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News Archive - March 2012

 Geophysicist earns early career award

UToday HomeMarch 26, 2012


Adam Pidlisecky has received an Early Career Award, been named a 2012 Visiting Blaustein Assistant Professor at Stanford University. Adam Pidlisecky is an inspiring teacher, an avid cyclist and sailor, a master at fieldwork and an accomplished scientist with a few patents pending. And he’s just getting started.

Pidlisecky has received an Early Career Award (ECA) by the Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society and has been named a 2012 Visiting Blaustein Assistant Professor at Stanford University. This week he will be delivering an invited lecture at the annual meeting of the Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society where he will be receiving the EEGS/Geonics ECA.

“It has been a really exciting year. I’m honored to be recognized by my peers internationally through the ECA award and I’m really thrilled to have a research role at Stanford this year where I'll be looking at some pressing water issues associated with groundwater evaluation and management from the perspective of science as well as policy,” says Pidlisecky.

Pidlisecky’s research is focused on applying near-surface geophysics to environmental and engineering problems. For example, he uses geophysics to monitor and understand managed aquifer recharge, where, during surplus precipitation water is stored underground so that it can be used during dry seasons.

Pidlisecky completed his PhD at Stanford about five years ago and three years have gone by since he started a tenure-track faculty position at the University of Calgary. But already he has built an exceptional record of technical innovation, academic eminence, and service to the environmental and engineering geophysics community.

“Adam is dedicated to the development of methods that can solve real-world problems and his solutions are both elegant and practical,” says Kamini Singha, a colleague at Pennsylvania State University.

“In all of his pursuits, Adam is one of those rare researchers who is almost always thinking ‘outside of the box,’ allowing him to easily connect his research to other disciplines.”

Before arriving at the University of Calgary, Pidlisecky applied the same type of math and physics he uses for solving geophysics problems to new approaches in medical imaging.

“Adam is full of energy and a real idea man. He’s done some very innovative work in the field of near-surface geophysics. He has an impressive list of publications for someone at his stage of career and is having an impact on the field,” says Laurence Bentley, a professor in the university’s Department of Geoscience. “He has also revamped the environmental geophysics course and has inspired students.”

In addition to being a well-regarded researcher, Pidlisecky is also known for creative teaching methods, sometimes using marshmallows and spaghetti, to help students nurture their inner creativity so they can innovate in science.

What’s the big idea?

UToday HomeMarch 22, 2012

By Carly Moran

Melissa GiovanniMelissa Giovanni believes that instructors should be open to challenging traditional methods of teaching by involving students more directly in their learning. Credit: Riley Brandt Melissa Giovanni, an instructor in the Department of Geoscience, teaches Introduction to Geology to hundreds of students each semester. Recent changes to how she delivers the course material have led to a revolution in her teaching.

Giovanni is involved in Project Engage, a two-year pilot program that provides selected faculty with the support and resources they need to improve the learning experiences of students in first-year arts and sciences courses.

Giovanni began her redesign by defining the course’s “Big Ideas” before determining what material she needed to cover. This new approach allowed Giovanni to think more critically about why she covers certain material, and led to an outline that was more effective with less content.

“It was refreshing to learn that I didn’t need to go into minute detail on every subject to teach the course effectively,” says Giovanni. “When I honed in on the big ideas before designing the course, I discovered I was in a better position to evaluate my success.”

Advance preparation paid huge dividends for Giovanni when she determined her main objective for the course was to inspire students to become better Earth citizens who were more aware of the environment. This awareness allowed her to eliminate content that didn’t fit with the overall theme.

However, Giovanni admits that determining the big ideas isn’t always intuitive. It takes work to define the information that’s truly important, and what can be removed without affecting the overall course objectives.

“Instructors don’t always think holistically about ‘why’ we cover certain material,” says Giovanni. “It’s really powerful when you start by determining the course’s major themes, and follow through with a plan that gets you to that end effectively.”

Giovanni also introduced her students to the concept of “think, pair, share.” After posting an image on screen, she asked students a few questions that required the synthesis of information discussed in previous lectures. Students were then encouraged to pair up with the person sitting beside them to discuss. Tuning into conversations around the room gave Giovanni insight into her teaching effectiveness.

“It was surprising to learn that informal assessments could provide such valuable information about student learning,” says Giovanni. “Allowing time for student discussion during lectures helped me gauge their level of understanding, and enabled them to make connections that were more relevant to their everyday lives.”

Learn more about Project Engage.