During the 2021-2022 academic year we saw the return to in-person classes and the opportunity to engage once again in group learning. Our amazing teaching assistants played a huge role in smoothly transitioning students back to in-person learning and providing support in a year with many uncertainties. MIE is pleased to highlight the 2021-2022 Teaching Assistant Award winners. Thank you for all you do for our students!
Dina Kanaan is a 4th year PhD student studying how people interact with smart vehicles and how to make automation safer. She is supervised by Professor Birsen Donmez.
During her time as a TA, Dina discovered how much she enjoys teaching.
“My favourite thing about teaching human factors or human-centred design courses is seeing students take a new concept and relate it to their own lives,” says Kanaan. “I like to help them make those personal connections as I believe it helps us to become better engineers and designers.”
As a researcher who focuses on human factors, Kanaan likes to tie in human factors learning into the course experience.
“Many undergraduate courses rely on teamwork and there’s more to being an engineer than technical skills alone,” says Kanaan. “I enjoy teaching the students how to be strong communicators and how to work together and leverage one another’s strengths to succeed. These types of skills will continue to serve them as they progress through their education and begin careers.”
“I put a lot of thought and effort into my work as a TA and it feels great to be recognized.”
Zhaoxin Li is a 3rd year PhD student working with Professor Eric Diller. His research focuses on 3D printing of magnetic soft robots. During the 2021-2022 academic year, Li was a TA for MIE404, an undergraduate control systems course.
Li first came to U of T in the final year of his undergraduate degree as an international exchange student. His own experience settling into a new culture, overcoming language barriers and managing his coursework helps inform his work as a TA.
“I remember the challenges I faced as an undergraduate student and that helps me put myself in my students’ shoes,” says Li. “I remember the concepts I found confusing in this course and make sure the students understand. It’s really satisfying to see them smile and get excited when they understand a difficult concept.”
Li credits the professors and TAs he had during his undergraduate degree for some of the skills he has adopted as a TA.
“I learned how important it is to be patient and enthusiastic from the great TAs I had. Knowing that I have made a positive impact on the students I have taught feels great. I’m very honoured to receive this award and it motivates me to continue teaching.”
Jake Mosseri is a MASc student supervised by Professor Elias Khalil. His research focuses on applying machine learning to surgery schedules.
Mosseri enjoyed being back to the in-person experience this spring and found it much easier to teach and engage with the students in person.
“Teaching to a screen was challenging,” says Mosseri. “In person, I can tell if students are understanding the material and where we might need to spend more time.”
Mosseri found that in addition to helping students his time as a TA has helped him to develop better public speaking skills, gain confidence and overcome imposter syndrome.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping students learn, but when I first started acting as a TA I did worry I might not be experienced enough to teach some of the more challenging concepts. As time went on, I realized I did know how to answer their questions and lead in the classroom,” says Mosseri. “It means a lot to be recognized for this work, it’s been a lot of fun to see the moment something clicks and students understand the material I’m teaching.”
Maryam Ebrahimiazar is a PhD candidate supervised by Professor Nasser Ashgriz. She has worked as a teaching assistant in a number of courses during her time at MIE including MIE210 – Thermodynamics, MIE313 – Heat and Mass Transfer and MIE414 – Applied Fluid Mechanics.
“It is truly an honor to be receiving the MIE TA Award. I feel proud and I am glad to know that I had a positive impact on students’ learning experience,” says Ebrahimiazar.
Aaron (Hao Che) Tan
Aaron Tan is a 3rd Year PhD candidate in MIE supervised by Professor Goldie Nejat. His research focuses on deep reinforcement learning for multi-robot coordination – a way for robots to learn cooperative behaviours through trial and error.
Tan has been a TA for MIE443 for the past three years and really enjoys teaching a relevant course that helps students transition to graduate studies and their future careers in robotics.
“One of my favourite things about teaching this course is when students tell me how the skills I’ve taught them have helped them secure a job or gain a basis for graduate-level research in robotics,” says Tan.
Returning to teaching in person was a highlight for Tan. While troubleshooting code over Zoom was effective, returning to the classroom highlighted how important in person connections are.
“I really felt like our classroom was its own community,” says Tan. “I got to know the students and some even became friends I would see in the gym playing basketball. I’m really pleased to receive this award and know that I had a positive effect on their experience too. Receiving this award would not have been possible without the proactive and exceptional students this semester.”
Ian (Yihang) Zhu
Ian Zhu completed his undergraduate degree at UBC and joined MIE to complete his MASc. He is now a 4th year PhD student supervised by Professor Timothy Chan and Professor Merve Bodur. His research focuses on the intersection of data analytics and optimization.
Zhu was a TA for the course MIE 368, Analytics in Action, a project-based course where students come up with a question they want to answer and complete an end-to-end analytics project.
“One thing I really like about teaching this course is that the student groups encounter challenges at different points in the project,” said Zhu. “As a TA, I get to jump in and help guide them through. It’s really satisfying to see them have that ‘aha’ moment.”
“I worked with a great teaching team on this course,” said Zhu. “We worked really hard to find that balance between challenging students to keep them engaged without making the work too complicated that they felt stuck or hopeless. Being a TA was a good way to get to know students and build community with one another.”
-Published June 22, 2022 by Lynsey Mellon, firstname.lastname@example.org