The Johns Hopkins Alumni Association annually recognizes university faculty who demonstrate superior skill in instruction with its Excellence in Teaching Awards. More than a dozen faculty members across JHU received the 2008 Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Awards, one of whom was Hai-Quan Mao, an affiliated faculty member of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology and assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. The following was taken from a recent issue of the Johns Hopkins Gazette.
At the Head of the Class
Academic divisions honor their own with Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Awards
Excerpt from the Johns Hopkins Gazette, May 19, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 35
Hai-Quan Mao, Materials Science and Engineering
Hai-Quan Mao recalls his response last semester when one of his students botched the first part of a Thermodynamics of Materials midterm exam. “I was curious and a little upset because I had gone over the material with this student in a tutorial session,“ said Mao, an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
The student, among those who nominated Mao for the teaching honor, describes the event a bit differently. “I first realized that Dr. Mao was a unique teacher when, after the first day of the Thermodynamics midterm, he called me on my cell phone because he was ‘a little surprised that I did not answer all of the questions correctly,’ as we had conversed about the material several times prior,“ the student wrote on a nomination form. “He requested that I meet him in his office 10 minutes later, and we reviewed the first section of the exam.“
This story, the student said, had a happy ending: “Dr. Mao’s exceptionally sincere gesture to ensure that I understood all of my errors before the second part of the exam was successful,“ the student wrote. “I continued to perform well because of his help and ended up with an A in the challenging course.“
Mao was pleased to hear that his teaching is getting through to his students, particularly because English is not his first language. Mao was raised and educated in China and learned English in high school and college. “At the beginning, I was a little concerned about not communicating effectively with my students,“ Mao said. “That made me try harder in finding good ways to teach.“
His ties to Johns Hopkins go back to 1995, when he became a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He later spent four years conducting research at a Johns Hopkins affiliate in Singapore. In 2003, he joined the Whiting School faculty, focusing his research on the design, synthesis and application of polymeric materials for drug and gene delivery and tissue engineering.
Despite the demands of this research, he continues to maintain a close rapport with his students, fielding questions even outside of his regular office hours.
“I find it so hard to say no to students when they knock on the door, particularly those who are sincere to learn,“ Mao said. “But if you do a good job in class, the number of students knocking on the door will eventually go down.“
Story by Phil Sneiderman
Mao’s research interests include cell and tissue engineering, nanofibers, neural stem cells, gene delivery and polymer micelles. Learn more about research in the Mao Lab.