Professor Gibson named a MacVicar Fellow

March 12, 2015

Four MIT professors have been named 2015 MacVicar Faculty Fellows, awarded for exceptional undergraduate teaching, mentoring, and educational innovation.

This year’s honorees are Arthur Bahr, the Alfred Henry and Jean Morrison Hayes Career Development Associate Professor of Literature; Catherine L. Drennan, a professor of chemistry and biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor and investigator; Lorna J. Gibson, the Matoula S. Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and a professor of civil and environmental engineering and mechanical engineering; and Hazel L. Sive, a professor of biology.

Lorna J. Gibson

Gibson attended the University of Toronto, earning a BASc in civil engineering. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge. In 1984, she became as associate professor of civil engineering and in 1987 an associate professor of civil engineering and mechanical engineering. She became a full professor in both departments in 1995, and a professor of materials science and engineering, as well, in 1996. Since 1997, she has been the Matoula S. Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. Gibson has also served as chair of the faculty from 2005 to 2006 and was associate provost from 2006 to 2008.                                     

“I’m honored and delighted to be selected as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow,” Gibson says. “Whenever anyone asks me what is the best thing about being at MIT, I always say, the students! It is a terrific pleasure to teach MIT students and I’m gratified by this award.”

Gibson’s enthusiasm for teaching is a common theme among nominators. One described her lecture style as “mesmerizing,” adding that “her passion for the wonders of engineering and how it solves problems are obvious. She is crystal clear in her thinking and explanations, totally organized, utterly engaging, and shows such respect for the students.”

Another cites her innovative use of in-class demonstrations and real-world examples to illustrate important concepts. “Professor Gibson connects the fundamental aspects of the mechanical behavior of materials to real-world examples that fully engage the student's attention and imagination. In fact, her examples are drawn from a wide range of topic areas including biomechanics, historical events, and various types of art.”

A student wrote, “It was obvious that Professor Gibson’s goal was to help us connect to the material, doing whatever she could to relate the material to examples from nature and industry,” like “how the Boston molasses tank explosion of 1919 is a lesson in fracture mechanics.”

Students also single out Gibson’s keen interest in students. One student wrote, “Not only is Professor Gibson an excellent teacher and mentor, she truly fosters the success of her students and cares about us as individuals.” Another noted, “I will remember her as a teacher and mentor because of that personal care and personal connection she made with me and my peers.”

Ian A. Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering, says, “Professor Gibson is a wonderful colleague. Her excellence and dedication as an educator, a researcher, and a colleague are inspiring. I am very pleased that she has been recognized in this way for her exceptional educational contributions.”

Learn about the MacVicar program and this year's Fellows from the MIT News Office.

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