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CAAM Professor Mark Embree wins the coveted George R. Brown teaching award

By Hallie Jordan     4/19/12 7:00pm

The votes are in: Recent Rice alumni have selected Mark Embree to receive Rice's top teaching award. Embree, a professor of computation and applied mathematics, will receive his award alongside nine other professors being honored for their teaching excellence on April 24.

The 2012 George R. Brown Prize for Teaching is Rice's only university teaching award and is therefore highly coveted, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said.

The winning professors are voted on by alumni who graduated two, three and five years ago. According to Hutchinson, the award has been annually distributed since 1969.

The seminar and reception event is intended to give students a chance to find out who won and to support and congratulate their professors. It will be held in McMurtry Auditorium in Duncan Hall at 3 p.m.

Before the winners are announced, Professor in the Practice of Bioengineering Education Ann Saterback, who received the 2011 George R. Brown Prize for Teaching Excellence, will give a lecture about her experiences in teaching.

Of the 10 professors selected, the one who gets the most alumni votes is given the top award for "excellence"; the other nine are given the "superior" award. Embree is the winner of this year's award for "excellence."

"It's a great privilege to get to work [at Rice], and to receive this award is a great recognition that they are appreciating that teaching," Embree said. "There are so many wonderful professors at Rice, and many people here actually care about teaching very deeply."

Embree has been teaching CAAM classes at Rice since 2002. Growing up in Virginia, Embree received his undergraduate degree in computer science and mathematics at Virginia Tech and then went on to obtain his doctorate at Oxford University in numerical analysis.

Embree said he has been interested in Rice ever since the smartest kid in his high school attended the university for his bachelor's degree.

Most often, Embree teaches CAAM 336 and CAAM 453, and he believes it is from these classes that he got most of the votes, he said.

"[Students often] see CAAM as an obstacle, and I really relish the challenge of sharing my love for that discipline," he said. "When I give a bad lecture, I feel like I've done a real disservice to beauty, and that bothers me to no end."

For the first time this year, the committee responsible for giving the awards took into account the size of the classes the professors teach.

The award ceremony, consisting of a seminar on teaching and a reception in which the winners will be recognized, will be open to students.

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