Y.A. Liu, who holds an Alumni Distinguished Professorship, is the 2015 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Virginia Professor of the Year.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), part of the Carnegie Foundation, administers the highly selective U.S. Professors of the Year program.
"My teaching philosophy is to challenge our undergraduate students to maximize their potential and achieve excellence in both their school work and in their future careers, while providing them with the necessary tools and motivation for life-long learning," Liu said.
Liu's teaching accolades are many. He has received the College of Engineering's Sporn Award for excellence in engineering teaching twice. The American Society for Engineering Education presented him with its George Westinghouse Award for excellence in engineering education in 1990 and the Fred Merryfield Award for excellence in teaching and research of engineering design in 1993. Also, Liu was one of the twelve recipients of the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award sponsored by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia in 2000.
His first graduate student Douglas E. Hirt, who today is a professor and chair of Clemson University's Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, wrote a letter of support for Liu's nomination. Hirt said that back in the 1980s, Liu recognized the importance of computer-aided design, "and he was fully committed to making this state-of-the-art technology an integral part of the design curriculum ... I watched as he, for the first time, installed the CAD package ChemShare on the university mainframe ... and taught his students many aspects of CAD."
Another former student, Ley Richardson, a 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech's Department of Chemical Engineering who went on to get his Ph.D. at MIT, said, "One of Dr. Liu's greatest achievements as a pioneering professor is his integration of real-world engineering experience into his courses."
One of the ways Liu accomplishes this integration is by traveling to Asia during the semester breaks to work with SINOPEC, the largest energy and chemical company on the continent. "I am able to gain significant global insights into the industrial and corporate worlds from this experience. These practical experiences carry over to the classroom and allow me to enhance the education of the seniors I work with during their capstone design courses," Liu said.
His expertise is also attested to by his co-authorship, with six of his former doctoral students, of five pioneering textbooks in selected fields to introduce industrial practice and research advancements to chemical and environmental engineering education.
"Y.A.'s deep concern for our undergraduates within and outside of chemical engineering has led to his reputation as a professor who consistently watches over their welfare and success," former Virginia Tech Provost Mark McNamee said.
A graduate of Princeton University's doctoral program, Liu is the faculty adviser to two student organizations. Since 1993 he has advised the Virginia Tech student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and most recently it won the 2014 Outstanding Student Chapter award. He has also advised the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars for the past 25 years.
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