Congratulations to University of Utah electrical and computer engineering professor Cynthia Furse and materials science and engineering chair Feng Liu for receiving the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award, respectively.

Both were recognized with the campus-wide honors during the 150th annual University of Utah Commencement as well as the College of Engineering’s convocation on May 3.

Here are excerpts from the university’s @theU newsletter that describe the recipients of each award:

Cynthia Furse — Distinguished Teaching Award

“Dr. Furse [who is also the U’s Associate Vice President for Research] is the most outstanding and exceptional professor that I have ever known, for many reasons. … She is a true teacher with a heart of gold and level of dedication to her students and discipline that I have never seen before or since,” said one nominator. “Dr. Furse demonstrates true concern for and a sincere interest in her students. In fact, anyone who regularly passes Dr. Furse’s office, located in the Merrill Engineering Building, knows that a crowd of students is often found outside her door. These students know that Dr. Furse spends countless hours giving direction and encouragement, and she gives this time freely and without reservation. I personally know how grateful many of these students are for her dedicated service and mentoring. Friends of mine have often said things like, ‘She is probably the best person I know.’ This statement exemplifies how her students feel about her.” Furse is particularly well known as an early pioneer of the Flipped Classroom, which uses pre-class video lectures to enable and fully utilize in-class active learning. All of her course materials are freely available and are used by faculty around the world. She began developing and experimenting with this method in 2007, one of the first university faculty in the country to do so, and has mentored and trained over 2,700 faculty throughout the state, country and world in this method. Furse has also led two major NSF projects that have had major impacts on her department and college.

Feng Liu — Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award

Since joining University of Utah in 2000, Prof. Feng Liu has developed into one of the world’s leading experts in the fields of surface science and epitaxial growth of thin films, and the theory of nanostructures, graphene and topological materials. He won the prestigious Senior Humboldt Award in 2008 citing: “His work pioneered our understanding of the atomistic mechanisms underlying epitaxial growth of thin films and semiconductor nanostructures.” In 2011, Prof. Liu was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, based on: “His contribution to theory of nanostructures and strain-induced nanoscale Self-assembly.” “In recent years, he pioneered the fields of organic and surface-based topological materials,” said one nominator. “Prof. Liu has been running an active and well-funded research program which has become one of the largest in the College of Engineering (the group reached 20 people at one point). His research has been steadily supported by federal agencies (DOE, NSF and DOD), the State of Utah and industry. He is among the few people who has been simultaneously funded for two separate DOE-BES core programs, ‘Materials Synthesis and Processing’ and ‘Physical behavior of Materials’ (funded continuously so far for 20 years with an annual budget of $300K).”