Levy to Receive Alder Award for Teaching

April 22, 2013

Rachel Levy
Rachel Levy

The Mathematical Association of America has chosen Rachel Levy, associate professor of mathematics, to receive its 2013 Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning Faculty Member.

The award will be presented Aug. 2, 2013 at the MAA’s MathFest in Hartford, Conn.

Levy is the fourth Harvey Mudd College faculty member to receive the award since its inception in 2003, and HMC is the only college to appear more than once on the Alder Award list.

The award honors faculty whose teaching is effective and extraordinary and extends its influence beyond the classroom. Recipients receive $1,000 and a certificate of recognition.

“I’m thrilled that the MAA has recognized Rachel with this honor,” said Andrew Bernoff, chair of the HMC Department of Mathematics. “Her boundless energy and infectious enthusiasm have inspired the latest generation of Mudders. As a dedicated research advisor, innovative teacher and compassionate and engaging colleague, she embodies our department’s desire to provide the best undergraduate mathematics education on the planet.”

The Alder Awards committee cited Levy’s “singular teaching style encompassing creative writing and presentations about mathematics, tips about meta-cognition and problem solving, and assignments tuned to be realistically messy,” as some of the reasons she was chosen to receive the award.

Levy works extensively with students on research projects such as investigating the motion of thin liquid films with surfactants (such as the lining of human lungs), developing algorithms for the coordination and control of aquatic robots, and modeling whale footprints, slick patches observed on the ocean’s surface in the area of whale activity.

Her efforts have enabled students to collaborate with mathematicians and physicists at other esteemed colleges—such as North Carolina State University, Duke University, the Claremont Graduate University and UCLA—and co-author research articles, which have appeared in publications such as the Journal of Engineering Mathematics. Levy also has been instrumental in obtaining funds from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation and the Office of Naval Research, which have supported student research and two Clinic projects.

Levy has served as chair of the HMC Teaching and Learning Committee and as advisor to the College’s Math Club and SIAM student chapter. She was recently appointed the editor-in-chief of SIURO, an online publication devoted to undergraduate research in applied and computational mathematics. She is part of an HMC team investigating the efficacy of an inverted classroom teaching model, in which HMC students watch videos of lectures at home and devote class time to small-group learning activities. Levy’s recent project, Grandma Got STEM, has been featured in boingboing, slate.com (US and France), Australian radio (ABC) and the Israeli newspaper the Calcalist.

The MAA established the Alder award in 2003 and presented its first awards the following year. Associate Professor of Mathematics Susan Martonosi received the award in 2012, Professor of Mathematics Francis Su received the award in 2004, and former Associate Professor of Mathematics Lesley Ward received it in 2006.