Three Yale Physics students win Prize Teaching Fellowships from the Yale Graduate School

May 11, 2023

Eleven Ph.D. students from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) have been named Prize Teaching Fellows for the 2022-2023 academic year: Eason Cao (Cell Biology), Max Clayton (American Studies), William Frazer (Earth and Planetary Science), John Garmon (Physics), Xinyu Guan (French), Justin Hawkins (Religious Studies), Matthew King (Physics), Alexandria Palazzo (Chemistry), Alejandro Quintana (Classics and History), Shivnag Sista (Physics), and Sidharth Tyagi (MD/PhD Program). The prize has been given annually by GSAS since 2000. Recipients are nominated by their undergraduate students and the faculty members they assist while serving as Teaching Fellows.

“The goal of doctoral education is often seen as that of transforming fact seekers into generators of knowledge,” said Lynn Cooley, Dean of the Graduate School. “However, it goes beyond the creation of new knowledge: a Ph.D. should also give you the skills to disseminate that knowledge out in the world where it will have the greatest impact.” In reading the nominations, Dean Cooley remarked, “it was abundantly clear that how these teaching fellows have inspired their students.”

The Prize Teaching Fellowships recognize outstanding performance and promise as a teacher. They are considered among the most important honors that Yale bestows upon graduate students.

John Garmon is from Centreville, VA, part of the Washington, D.C. area suburbs. For his undergraduate education, John studied at Virginia Tech, receiving a B.S. in Physics and B.S. in Electrical Engineering. He is in his third year at Yale as a PhD student in Physics, working with Professor Rob Schoelkopf on experimental quantum computing research. John began teaching/tutoring in early high school, primarily helping others with math and chemistry homework. At Virginia Tech, he often helped the freshmen and sophomores in his dorm with the homework for their various engineering-related classes. During school breaks John still regularly returns to his high school physics teacher, Mrs. Wells at Centreville High School, and volunteers in her classroom. Mrs. Wells has been a great inspiration for John and has helped foster his physics teaching skills.

From the nominations: “John Garmon is a remarkable and devoted physics teacher. He is quick to abandon stuffy and confusing formulas in favor of intuitive and useful problem-solving methods. He gives attention to all students who seek it, and when students are struggling with the same thing, he is super effective at facilitating group collaboration in a fun and productive way … John never shows a hint of frustration when he has to explain basic concepts, or go over things twice, and is always happy to hear questions or suggestions for different ways to do the same thing. A large proportion of my entire class makes a point to come to his office hours every week because we know he is prepared to give great explanations and wrestle with different students’ intuitions for the same ideas.”

Matthew King is a first-year PhD student in the physics department studying experimental neutrino physics. He is interested in using liquid argon detectors to probe the elusive particles for the answers they can provide to our greatest fundamental questions about the structure of the universe. King is deeply grateful to his students for nominating him for this award, and he hopes that they will inspire future generations of students.

From the nominations: “Matt King has been one of the best TFs I have ever had. He TFed my PHYS 410 class last semester and is currently a TF for my PHYS 430 class. Matt always goes out of his way to ensure everyone feels like they belong in the class, even when sometimes it is hard to feel that way … Matt does his best to understand how students are feeling in the class and then relays this information to the instructor of the course, which is incredibly helpful as students don’t always feel comfortable voicing concerns directly to the instructor. Overall, Matt is an excellent instructor, he goes beyond the role of a TF, and I am so glad to have his encouragement and support.”

Shivnag Sista is a third-year graduate student in the Physics Department. He works with Prof. Corey O’Hern on trying to understand the flow and clogging of soft and deformable particles. This is a broad setup that encompasses many physical phenomena, ranging from metastasis of cancer cells to the flow of droplets through microfluidic channels. This work tries to design models that capture the behavior of these ubiquitous, yet complex systems using computational methods. Outside of research, Shivnag teaches undergraduate students at the Poorvu Centre in addition to his TF duties.

From the nominations: “Shivnag is goated. He goes way above and beyond… he had an unnatural ability to explain how things come about (which probably comes from his really strong understanding of the material). I literally can’t imagine a TF being better than Shivnag. Any student in a class that has him as a TF should feel incredibly lucky and grateful. Shivnag loves physics and is an amazing communicator of his passion and his knowledge. Best TA I’ve ever had.”

See below for the full story from the Dean’s Office on May 8, 2023, further information about the Prize Teaching Fellowship, and for a list of past winners.

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