Marla Geha, awarded the Dylan Hixon ’88 Prize for teaching excellence in the natural sciences

Thu, 05/05/2022

In a ceremony held in the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning on May 5, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun read the nominating students’ words of praise:

Marla Geha, professor of astronomy and physics, your students praise your ability to give each student a set of transferable skills that will help them during their academic and professional careers. You have transformed the curriculum in astronomy, intentionally and innovatively.

Numerous students have shared their excitement after completing research methods courses with you. One said: ‘After her course, I know I am a better coder, collaborator, scientist, and even writer, as she makes sure never to neglect any skill that will be useful to us as scientists and humans.’ Another said, eloquently and succinctly, ‘So often there is a bifurcation between caring about research and caring about instruction. Prof. Geha bridges this gap.’

You recognize the skills that will be helpful to both advanced and novice astrophysics students. Your students recognize the efforts you make to ensure that students understand what you want them to learn, while giving them space and freedom to explore their interests. As one student described, you give your students ‘the perfect balance of structure and freedom to explore ideas and hypotheses we would not have access to otherwise.’

In person or in the virtual format, your students outside of the major have praised your ability to make course material engaging and accessible. One student shared: ‘She seemed genuinely excited to be able to share her love of the field and all its interesting quirks with us. She is the perfect professor to welcome someone to Yale, and she is also the perfect professor to have had for my last ever class as a Yale undergrad. I will certainly be following her work in the future, and I am so grateful for the reminders she has given me of what it is to learn something because it is genuinely interesting. Like all great mentors, Prof. Geha has encouraged me to look forward and inward, but unlike most, she has also reminded me to look up.’”

Marla is one of six faculty members honored this year for ‘transformational’ classroom instruction. Congratulations Marla!

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