The Sonny Astani Department Honors its Exceptional Research and Teaching Assistants

| October 28, 2021

Students are recognized for excellence by faculty, staff and students.

Awards recipients along with their supervising professors

From left to right: Professor and Chair Burcin Becerik-Gerber, Professor Lucio Soibelman, Patrick Borges Rodrigues (TA), Jiaming (Lily) Shi (TA), Assistant Professor Daniel McCurry, Associate Professor Bora Gencturk, Xiaoying Pan (TA), Mohamad Awada (TA), (Not pictured- Raven Althouse.)

On Tuesday October 19, the work of excellent students was recognized by faculty, staff and students from the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the annual Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant Awards.

Here are the award winners:

Outstanding TA Award Winners:

Xiaoying Pan

Xiaoying Pan is a Ph.D. student supervised by Associate Professor Bora Gencturk, who is the director of the Structures and Materials Laboratory. Pan earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and her master’s in structural engineering from Hunan University  in 2016. Xiaoying began her Ph.D. studies at USC Viterbi in Fall 2017. Her research focus is self-healing cement composites.

Pan was praised as the superhero TA for CE 334: Mechanical Behavior of Materials. This is a large class with over 50 students and includes a time intensive lab. Pan trained the other TAs and maintained a high standard for CE 334 labs. She spent countless hours preparing for lab sessions in the absence of an instructional staff member (due to the pandemic), keeping equipment operational, ensuring all supplies had been purchased and that the labs were running smoothly.

Last year, while the course was taught virtually, Pan prepared all the videos for online teaching of the labs. Being the most knowledgeable person about the lab sessions, she was also the one who was answering questions from the students, holding office hours and preparing documentation to assist the students with their lab reports.

Patrick Borges Rodrigues

Patrick Borges Rodrigues is a Ph.D. student co-supervised by CEE Professor Chair Burcin Becerik-Gerber and Professor Lucio Soibelman. Borges Rodrigues earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from State University of Santa Cruz in Brazil and his master’s degree in construction management from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Borges Rodrigues joined USC Viterbi in Fall 2020 to pursue his Ph.D. in civil engineering with an emphasis in human-building interaction and building information modeling.

Last year, Borges Rodrigues was a teaching assistant for CE 470: Building Information Modeling and CE 578: Technology Enabled Architecture, Engineering and Constructions. The instructors for these courses said Borges Rodrigues was amongst the best TAs they had ever had.

He is very dedicated, responsive and professional. His answers are always timely and thorough. Borges Rodrigues does everything with a great attitude. He is organized and moreover, he cares about students. He goes above and beyond learning new technologies and then supporting all the students and teams with modeling and process simulation, despite never having done it before. He held additional sessions and engaged in each project supporting students’ success.

TA Raven Althouse picking up her award outside of the CEE offices at KAP

Teaching Assistant Raven Althouse receives her award at the CEE offices on the USC University Park Campus.

Raven Althouse

Raven Althouse is a Ph.D. student supervised by Associate Professor Adam Smith. Althouse earned his bachelor’s degree in earth and environmental science from Furman University. Althouse joined USC Viterbi in Fall 2020 to pursue his Ph.D. in environmental engineering.  As a TA, she is praised for going above and beyond for both students and professors. The students appreciate that she is always available and eager to help – whether it’s with homework or in helping accommodate for missed classes. Professors appreciated her reminders and gentle prodding to meet deadlines.

Althouse ensures there is a smooth transition between professors of CE 110, which has five instructors. She ensures students feel the cohesion of the course and also a connection with the program. She is beloved by the students and faculty, who say that she’s the most enthusiastic TA they’ve worked with and an absolute joy to have on board.

Best RA Award Winners

Jiaming (Lily) Shi

Jiaming (Lily) Shi is a Ph.D. student supervised by Assistant Professor Daniel McCurry. Shi earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Tongi University in 2017 and her master’s degree in environmental engineering from University of California, Berkley in 2017. She joined USC Viterbi in Fall 2017 to pursue her Ph.D. in environmental engineering.

Her research interests include wastewater reuse. She has two first author papers in Environmental Science & Technology (generally considered the top journal in environmental engineering and environmental chemistry).  Additionally, she has had three oral presentations at American Chemical Society national meetings and is the recipient of the Teh Fu “Dave” Yen Fellowship in Environmental Engineering.  She recently accepted post-doctoral position in environmental engineering at Stanford University.

Mohamad Awada

Mohamad Awada is a Ph.D. student supervised by Professor Burcin Becerik-Gerber. Awada earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from the American University of Beirut in 2016 and 2018, respectively. He joined USC Viterbi in Fall 2019 to pursue his Ph.D. degree in informatics and human-building interactions.

Becerik-Gerber notes Awada knows how to stay the course, is curious and very disciplined and seemingly can work endless hours to get to his target.

It is very rare that a Ph.D. student works on five journal papers (3 published, 2 in review) by his 5th semester in the program. This is a great indication and testament of his intellect, determination and work ethic. He is an extremely high-quality researcher, and he is a tremendously collaborative and collegial person.


Published on October 28th, 2021

Last updated on October 28th, 2021

Share this Story