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Awards and Honors

Battestilli, Johnson and Liu receive Outstanding Teacher Awards

Downtown Raleigh skyline rises up behind the Memorial Belltower.

Three faculty members from NC State’s College of Engineering were honored with the Outstanding Teacher Award for the 2022-23 academic year. The three professors were honored during the spring faculty meeting in April.

Lina Battestilli is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Computer Science; Jeremiah Johnson is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering (CCEE); and Jun Liu is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE).

The award recognizes excellence in teaching and welcomes recipients as members of the Academy of Outstanding Teachers while they are NC State faculty members. Additionally, receiving the award is a prerequisite for being considered for the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Alumni Distinguished Professor Award.

Lina Battestilli

Lina Battestilli may be an associate teaching professor now, but she got her start in the Department of Computer Science all the way back in 2002, when she attended the university to get her master’s degree in computer networking.

Lina Battestilli
Lina Battestilli

One master’s degree and a Ph.D. later, Battestilli rejoined NC State as a faculty member in 2012.

“My goal is to create a welcoming and respectful learning environment for my students,” Battestilli said. “Students may forget some of the things they learn in my courses, but they will remember how my course made them feel.”

Her teaching philosophy is that the best way to learn is by doing. Battestilli’s classes are full of hands-on projects and projects that have to do with larger societal impact.

“I also want my students to be able to relate to the topics and have fun while learning so I have also created projects around games such as Battleship, Mastermind, Connect Four, Adventure Games, etc.,” she said. “I want my students to see the impact of computer science but also be able to personally relate to the topics and have fun while learning.”

Junior Isaac Dunn met Battestilli early on in his college career, during his second semester of college in spring 2021, when he took Introduction to Computing.

“I can confidently say that Dr. Battestilli was the best professor I had during the pandemic because of the positive learning environment she created and maintained throughout the course,” Dunn said. “She took great care in creating course webpages and using resources to

be both organized and easily accessible.

“During lectures, she would encourage students to ask and answer questions,” he continued. “Additionally, she would use Zoom breakout rooms for students to solve coding examples together in small groups. This was the most engagement I had in a learning environment during the pandemic, and it had a very positive impact on many students.”

Jeremiah Johnson

As a faculty member in CCEE, Johnson’s priority is always the next generation of scholars.

“At North Carolina State University, my teaching efforts support the development of skills and knowledge in sustainable infrastructure, renewable energy generation and environmental impact assessment,” Johnson said.

Jeremiah Johnson
Jeremiah Johnson

Since joining the faculty in 2017, Johnson has taught four classes: Introduction to Sustainable Infrastructure, Energy and Climate, Renewable Energy and the Grid and Environmental Life Cycle Assessment. He also developed and led courses at the University of Michigan relating to renewable energy integration and system dynamics and served as a teaching fellow at Yale University for courses in environmental engineering and environmental studies.

“Through my teaching efforts at NC State, I have endeavored to excite and motivate students

through exploration of these real-world problems, deployed through a case-study-based

approach,” he said.

His students would certainly say Johnson has succeeded in his efforts. In one recent evaluation, a student cited Johnson’s strengths as great communication skills, emotional intelligence and a wide array of knowledge.

Another cited his dedication to his students. One student called Johnson, “one of the best professors I have ever had.”

His colleagues have similar praise. Assistant Professor Angela Harris has co-taught Introduction to Sustainable Infrastructure with Johnson for three semesters, both in person and online. As the class has around 130 students per semester, Harris particularly noted how Johnson connected with each and every one.

“Dr. Johnson is a role-model teacher,” Harris said. “He is kind and considerate, but also challenges students. He is responsive to student needs and very engaging in class, often drawing laughter from jokes he integrates into his lectures. Students connect with him and know he cares about their learning of complex material and important skills to address challenges facing society today and in the future.”

Jun Liu

It’s an exciting time to be a mechanical or aerospace engineer, according to Liu. There’s a significant demand for engineers in areas like renewable energy, autonomous transportation and advanced manufacturing.

Jun Liu
Jun Liu

And as a faculty member in MAE, Liu’s goal is to excite students and get them out into the field.

“With this mission, my teaching philosophy is to teach with both practical application examples and problem examples,” he said. “Engineering courses are easier to learn with examples. For example, when teaching thermodynamic cycles, I will show videos of the mechanisms in jet engines that cover most of the thermodynamic cycles.”

“Dr. Liu contributed to the department on all fronts,” added Srinath Ekkad, department head and RJ Reynolds Professor. “He is an excellent teacher, researcher and serves the department, and the research community well. I fully support Professor Liu’s career goals and teaching philosophy as detailed in his statement. Dr. Liu embodies the spirit of a teacher who cares about learning and welfare of his students.”

Liu joined the faculty at NC State in 2015 as an assistant professor. In the eight years since then, many students have gushed about his teaching.

“I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from having Dr. Liu as a professor for two semesters,” said current student Erika Bouge. “He makes the material understandable and interesting.”

“Professor Liu has a passion for teaching the material, which is made visible by how much he cares about the course as well as the students’ understanding,” added fellow student Andrew Kotnour. “He always provided very detailed notes and examples that were worked out in class with the students.”

Recent years have been challenging, given NC State’s transition from in-person to hybrid to virtual and back again, but Liu hasn’t let that stop him. “Some students and professors struggled with this transition,” said Kotnour. “However, Professor Liu did not. Professor Liu’s use of streaming his work and material notes live made the course easy to follow and created a connection to the students as if it were being taught in the classroom.”