Horace, Dorothy and Katherine Johnson Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Out of this revitalization came Chopra's widely acclaimed textbook, "Dynamics of Structures: Theory and Applications to Earthquake Engineering." His students, not known for their lavish praise of textbooks in general, feel differently about this one. "The book is awesome - I enjoyed reading it!" one student commented.

Dedication to student learning is evident in all aspects of Chopra's teaching. Beyond making a conceptually difficult subject accessible to students, he said, "it is my goal to share with them the satisfaction of comprehending - and the joy of resolving - complex structural dynamics issues that arise in ensuring seismic safety."

A widely respected authority on structural dynamics and earthquake engineering, Chopra received his BS from Banaras Hindu University and his PhD from UC Berkeley. He joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 1967.

Richard A. Muller, Department of Physics

Richard A. Muller, professor of physics, always arrives 10 minutes before class to "answer student questions and discuss current events."

Time and again, students point to these few minutes as an invaluable part of the course. "He will answer any questions students have," said one student. "This type of intellectual discussion is very conducive to learning."

Muller "is interested in students understanding the physics of the world," said another, "not just knowing how to do the problems."

"Learning is one of the greatest joys in life ," agreed Muller. "If I can trigger that joy in the students, then they will master the material with much less effort."

Part of Muller's philosophy is to focus on students as individuals. "Treat each student as if the next two minutes might have a profound effect on his or her life, and as if this may be one of the great moments in your teaching experience," he tells his graduate student instructors.

In addition to his teaching expertise, Muller holds several patents, is a former Berkeley restaurateur and authored a highly-regarded book on the education of a physicist.

Muller is a specialist in experimental physics and astrophysics. He received his BA from Columbia University and his PhD from UC Berkeley. He joined the faculty of the Department of Physics in 1978.

Oliver M. O'Reilly, Department of Mechanical Engineering

"Teaching is a magical experience," said Oliver M. O'Reilly, professor of mechanical engineering. "It is tremendously personal for me and is woven into my character, interests and perspective on life."

Students embrace O'Reilly's attitude from the moment they enter his class. "He is very focused on student learning and takes great effort to help if we are having any problems," said one student.

"I had a lot of preconceived notions about what classes at Berkeley would be like and how they would be challenging," a transfer student recalled. "As it turned out, that first class was the most challenging of all my classes at Berkeley. More importantly, it was the most captivating."

O'Reilly said his role is "to guide the students in such a way that they learn to think differently and to view the world in another light at the end of their journey."

O'Reilly is a specialist in dynamics and continuum mechanics. He received his BE from the National University of Ireland and his PhD from Cornell University. He joined the faculty of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1992.

John R. Searle, Department of Philosophy

When he teaches in other countries, John R. Searle said the first thing he does is train his students to act like UC Berkeley students.

"They are not used to asking questions in a way that challenges the professor while being at the same time respectful and observant of the rigorous logical standards of the discipline," he said. "By the end of the semester, they are raising their hands and arguing with me as vigorously as my Berkeley students."

Searle, Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language in the Department of Philosophy, has a "reputation as a teacher and as an expositor of philosophy that extends far beyond the confines of this university," said Richard Wollheim, professor-in-residence and chair of the department. "It is worldwide. He is something of a legend."

Students flourish under Searle's guidance. "This was one of the most stimulating classes I've ever taken," said one student. "It challenged me to great precision in my thinking and analysis of just about everything in life."

Serle is a recipient of numerous awards and honors and is a distinguished lecturer at universities throughout the world. He received his BA and DPhil from Oxford University and joined the Department of Philosophy at UC Berkeley in 1959.

Thursday's campus ceremony also will honor the 1999 recipient of UC Berkeley's Educational Initiatives Award. It is presented to a department or unit in recognition of distinctive contributions to undergraduate education. This year's award winner is the Department of Physics for its course, "Physics for Scientists and Engineers."

In addition, the recipients of the 1999 Presidential Chair in Undergraduate Education will be recognized. Susan Schweik, professor of English, and Frederick Collignon, chair of City & Regional Planning, were jointly awarded the three-year appointment intended to encourage the development of new courses or to enhance existing courses.

The ceremony will include remarks by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ, Academic Senate Chair Robert Brentano, and Alumni Association President Irene Miura.

The public is invited to the ceremony and the reception that follows in the Toll Room of Alumni House.


This server has been established by the University of California at Berkeley Public Information Office. Copyright for all items on this server held by The Regents of the University of California. Thanks for your interest in UC Berkeley.
More Press Releases | More Campus News and Events | UC Berkeley Home Page


Send comments to: