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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Guo-Quan Lu

By Liz Crumbley

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 27 - April 6, 1995

"I'm optimistic--and willing to help," offered Guo-Quan Lu, smiling and searching for an answer to the question of how he so favorably impressed his students that they nominated him to receive the Virginia Tech College of Engineering Sporn Award for excellence in undergraduate instruction.

Lu, an assistant professor of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), said the Sporn Award is the first such honor in his teaching career. After receiving his Ph.D. in applied physics and materials science from Harvard in 1990, Lu worked as a staff engineer at the Alcoa Technical Center in Pittsburgh before joining the Tech faculty in 1992.

Students have no doubts about Lu's skills as a teacher. Mike Reese, an Electrical Engineering (EE) major who has taken Lu's courses in solid state physics and materials in electrical engineering, said Lu "doesn't realize that his efforts go beyond those of most other professors to teach or demonstrate anything students express interest in."

Reese, one of the students who nominated Lu for the Sporn Award, cited Lu's "dynamic energy--even in 5 p.m. classes," and his quick realizations of students' confusion in class. Instead of waiting for students to ask, Reese noted, Lu will say, "What's your question?" Lu understands that students lose interest in abstract subject matter, Reese said, and "keeps students engrossed through a direct style of teaching unlike any other I have experienced at Virginia Tech."

"My age helps me communicate with students, I think," said Lu, who is only 32. "And I like to joke a little--not take life too seriously all the time."

Lu "is willing to work with his students, office hours or not, and respects the differences that may occur between students and faculty," said MSE senior Tom Kuhr. When only four students signed up for the materials in EE course last fall semester, Kuhr said, Lu could have dropped the course, but kept it and even conducted a laboratory especially designed for the needs of the small class. "I have found few professors on this campus with the dedication Dr. Lu gives to his students, whether it's class work or research," Kuhr said.

Reese commented that Lu "sincerely asks students to come by at anytime for help. He usually can be found conducting an unplanned help session the day before homework is due."

"How can you turn away a student who is willing to learn?" asked Lu, who believes that opening his office to students is simply part of his job. "I want to do a good job, not just half an effort. I want a sense of accomplishment. I always tell my son, who is five--when you do something, do it well."