Nine recognized with award for superior teaching

Nine faculty received this year’s George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching, which honors top Rice professors as determined by the votes of alumni who graduated two and five years ago. Below are the recipients and their comments about their favorite class to teach at Rice.

James Brown

James Brown

James Brown, professor of economics

“I don’t have a favorite class because I enjoy teaching any material that students are eager to learn. I think my teaching is most effective, rewarding and fun the better I know my students as individuals, so I increasingly enjoy teaching as each semester progresses. For the same reason, I especially enjoy courses in which many of my students have already taken other courses I teach. Whatever the course, my favorite part of each class meeting is the extended discussion that usually follows each lecture. I would much rather listen to my students than listen to myself!”

Alexander Byrd


Alexander Byrd, associate professor of history

“I don’t think that I have a favorite class anymore. Almost all of them, at one time or another, have been my favorite. Rice is full of great students, and great students — whatever the topic of the class we happen to be sharing — help make for memorable courses.”

Brent Houchens, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science

Brent Houchens


“My favorite class to teach is Mech 371 – Fluid Mechanics. I enjoy teaching Fluid Mechanics because fluids impact every part of our daily lives.  Describing flows can be deceptively simple or exceptionally complex.  For students it is a class that ties together much of their background in mathematics, computation, physics and engineering and demonstrates the big picture of engineering curricula.”


Rachel Tolbert Kimbro

Tolbert Kimbro

Rachel Tolbert Kimbro, associate professor of sociology

“My favorite class to teach is SOCI 345, Medical Sociology, because I love the opportunity to expose nonmajors, most of whom are premed science majors, to the social determinants of health and illness.”

Helena Michie, the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and professor of English

Helena Michie


“Although I love introducing my students to the surprises of big Victorian novels in my 19th-century novel course, and although I love helping them to give academic shape to their enthusiasm for Jane Austen in my Austen’s Worlds class, my recent favorite has been my FWIS (First-Year Writing Intensive Seminar) course for the new program in Writing and Communication. It is a real privilege to help introduce a cohort to university life and to have time to work with them on writing goals and practices that they will use throughout their career at Rice — and beyond. It is also fun to introduce them to a topic — in this case, marriage — about an institution many of us treat as if it has no history, no contentious  backstory. Teaching in the FWIS program also gave me the opportunity to work with colleagues across the campus and to talk in very specific ways about pedagogy. As teachers, we don’t have these conversations often enough.”

Ann Saterbak


Ann Saterbak, professor in the practice of bioengineering education

“My favorite class to teach is BIOE 252, Bioengineering Fundamentals. I enjoy teaching this class because students are stretched to approach engineering problems in new ways. The class is taught using a problem-based learning format, and students work in teams to solve present-day open-ended bioengineering challenges. This class is fun because I can see students make significant learning gains in engineering and communication in one semester. I also enjoy getting to know the students individually.”

Yousif Shamoo


Yousif Shamoo, professor of biochemistry and cell biology

“My favorite class is Biochemistry I. It’s a big class full of smart overachieving students. It’s a very tough course but I fundamentally enjoy interacting with my students. Most of them feel lots of pressure because they want to go to med or grad school, so part of my role is to teach but equally important are the roles Dr. (John) Olson and I have in providing some wisdom and sensitivity to the pressures so many of us felt in our college days.”

Michael Wolf


Michael Wolf, professor of mathematics

“Living as we do in the early MOOCocene, perhaps it’s worth thinking more broadly about the ways in which we educate. I recently finished a five-year tour as a master of Will Rice and McMurtry colleges, and during that time, I spent hours every day talking to students about what they were experiencing at Rice — certainly academically, but also intellectually, socially and emotionally. My questions and reactions were informed by my decades as a Rice scholar, and inasmuch as I think I occasionally influenced how the folks in the college thought about problems they encountered and the paths they wished to follow, I count that time as among my favorite teaching experiences, even though it was quite informal. More traditionally, in the classroom I love trying to nudge students toward viewing and admiring calculus as I do; it’s a beautiful blend of powerful theory and artful technique.”

Carlos Jimenez


Carlos Jimenez, professor of architecture

Jimenez is an internationally known architect who has combined a distinctive style of teaching and research into an award-winning blend. His comments about his favorite class will be posted soon.





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