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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


James Glanville

By Sandy Broughton

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 28 - April 18, 1996

James O. Glanville, associate professor of chemistry, is the 1996 recipient of the Sporn Award for Teaching Introductory Subjects

When Virginia Tech undergraduates take Glanville's chemistry class, they get not only the expertise of an academic noted in his field, but also the perspective of a working chemist who has extensive experience in the private sector. Add to that his enthusiasm for the subject and his dynamic teaching style, and Glanville becomes a worthy recipient of the award.

Students say they are impressed with Glanville's challenging teaching. "He builds up our confidence in our ability to master the class material and he motivates us to work harder," one student wrote on the Sporn Award ballot. "His high-energy lectures push students to do their best," wrote another. Overall, Glanville received high marks for being approachable, accessible, and truly caring about his students' well-being.

Richard Gandour, head of Virginia Tech's Department of Chemistry, says these qualities in an educator are especially important in large, introductory classes. "Glanville has the ability to break down the barriers of isolation students tend to feel in large classes, especially when they are freshman. He lets them know there really is someone who cares about them and their academic success. He is totally dedicated to the individual student and his or her success in chemistry. He will do whatever it takes--encouragement, discipline, motivation--to make sure each individual student succeeds." As director of general chemistry at Virginia Tech, Glanville has researched the educational process, focusing on improving teaching and learning in the sciences.

Glanville began his career in chemistry as a laboratory technician with the British Oxygen Company in his native London, England. He attended the Royal College of Science in London, majoring in chemistry, with minor degrees in mathematics and geology. He went on to receive a doctorate in physical and inorganic chemistry from the University of Maryland. During the summers he worked as a research chemist with the FMC Corporation in Princeton, N.J.

In 1978, after teaching chemistry for 11 years at Virginia Western Community College, Glanville came to Virginia Tech as a visiting professor. For the next five years, he returned to the private sector as vice president of research and development and part owner of the Wen-Don Corporation in Roanoke. In 1984 he returned to teaching at Virginia Tech, where he is associate professor and director of general chemistry.

Glanville holds five patents and is the author of 25 articles. He is a member of the American Chemical Society and the International Association of Colloid and Surface Scientists.

The University Sporn Award, made possible by gifts from Dr. and Mrs. Philip J. Sporn and the alumni of Virginia Tech, is presented annually to a teacher of introductory subjects. Students from the freshman and sophomore classes nominate possible recipients, and a committee of students and faculty members make final selections and recommendations to the appropriate deans and the president

Y.A. Liu

By Liz Crumbley

"He's been spotted on the mainframe as late as 3 a.m. when there is an assignment due the next day," said Lale Gokbudak, speaking not of a classmate, but of Y.A. Liu, the Frank C. Vilbrandt professor of chemical engineering (ChE) and recipient of the 1996 College of Engineering Sporn Award for excellence in undergraduate instruction.

"He's even known to send cookies to the computer labs to students who are slaving away on their projects," said Gokbudak, a ChE major who nominated Liu for the Sporn Award. "He is also very accessible at his office. One knock and he'll talk to you for as long as necessary until you understand the material."

Gokbudak described Liu's teaching style as "fast-paced." The professor describes his approach this way: "Work the students hard, but keep them company, be available to them, and motivate them."

Liu came to Virginia Tech in 1982 from the faculty of Auburn University, where he held a named professorship. He earned his undergraduate engineering degree from the National Taiwan University; he received his master's from Tufts University and his Ph.D. from Princeton.

Liu's research accomplishments are as impressive as his teaching skills. Currently, his research areas include computer-aided design, process integration and synthesis, bioprocess design and development, and artificial intelligence in chemical engineering.

He has received several honors in recognition of both his teaching and research efforts, including the 1986 National Catalyst Award for excellence in chemical education from the Chemical Manufacturer's Association; the 1990 George Westinghouse Award, the highest honor presented by the American Society for Engineering Education to educators under the age of 45 for outstanding achievements in teaching and scholarship; and the 1993 Fred Merryfield Design Award for creativity and excellence in teaching and research of engineering design from the American Society for Engineering Education.

Liu also serves as a senior technical advisor for the United Nations Development Program, helping to train university faculty members and practicing engineers in developing countries.

"Dr. Liu is a fine teacher," Gokbudak said, "but what is most impressive about him is his dedication to the senior class." Liu goes out of his way, she said, to help prepare seniors for the future.

Liu said he tries to use industry examples in class, "To teach the students what's important in the real world." He also takes the time in his senior classes to teach students how to write resumes and apply to graduate schools, and he brings in speakers on subjects such as conducting job interviews and choosing graduate programs.

"He is always available for discussions about different career paths," she said. "Whatever you express an interest in, either graduate school or a particular company, Dr. Liu will do all he can to help you in finding a good place to be after college."