June 10, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 18

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    1999 Faculty Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching

    [jonathan abbat] by jason smith

    Jonathan Abbatt, Assistant Professor in Geophysical Sciences

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    While Jonathan Abbatt studied how the chemistry of the atmosphere affects climate, his graduate students quietly conducted a climatic study of their own. Their findings: that Abbatt exerts a significant warming trend on the climate for graduate study in the Department of Geophysical Sciences.

    Now the University has officially endorsed these findings. Abbatt, Assistant Professor in Geophysical Sciences, has received a 1999 Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.

    “I could not feel luckier than to work with a man like him,” said graduate student Daniel Cziczo. “Jon has taught me how to be a careful scientist. He has allowed me the flexibility to choose my research path but has never been unavailable for help or guidance. He seems to have a gift for sensing when to let students work out problems by themselves and when to assist.”

    The award follows a five-year nominating campaign mounted by Abbatt’s students. Loretta Mickley started the campaign before leaving Chicago for a postdoctoral research post at Harvard University. When she graduated, Cziczo took the baton.

    “Jon Abbatt was great to work with,” Mickley said. “He has such enthusiasm for anything to do with atmospheric chemistry. He always viewed our discussions as a way for us both to learn, and in that way, he helped me make the transition from student to scientist.”

    Abbatt said the award is as much a credit to his students as it is to him. “They’re the ones who did the work,” he said.

    Abbatt views science as an individual activity that becomes more enjoyable when work is shared. The work moves faster and new perspectives often come to light. “That’s the best way of learning,” he said.

    Many graduate students in atmospheric sciences have found that taking Abbatt’s Atmospheric Chemistry course is another good way to learn. The course addresses the influence of humans on the atmosphere, including ozone depletion, acid rain, global warming and air pollution.

    This Spring Quarter, Abbatt also opened the Environmental Chemistry Laboratory in the Hinds building. The well-equipped lab supports an undergraduate class that Abbatt teaches with David Archer, Associate Professor in Geophysical Sciences, as well as senior projects.

    The lab figured prominently in Cziczo’s Graduate Teaching Award nomination letter this year. Now graduate students have the opportunity to gain valuable experience as they assist in teaching the lab course, Cziczo said. The lab also well prepares undergraduates for graduate study.

    “Far too often the most difficult transition when entering graduate school is in learning how to logically design, build and run an experiment. This lab will allow undergraduates to gain this invaluable experience before graduate school,” Cziczo said.

    No matter how well-prepared they are, graduate students often find choosing a Ph.D. project a rather daunting task, Abbatt observed.

    “If you come into a Ph.D. program and you already know how to formulate a problem and how to solve it, then in some respects, you don’t need to do the Ph.D.,” Abbatt said. “I think part of the Ph.D. is learning to formulate a problem and putting the tools together to do it. I really enjoy seeing that process.”

    Mickley chose a project that brought together Abbatt and John Frederick, Professor in Geophysical Sciences, as co-advisers. Using data collected by the Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite, Mickley examined several atmospheric chemistry problems. Among them: how stratospheric ozone levels were affected by the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption.

    Cziczo, on the other hand, is using laboratory observations to determine when atmospheric aerosol particles transform from liquid to solid and vice versa. Sulfate aerosols may be especially important in cloud formation and the scattering of sunlight back into space, Abbatt said. Mostly composed of sulfuric acid water, these aerosols are spread throughout the atmosphere.

    “Their abundance is thought to be increasing through industrial activity,” Abbatt said. “We know that they’re having a climatic impact, but we don’t know the extent of it yet. It’s another example of how humankind’s activity, such as pollutants from a smokestack or an automobile, can have a global affect.”

    When Cziczo completes his Ph.D., he will ply his expertise as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colo. Like Mickley and other Chicago graduate students, Cziczo has left quite an impression on Abbatt.

    “The ones who come through this program are as good as grad students I’ve met anywhere,” he said.

    [philip bohlman] by jason smith

    Philip Bohlman, Associate Professor in Music

    By Theresa Carson
    News Office

    Philip Bohlman, Associate Professor in Music and winner of a 1999 Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching, takes a new seat in his classroom from week to week, giving him a new perspective that fosters a democratic forum.

    Students have told Richard Cohn, Professor and Chairman of Music, that Bohlman has the ability to ask the perfect question. “His questions always generate serious discussion and debate among students,” Cohn said.

    “He also lets people go with their own ideas, given their own abilities, backgrounds and capacities,” Cohn said.

    Bohlman believes his role is to stimulate discussion. “From the beginning, I assume the students have a lot to teach each other,” Bohlman said. “I create ideas and topics for discussion they can wrestle with themselves.”

    Bohlman has produced resources for his students such as cassettes of music from South Asian films and popular music; examples of modal structures or scales; and paintings illustrating the Hindu myths that inspired musical scales called ragas.

    Bohlman, who has been a faculty member at the University since 1987, established the Music Department’s ethnomusicology program. The spectrum of his research has ranged from Jewish musical traditions in Central Europe to Irish-American folk music.

    This quarter, he is teaching at the Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften (International Research Center for Cultural Studies) in Vienna, researching the topic of Jewish music in public spaces during the Hapsburg Empire, and serving as a guest professor at the University of Vienna.

    “He has extraordinary breadth as a scholar,” Cohn said. “He’s able to put his students in touch with a tremendous amount of research.” In the past, Bohlman has helped students who wanted to study in Vienna, Berlin and Freiburg, areas with which Bohlman is very familiar.

    “We have terrific students and fabulous graduate students in music,” Bohlman said. “They are not only smart but they care and they work hard.”

    He celebrates the diversity of his students’ interests. Some students enjoy listening to hip-hop, some to hymns from the Mexican Catholic Church and still others songs from Pakistan, he said. “We respect them as music-making people. We all have different interests.” Beethoven’s compositions are not necessarily better than Romanian folk music, Bohlman said. “They don’t have to be ashamed of saying they like different kinds of music. This is a way of expressing something about their lives. It’s not about notes on a page but something that reaches within. Music draws us into ourselves,” he said. “Music is a conduit that heightens experience so individuals can look within themselves.”

    When students ask for suggested dissertation topics, Bohlman encourages them to pursue their own interests. He will not offer ideas because he wants to give them the freedom to choose topics that excite them.

    If a student were to ask him how to handle the demands of graduate school, he would say take it one day at the time. “Keep going, keep asking questions for which the answers move you ahead.”

    Cohn commented that Bohlman has actively identified struggling students who have potential. “Philip is the sort of person who can look at people and see their strengths––the silver lining.” Students uncertain about the direction in which their studies might take them have flourished and become strong scholars under Bohlman’s tutelage, Cohn said.

    “He makes people feel that they are special, and he listens very, very hard,” Cohn said. “He’s a tremendous model for his colleagues.”