Mostafá and Dykstra awarded C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching
Miguel Mostafá, associate professor of physics and of astronomy and astrophysics, and Sheryl Dykstra, lecturer and director of undergraduate instrumentation laboratories in chemistry have been honored with the 2016 C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society. 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. Students, faculty members, and alumni nominate outstanding faculty members who best exemplify the key characteristics of a Penn State educator, and a committee of students selects the award winners from the group of nominees.
Mostafá focuses his research on ultra-high energy cosmic rays and very-high energy gamma rays. Ultra-high energy cosmic rays are the most energetic and rarest particles in the Universe. These particles originate in cataclysmic cosmics event outside of our galaxy, but only arrive on earth at a rate of one per square kilometer per century. Mostafá has studied these particles as part of the Pierre Auger Observatory Collaboration for over a decade. He and his research team also designed a built the 300 plastic bladders that hold ultra-pure water inside the very-high energy gamma ray detectors of the High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Observatory in Mexico.
Mostafá was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2016. His previous awards and honors include Best Teacher Awards from the Colorado State University’s Alumni Association and the Student Alumni Connection, the Outstanding Mentor Award presented by the Students as Leaders in Science at the Colorado State University, and the Students Choice Award sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Utah.
Before joining Penn State, Mostafá was an associate professor of physics at Colorado State University. Mostafá earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1996 and a doctoral degree in high-energy particle physics in 2001 at the Instituto Balseiro in Argentina.
Dykstra focuses her work on improving lab courses in organic chemistry. Dykstra currently runs CHEM 213W -- Laboratory in Organic Chemistry -- where she develops innovative experiments that provide the best possible laboratory experience for her students. She also teaches CHEM 202 -- Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry. Dykstra was a driving force in developing the Teaching Assistant program for CHEM 112 -- Chemical Principles II. As director of instrumentation laboratories, she has helped acquire new research instruments and designed an instrument room that provides a classroom environment for students, emphasizing learning and data analysis. She also works with other laboratory directors to develop curriculum and instrumentation techniques that are vital to improving lab courses. Dykstra ensures that each student in her courses experiences hands-on use of all the instrumentation and encourages the development of independence and understanding with each instrument. Her goal is to help students become prepared for instrumentation use in upper level courses, summer research experiences, jobs, or graduate school.
Dykstra earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Grove City College in 2003 and a doctoral degree in chemistry at Penn State in 2008.
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