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2020 Teacher-Scholar Awards

Jan. 23, 2020

Yadu Pokhrel and Erin Purcell to receive prestigious MSU Teacher-Scholar Awards

Two from the College of Engineering -- Yadu Pokhrel and Erin Purcell -- will receive Teacher-Scholar Awards at Michigan State University’s annual Awards Convocation on Tuesday, Feb. 4. The 2020 MSU Awards Convocation is set for 3:30 p.m. at the University Club in Lansing. Colleagues, family, and friends are welcome to attend the event.

The All-University Awards are among the most prestigious presented to faculty members at MSU. Teacher-Scholar Awards are presented to faculty who, early in their careers, have earned the respect of students and colleagues for their devotion to and skill in teaching, and whose instruction is linked to and informed by their research and creative activities. The awards are supported by the Office of University Development.

The engineering faculty members being recognized are:

Yadu Pokhrel
Yadu Pokhrel

Yadu Pokhrel
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Pokhrel is an internationally renowned researcher in large-scale hydrology and water resource modeling, where he is well known for pioneering work in improving global hydrological models to include water management activities.

In particular, he is recognized for discovering that groundwater withdrawn from deep aquifers has contributed significantly to global sea-level rise.

Researchers worldwide have adopted the global climate models he developed. Pokhrel’s long-term goal is to provide a better understanding of the growing interconnectedness between societies, freshwater systems and global change toward addressing pressing societal problems related to the security of water, energy and food systems holistically.

In 2018, he received a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award to advance research and education on water resource sustainability in human-managed landscapes.

Pokhrel has established himself as an outstanding educator. He has taught a series of high-enrollment undergraduate courses that include significant laboratory components through which he has deployed a variety of active learning strategies in the classroom to create an environment where students want to learn, explore, experiment and create new knowledge.

He helps students identify and solve real-world problems using an inquiry-driven approach, emphasizing concepts over facts and challenging students to work in teams to solve real-world problems.

Pokhrel has developed new graduate courses that emphasize hands-on activities, such as writing model codes and formulating and testing hypotheses towards fostering the habit of thinking through a problem, organizing and executing a task and articulating a problem and solution in writing.

Pokhrel is an excellent mentor, striking a balance between challenging students to pursue their professional goals while also providing them with opportunities to be creative and independent.

His Multi-Scale Hydrological Modeling group currently hosts one postdoc, four doctoral students, one master’s student, and two undergraduate assistants, all actively learning in his lab while contributing to pioneering research. He has graduated one doctoral and three master’s students over the past four years. 

Erin Purcell
Erin Purcell

Erin Purcell
Departments of Biomedical Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering

Purcell is a recognized scholar in neural engineering and an innovative
teacher, who effectively transfers knowledge gained through her research to both her undergraduate and graduate students.

Purcell’s pioneering research has elucidated interactions between brain cells and implanted electrodes and informed strategies to use neural probes for neurological diseases and injuries.

Her research program synergistically integrates recent advances in electrophysiology, imaging and molecular biology to explain how implanted electrodes affect neural circuitry.

She has received three NIH grants totaling more than $2.5 million as lead principal investigator and is a co-investigator on another NIH grant using brain-cell gene-expression profiles to understand the genetic basis of brain inflammation. Knowledge gained from these studies will facilitate the development of next-generation neural electrode arrays with improved biocompatibility and useful lifetimes.

Purcell has been an educational pioneer and innovator in MSU’s new Biomedical Engineering Department. One of her central career goals is to bridge the gap between the engineering and life science disciplines. She has developed new, cross-disciplinary courses to which students with backgrounds in both biomedical engineering and biology are recruited and trained to collaborate in solving problems in medicine. Major team projects require students to integrate engineering and life science concepts, resulting in interdisciplinary learning and experience.

These courses have consistently received enthusiastic student evaluations; one undergraduate student wrote, “[Neural engineering is] one of the most interesting interdisciplinary classes you can take at MSU. Dr. Purcell will make a difference to any student who takes her class.”

Purcell actively engages in all phases of her students’ research-related experiences, from collecting data to publishing results to planning a career path. Her ongoing service activities focus on improving student training and improving outreach opportunities for women in engineering. 

She serves as chairperson of the graduate studies committees in both the biomedical engineering department and the college.

In May 2019, Purcell became part of MSU academic history when her long-time student Joseph Salatino, who had worked with her in the Regenerative Electrode Interface Lab, became MSU’s first PhD graduate in biomedical engineering.

Story courtesy of MSUToday.