Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching
The Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching was established in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (formerly, the School of Electrical Engineering) in 1983 by Ruth and Joel Spira, cofounders of the Lutron Electronics Company. Joel Spira Obituary, April 14, 2015
The prize is awarded annually to an individual faculty member who had excelled in teaching and inspiring students during the current academic year. The award is usually presented to the ECE awardee at the annual IEEE Student Branch Banquet, and includes a cash prize.
Spira Award Recipients
Clifford Pollock, 2018-19
Zhiru Zhang, 2017-18
David Albonesi, 2016-17
Christopher Batten, 2015-16
José Martínez, 2014-15
David H. Albonesi, 2013-14
Aaron Wagner, 2011-12
Bruce Land, 2010-11
Alyosha Molnar, 2009-10
Rajit Manohar, 2008-09
Wesley E. Swartz, 2007-08
David A. Hammer, 2006-07
Bruce R. Land, 2005-06
Sheila S. Hemami, 2003-04
C. Richard Johnson, 2002-03
Donald T. Farley, 2001-02
Stephen B. Wicker, 2000-01
Robert J. Thomas, 1999-00
Terrence L. Fine, 1998-99
Paul M. Kintner, 1997-98
Charles E. Seyler, Jr., 1996-97
John A. Nation, 1995-96
Richard C. Compton, 1993-94
James Richard Shealy, 1992-93
Thomas W. Parks, 1991-92
John C. Belina, 1990-01
Clifford R. Pollock, 1989-90
Norman M. Vrana, 1988-89
David F. Delchamps, 1987-88
Michael C. Kelley, 1986-87
James S. Thorp, 1985-86
Hwa C. Torng, 1984-85
Ralph Bolgiano, Jr., 1983-84
Spira Award Announcements Archive
Spira Award Announcements ArchiveClick to Open
Christopher Batten receives Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching (2016)
Assistant Professor Christopher Batten was recently honored as the 2016 recipient of the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This award is given annually to one faculty member in recognition of extraordinary teaching.
Batten has been an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University since January 2010. He is a member of the Computer Systems Laboratory, which works on hardware and software techniques for improving the cost, performance, programmability, reliability, and energy efficiency of future computer systems. Professor Batten received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 2007 to 2009, he was a visiting scholar in the new Parallel Computing Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley which is tackling parallel architecture and software for mobile platforms. Professor Batten received his M.Phil. in engineering as a Churchill Scholar at the University of Cambridge in 2000, and received his B.S. in electrical engineering as a Jefferson Scholar from the University of Virginia in 1999.
Batten's primary research interest is in energy-efficient parallel computer architecture for both high-performance and embedded applications. He is also interested in parallel programming methodologies, hardware specialization, interconnection networks, VLSI chip-design methodologies, and the intersection between computer architecture and future emerging technologies.
José Martínez receives Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching (2015)
José Martínez was recently honored as the 2015 recipient of the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This award is given annually to one faculty member in recognition of extraordinary teaching.
Martínez is Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, a graduate field member of Computer Science and a member of the Computer Systems Laboratory at Cornell. His research work has earned several awards; among them: two IEEE Micro Top Picks papers; a HPCA Best Paper award; Best Paper nominations at MICRO and HPCA; a NSF CAREER award; two IBM Faculty awards; and one of the inaugural UIUC Computer Science Outstanding Educator Alumnus awards. On the teaching side, he has been recognized with two Kenneth A. Goldman '71 Excellence in Teaching College awards, as a 2007 Merrill Presidential Teacher, and as the 2011 Professor of the Year by the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. Prof. Martínez graduated in 1996 from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, and earned MS (1999) and Ph.D. (2002) degrees in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Prof. Martínez's research area is computer architecture. His research interests include reconfigurable and self-optimizing architectures, architectural impact of disruptive technologies (e.g., on-chip nano photonics), and hardware-software interaction.
David Albonesi receives Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching (2014)
David Albonesi was recently honored as the 2014 recipient of the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This award is given annually to one faculty member in recognition of extraordinary teaching.
Professor Albonesi is the Associate Director of ECE and a member of the Computer Systems Laboratory. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, and has received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, three IBM Faculty Awards, three IEEE Micro Top Picks paper awards, three industry excellence awards, and the Michael Tien ’72 Excellence in Teaching Award. His current research interests include adaptive and reconfigurable multi-core architectures, power- and reliability-aware computing, and energy-efficient smart buildings. More information about Professor David Albonesi can be found at http://www.csl.cornell.edu/~albonesi/.
Aaron Wagner Receives Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching (2012)
Aaron Wagner was recently honored as the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This award is given annually to one faculty member in recognition of extraordinary teaching.
Professor Wagner is an Associate Professor in ECE and a member of the lab, FoIE: Foundations of Information Engineering. He has received a number of awards for his research and teaching including the Cornell Michael Tien ’72 College of Engineering Teaching Award, and the NSF CAREER award.
He studies problems at the intersection of information theory and other fields including networking, statistics, queueing theory, security, computational linguistics, and learning. Find more about Professor Wagner Professor Wagner at http://people.ece.cornell.edu/wagner.
Bruce Land Receives Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching (2011)
Bruce Land was recently honored as the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This award is given annually to one faculty member in recognition of extraordinary teaching.
During spring 2011, Bruce taught ECE 4760 “Designing with Microcontrollers.” This is a hands-on course allowing students to take skills learned in ECE classes and apply them to designing various projects. The course had 77 students enrolled this year, resulting in about 35 different projects. As testimony to Bruce receiving the award, just a few of the comments received from his students are as follows:
“Bruce is an awesome lecturer and is able to keep me interested in the material at hand - he is very knowledgeable and answers all questions.”
“Land is great person, very interesting.”
“This class was my favorite class I've taken at Cornell. Professor Land really knows what he is talking about and really wants to help out students.”
Bruce has been a Senior Lecturer in the School since 1998. Land received a BS in physics from Harvey Mudd College in 1968 and a Ph.D. in neurobiology from Cornell University in 1976.
Alyosha Molnar Receives Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching (2010)
Assistant Professor Al Molnar was recently honored for receipt of the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2010. This award is given annually to one faculty member in recognition of extraordinary teaching. For Al Molnar, this is demonstrated in student feedback, such as the following:
“Best professor I’ve had at Cornell…Professor Molnar cared for the success of his students…genuinely interested in the subject he’s teaching…(clear) in explaining the material and inspiring interest in the course…Great professor. Great, great, great…Definitely stimulated my interest in ECE. I would highly recommend taking course (with this professor).”
Professor Molnar has taught several different courses since starting at Cornell. Courses include ECE 595 – Advanced Topic-Neural Interfaces, ECE 4530 – Analog Integrated Circuit Design, ECE 5040 Neural and Bioelectronic Interfaces, and ECE 2100 Introduction to Circuits for Electrical and Computer Engineers. In addition to his research and teaching he has actively participated in support of the School through active participation on several committees.
Rajit Manohar Receives Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching (2009)
Rajit Manohar, Associate Professor receives the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2009. This award is presented annually to a faculty member who has made extraordinary efforts in teaching.
Manohar has taught a variety of courses in the School, including:
ECE/CS 314: Computer Organization, ECE 571 Asynchronous VLSI Design, ECE 474 Digital VLSI, ECE 697: Topics in Computer Systems, ECE 320: Systems and Networks, ECE 475: Computer Architecture, ECE 439/539: VLSI Digital System Design and ECE 308 Fundamentals of Computer Engineering.
The theme from Professor Manohar student evaluations comment on his excellent lecture style, his preparedness and that he takes the time to connect with the students and make sure that they understand the topic before moving on.
In addition to teaching, Manohar serves on various School, College and University committees. He is currently the Director of Graduate Studies for Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Wesley Swartz Receives Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching (2008)
Wesley Swartz, Senior Research Associate receives the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2008. This Award was made in recognition of Wesley’s dedication to teaching and willingness to capture the students’ interest, guide and offer assistance to help them succeed.
Swartz received his B.S. from Drexel University in Electrical Engineering and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Penn State. Swartz joined the School in 1972. During that time he has grown and enhanced the curriculum for our students. Swartz teaches ECE 303, Electromagnetic Fields and Waves and ENGRD 230, Introduction to Digital Logic Design in the fall and ECE 488, RF Circuits and Systems in the spring semester.
One student commented, "Professor Swartz is one of the best professors I have had at Cornell. Not only was he prepared for each lecture and stimulated my interest in the subject, he extended above and beyond his role as professor to help students succeed in the course. He showed that he truly cares about his students and really made me like my major more than before this course."
The general theme from student evaluations is that Professor Swartz's lectures were well organized and that he made himself available for all of his students.
David Hammer Receives Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching (2007)
Professor David A. Hammer received the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2007. This Award was made in recognition of Professor Hammer's dedication to teaching and willingness to help students and to provide them with a course they will reflect back upon as one of their most interesting undergraduate classroom experiences.
Over the past several years, Professor Hammer has taught two courses in the Spring semesters: ECE 484, Introduction to controlled Fusion: Principles and Technology, and ECE 588 Energy Seminar II; and he teaches one course in the Fall semesters: ECE 581 Introduction to Plasma Physics, which is the cornerstone to the University’s plasma physics program.
To ECE 484 and 588 he brings his research experience into the undergraduate classroom with great effectiveness. In the energy seminar he captivated the students’ interest in energy issues by organizing excellent speakers and in 484 he enlightens students about “the holy grail of energy production” as one student puts it. A consistent theme from the student evaluations is that Professor Hammer cares deeply about students.
Bruce Land Receives Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching (2006)
Bruce has been teaching in the School in various capacities for the last 20 years. For the last eight years he has taught our capstone course ECE 476 Digital Systems Design using Microcontrollers. This has become the most popular course in the school, due primarily to Bruce's enthusiasm, teaching skills, and personal guidance in the lab.
In ECE 476, Bruce teaches the students about designing systems using microcontrollers, and then allows each student to build and test a self-generated design projects. Bruce has helped students build robots, health monitors, computer games, energy controllers, and "smart trains". It’s an amazing array of projects that he leads each year. His web page, http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/ee476/FinalProjects/ shows most of the projects from over the years. Each year Bruce encourages all students to submit their designs for publication. Many students have seen their projects published in national magazines.
This award is not the first time Bruce has been recognized for his outstanding teaching. In 1993 he was awarded the “Faculty of the Year” teaching award in Computer Science. In 1996 he won first place in "Instructional Materials" at the national ACM SIG User Conference XXIV. In 1995 he presented a series of lectures on "Innovation in Undergraduate Teaching" at Oregon State University. Bruce is a leader in instruction.