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Two Mathematicians Receive C. I. Noll Awards

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Andrew Belmonte (left) and Patricia Schulte

Andrew L. Belmonte and Patricia L. Schulte, both in the Department of Mathematics, were selected recently as recipients of the C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching. Sponsored by the Eberly College of Science Student Council and Alumni Society, the award is designed to recognize faculty members who have taken a special interest in students and who, through interaction with students, have had a positive impact upon them.

Instituted in 1972 and named in honor of Clarence I. Noll, dean of the college from 1965 to 1971, the award is the highest honor for undergraduate teaching in the college. Winners are chosen by a committee of students and faculty from nominees suggested by students, faculty, and alumni. This year, the award has been given to two categories of recipients: a tenure-track faculty member and, for the first time, a non-tenure-track faculty member.

Andrew L. Belmonte, associate professor of mathematics, has successfully involved undergraduate students in research in Penn State’s Pritchard Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, where he has worked with twelve undergraduate students over the past six years. Three of these students have published articles in scientific journals, and three others have given presentations at scientific conferences. Belmonte says, “Undergraduates bring a freshness to the lab. They are open to new ideas, and they work very hard.”

Belmonte studies the dynamics of complex fluids, such as polymer liquids, at the Pritchard Fluid Mechanics Laboratory. The underlying objective of his current scientific work is the description of the important connection between the microscopic dynamics of macromolecules and the dynamics of fluid flow — a connection that spans fields from molecular chemistry to partial differential equations.

Belmonte also has established two new math courses at Penn State that are designed to bring the excitement of mathematical and experimental research to the undergraduate level. “Mathematical Analysis of Fluid Flow” has been taught as part of the Mathematics Advanced Study Semesters (MASS) Program as an honors analysis course with a focus on history and examples of fluid flow to motivate topics for student research projects. At least two student projects from this course have led to more involved research projects, and one to a presentation at a Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics.

Belmonte and former postdoctoral student Jon Jacobsen, who is now assistant professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College in California, developed a course titled “Mathematical Modeling of the Physical World,” in which students take a physical experiment or demonstration and develop their own mathematical models to explain the data they collect. The course was designed for a wide range of undergraduate students as a means to bridge the gap between departmental specialities, exposing students in applied fields to advanced methods of mathematics and allowing math majors to sample a variety of applied fields. Initially taught as a Special Topics course, this course now has received approval from the faculty senate as a permanent part of the undergraduate curriculum.

Belmonte inaugurated the First-Year Seminar in Mathematics in 1999, and included among the topics for that class a variety of guest lecturers, informal discussions, and a panel of senior math students who are able to answer questions from prospective math majors. He serves as the faculty contact for the State College Area High School Math Club, interacting with its members on a regular basis, and he coordinates an innovative program to involve high-school math teachers in workshops and summer research in Penn State’s William G. Pritchard Fluid Mechanics Laboratory.

Belmonte serves on the Departmental Policy Committee and Computer Committee in the Department of Mathematics, and has been active with the department’s Undergraduate Studies Committee and the Graduate Teaching Assistant Committee, as well. He served on a Grant Panel Committee for NASA’s Fundamental Physics in Microgravity program for research in biological physics, and on the International Organizing Committee for the National Academy of Sciences Symposium on Japanese-American Frontiers of Science. In addition to the C.I. Noll Award, Belmonte has received the George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

Belmonte earned his bachelor’s degree in physics at the University of Chicago in 1988, and master’s and doctoral degrees in physics at Princeton University in 1991 and 1994, respectively. He received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, a Chateaubriand Fellowship in France, and a National Science Foundation International Postdoctoral Fellowship. He served as a postdoctoral associate at both the National Scientific Research Center (CNRS) in Nice, France, and the University of Pittsburgh before joining the faculty at Penn State in 1998.

In 1991 Patricia L. Schulte, an instructor in the Department of Mathematics, established the Sperling/Cohen Calculus Tutoring Program at Penn State in collaboration with C. Eugene Wayne, who is now at Boston University. This tutoring program for freshman-level calculus is named in honor of benefactor George Sperling and the first female mathematics professor at Penn State, Teresa Cohen, who tutored students on a volunteer basis for twenty-four years after her retirement from Penn State. Through this tutoring program, the department pays upper-class undergraduate students who have strong mathematical skills and an interest in working with students to provide calculus tutoring for small groups of freshman students. Schulte served as the first coordinator for the program, overseeing the training of undergraduate tutors, supervising graduate-student observers, and monitoring the replacement of any students not meeting participation guidelines.

In 2002, Schulte left her position as coordinator of the tutoring program to become Coordinator of Undergraduate Advising in Mathematics. In this capacity, she meets with prospective math majors who are seeking more information and with current math majors who want to discuss their future academic plans and career goals. Also, she participates in the First-Year Testing, Counseling and Advising Program (FTCAP).

Schulte has served the department as a course coordinator, as well, often coordinating classes of up to 850 students in 17 sections and working with as many as 9 instructors. As an instructor, she brought computer-assisted learning to a section of College Algebra II — a new experience for students taking mathematics courses. Many of her students commented that they retained the material better and enjoyed the learning process more because of this new approach to teaching the material.

In addition to the C.I. Noll Award, Schulte has received a Panhellenic Council Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Enrichment of the Student Body and the Mary Lister McCammon Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching in Mathematics. She is a member of International Delta Kappa Gamma Society, which honors women who have given, or who have evidenced a potential for giving, distinctive service in any field of education.

Schulte has been at Penn State since 1987, working as a supervisor in the Computer Learning Center and as a supplemental-instruction supervisor until she joined the Department of Mathematics in 1991. Prior to coming to Penn State, she was an adjunct professor at Broome Community College in New York and a mathematics teacher at Greene Central School and Saint Paul’s School, both in New York. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics education from the State University of New York at Cortland in 1972 and 1976, respectively.

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