Duncan and Kuo Receive Clark School Teaching Awards

On May 10th, the A. James Clark School of Engineering honored 14 of its faculty and staff with awards in recognition of their generosity, ingenuity, and hard work within the college. Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BIOE) faculty members Gregg Duncan and Catherine K. Kuo received the two awards bestowed for teaching excellence.

The E. Robert Kent Teaching Award for junior faculty—awarded to Duncan—and the Poole & Kent Company Teaching Award for senior faculty—awarded to Kuo— are given annually in recognition of professors’ significant contributions to teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels; for their innovative classroom techniques and classroom materials; and their ability to motivate students to learn.

Gregg Duncan is an Associate Professor in BIOE where he leads the Respiratory NanoBioengineering (RnB) Lab, researching airway micro-physiology to engineer new therapeutic strategies for obstructive lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cystic fibrosis.

Since joining BIOE in 2017, Duncan has received the Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering Journal Young Innovator Award; the BMES Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award; the BIOE Faculty Teaching Award; and the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award. He also serves as Director of the BIOE Undergraduate Honors Program, whose graduates are regularly placed in leading Ph.D. programs nationwide and selected for the highly prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowships Program.

With the E. Robert Kent Teaching Award, the Clark School recognizes Duncan’s genuine passion for engaging student interests through teaching and the integration of his research into his courses. His understanding of the skills needed for modern bioengineers to succeed is reflected in his course objectives, concepts, and projects, all designed to support the growth of students’ capabilities and confidence in applying quantitative approaches to characterize, formulate, and design solutions to today’s most complex bioengineering problems.

“Throughout my own educational experience as a minority, I am fortunate to have had teachers who saw my potential and fostered my growth as an engineer even though we may not have looked the same,” says Duncan, whose teaching contributions have extended beyond the engineering college. He has worked with the UMD College of Education’s Maryland Institute for Minority Achievement and Urban Education to establish an internship program for Baltimore City science teachers serving underrepresented minority student populations, providing them with first-hand research experience in bioengineering labs.

“To address global health challenges, I firmly believe the next generation of leaders in bioengineering must consist of individuals with diverse lived experiences. My central purpose as an educator is to prepare students in my courses to address these challenges.”

Catherine K. Kuo is an Associate Professor in BIOE, where she has led the Developmental and Regenerative Engineering Laboratory since September 2020. The Kuo Laboratory is developing regenerative medicine and therapeutic solutions for adult tendon ruptures and tendinopathies informed by mechanisms of fetal tendon development and scarless healing.

Kuo is an elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), and recipient of the Sweden GoLife Innovation in Research Award, Emerging Investigator Award by Stem Cell Research and Therapy, NSF CAREER Award, and March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award. Kuo was recently named President-Elect of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS) Americas Chapter, where she works to diversify the Society’s membership and make TERMIS accessible for all—particularly historically underrepresented minority and first-generation students seeking exposure to tissue engineering and regenerative medicine research.

In her selection for the Poole & Kent Teaching Award, the Clark School highlighted that students appreciate Kuo’s passion for and ability to create a welcoming and open classroom environment with strong critical thinking learning outcomes.

“This award is incredibly meaningful for me because it is based on nominations from students and peers, which emphasizes the positive impact I have made on our students and Clark School community,” says Kuo.

In recent years, Kuo was instrumental in revamping and teaching BIOE120: Biology for Engineers, taken by first-year bioengineering students and chemical and biomolecular engineering students. In BIOE120, her teaching style and pedagogy has greatly improved students’ learning experience, critical thinking, and classroom engagement. Her ability to deliver interactive and discussion-centered classes has led to greater confidence in students when engaging with course material, as well as the improved ability to understand complex topics. A two-time recipient of the Bioengineering Faculty Instructional Impact Award (2021, 2022), Kuo has repeatedly been nominated by students for making an exceptional impact on their learning and success through her teaching practices.

“My goal is to instill in first-year engineering students the ability to think critically and independently. I strive to create a judgment-free space within which students can be curious, speak openly, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes,” says Kuo. “Instilling in students the ability to think critically enables more effective learning at UMD and empowers them to be fearless problem-solving engineers in the world.”

Published May 30, 2024