MSUToday
Published: Jan. 28, 2015

2015 Teacher-Scholar Awards

Mohammad Hassan Khalil
Department of Religious Studies, College of Arts and Letters
College of Law

Mohammad Hassan Khalil, associate professor of religious studies, director of the Muslim Studies Program and adjunct professor in the College of Law, is a nationally known, engaged public scholar and expert in how Islam engages with non-Muslim communities. As a scholar and teacher who reaches out to the community to broaden understanding of Islam and Muslims in the United States, Khalil exemplifies and personifies the values of MSU. At MSU, Khalil has demonstrated consistent and remarkable excellence across each of the University’s missions of teaching, scholarship and community outreach.

As a teacher, Khalil helps his students fully understand the subject matter by having them engage in debate on the religious and ethical questions that arise, requiring them to use textual and historical information in their assertions and arguments as they work with the subject material directly. His students have called his teaching “phenomenal,” with statements such as “an excellent contribution to my knowledge and analysis of religion” echoing their exclamations. His student evaluations are virtually unprecedented — on a one to five scale, with one representing the highest, his are all ones, semester after semester. In addition to teaching in the Department of Religion, Khalil has taught in the College of Law, helping aspiring attorneys learn about Islamic law and legal traditions.

An internationally known scholar, Khalil has already established an international reputation in his field is the author of “Islam and the Fate of Others: The Salvation Question” and the editor of “Between Heaven and Hell: Islam, Salvation, and the Fate of Others,” both published by Oxford University Press. He has published peer-reviewed journal articles on numerous topics — from bioethics and early Islamic historiography to soteriology and jihad.

Anna McAlister
Department of Advertising and Public Relations
College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Anna McAlister, a developmental psychologist with postdoctoral training in marketing and industry experience in market research, is passionate about encouraging advertising students to explore new ways of thinking about their field. With her corporate and academic background, McAlister researches the ways in which young children are influenced by marketing communications. McAlister brings this concern and other research knowledge into her teaching.

In the classroom, McAlister challenges her students to think critically about the pros and cons of their chosen profession. Her students are grateful for the opportunity to discuss issues relevant to their future lives and society. Using innovative teaching techniques in the classroom, McAlister is popular among both undergraduate and graduate students, known for providing support and guidance when needed while maintaining high academic standards. Among graduate students, she is known for investing a wealth of time to help them develop the skills they need to become successful scholars.

McAlister has distinguished herself as a leading international scholar of children’s responses to marketing communications, to which she brings her additional expertise in children’s cognitive development. She has published 21 refereed journal articles in the top journals of her discipline and is widely considered the expert in her field. Her work regularly receives awards for its high quality; She has received multiple best conference paper awards across disciplines and has been nominated twice for the very prestigious Kinnear award, which honors the paper published in “The Journal of Public Policy & Marketing” that “makes the most significant contribution to the understanding of marketing and public policy issues within the most recent three-year time period.”

Brian O’Shea
Lyman Briggs College
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Natural Science

Prior to coming to MSU, Brian O’Shea was the Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he conducted research in cosmological structure formation. As part of the LANL Theoretical Astrophysics Group and Applied Physics Division, he used the world’s largest supercomputers to simulate the formation and evolution of galaxies and their environments.

O’Shea established a strong research program in computational astrophysics at LANL, which he brought to MSU, where he has shared his love of astrophysics and computational science as an enthusiastic mentor of research students at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels. The work he has done with his students and postdoctoral researchers has resulted in a large number of publications, often with his mentees as the primary authors. As a faculty member in Lyman Briggs, O’Shea’s teaching has included the introductory physics sequence. With students primarily focused on the life sciences, Shea has worked to make physics relevant to their interests, using examples that help them discover how physics can help them be better medical professionals. He has also taught senior capstone courses on such socially relevant topics as “The Atomic Age: Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Proliferation, and Nuclear Power,” and undergraduate interdisciplinary seminars on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and climate change. O’Shea is also spearheading a new interdisciplinary major program in Computational Science.

O’Shea’s research focuses on theoretical and numerical studies of galaxy formation and evolution, primarily using the Enzo adaptive mesh refinement code. He is particularly interested in the formation of the first stars, galactic chemical evolution, and the astrophysics of galaxy clusters. His research has resulted in more than 42 refereed publications in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Shea has also given nearly 50 invited talks and seminars. His research is supported in part by the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy and MSU.

Nelson Sepúlveda
Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering 
College of Engineering

Nelson Sepúlveda, internationally recognized for his research on vanadium dioxide-based microelectromechanical systems and smart materials, is a highly enthusiastic teacher with an outstanding record of scholarship and collaboration. His research program, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Research Laboratory, among others, is exceptionally productive. Service to MSU, his profession and the local community also describe him, with extensive committee work and community outreach in Spartan Engineering for Teens and the recruitment of underrepresented students to the study of engineering.

Sepúlveda has demonstrated immense passion and extraordinary skill in teaching. He regularly considers how to effectively engage students to enhance their learning experience. In his course Principles of Electronic Devices, Sepúlveda updated the lab experiments to include a demonstration of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, a very abstract concept for engineering students; he also updated the lab on the design of a Michelson interferometer. These new experiments have greatly piqued students’ interest in learning otherwise difficult concepts. They remark that he demonstrates “passion and curiosity for the subject” and is “an innovative educator,” whose “courses are highly regarded.” His graduate students further cite how he contributes to their development as independent researchers; two of his students have won the Outstanding Graduate Student Award from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Sepúlveda’s research has had profound impact on the integration of novel smart materials in microelectromechanical systems. In particular, he is one of the leading researchers on the use of vanadium dioxide thin film in MEMS and has made a number of fundamental contributions to this field. V02 is a novel smart material capable of solid-to-solid phase transition close to room temperature that holds tremendous potential in actuation, optical and memory technologies. Sepulveda was the first to report the effects of the structural phase change in V02 on microstructures. This finding has initiated a transformation of the field of thermal micro- transducers by enabling a more efficient technology for micro-actuation with sensitivities beyond the theoretical limits imposed on existing technologies. Currently, Sepulveda is building on this foundation to develop various novel devices including fully integrated V02-based MEMS actuators, infrared camera/projectors, voltage-controlled resistors, MEMS memories and thermal energy harvesters.

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