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Alumni vote Shamoo for Excellence in Teaching award

Dr. Yousif Shamoo

By Andrew Ta     4/22/15 7:28am

Recent Rice University alumni voted professor of biosciences Yousif Shamoo as the 2015 recipient of the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Alumni who graduated two, three and five years ago were asked to nominate professors, according to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson. The professor with the most votes receives the excellence in teaching award, Rice’s top award for teaching. Nine others, chosen by the University Committee on Teaching and the Center of Teaching Excellence based on number of votes, class size and subject, receive awards for superior teaching. All faculty, include non-tenure-track and lecturers, are eligible for the awards, which also carry a monetary prize.

Shamoo, who teaches Biochemistry I (BIOC 301) and II (BIOC 302),  previously received the award for superior teaching in 2009, 2011 and 2013, but said he never expected to win the top prize for excellence in teaching.

“Biochem is such a hard course; I’m always surprised and honored,” Shamoo, who is also the vice provost for research, Wiess career development chair and director of the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering, said.

Jones College junior Felix Yang said he was unsurprised Shamoo earned the top prize, and that he completely deserved it.

“He’s a bro,” Yang, who is currently in BIOC 302, said. “He’s engaged and [cares] about what he teaches and the students he’s teaching.”

Shamoo said he was flattered by the award.

“This award comes from our alumni and that is especially gratifying,” Shamoo said. “It means that when they get to grad or med school they value all our hard work together. Many of my students are pre-meds and too often they are portrayed in an unflattering light, but my students have real discipline and passion. I’d put my undergrads up against any school!”

According to Shamoo, his teaching methods are tried and true.

“I am unabashedly old fashioned,” Shamoo said. “There is a huge amount to know for this course series. It is a lecture course and I try to keep things funny and insightful despite the pressured nature of the course for my students. It would be very easy for the course to go off the rails.”

Jones College senior Kevin Li said Shamoo was his favorite teacher in the biochemistry department.

“He lets students punch him in the arm every year to demonstrate the effects of hemoglobin breakdown,” Li said.

All 10 recipients will be honored on April 28, at Rice’s Teaching Award Ceremony. 

“Amongst the hallmarks of the Rice Education are the excellent faculty and close relationship of the faculty with their students,” Hutchinson said. “The faculty enjoy honoring their students at the end of the year, and this is the best opportunity for the students to honor their faculty. These awards are highly coveted and highly prestigious. All the faculty who receive them feel very honored.”

A number of other awards are given out at the event. The George R. Brown Certificate of Highest Merit, awarded for earning multiple George R. Brown prizes for teaching, will be given to professor of psychology Michelle “Mikki” Hebl. The Nicholas Salgo Distinguished Teacher Award, voted on by current juniors and seniors, will be given to professor of bioengineering Ann Saterbak.

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