2013 Faculty Awards: Q&A with Dean Lee

April 23, 2013
By Bill Krueger

The Alumni Association is honoring 21 NC State professors with the 2013 Faculty Awards for their outstanding work in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. We talked (via email) with some of the recipients about their work and the keys to being a successful professor.

Today we’re visiting with Dean Lee, a professor of physics in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Lee is one of six professors being recognized as Alumni Association Distinguished Undergraduate Professors.

dean-lee_smWhat prompted you to become a professor? My father is a professor, and he has been a good role model. Being a professor is a wonderful way to have a positive lasting impact on society. As a professor I can investigate the deep mysteries and hidden beauty of our world while teaching the next generation of leaders and scholars. It is a nice mix of creating new knowledge, building new careers, and having fun.

What are the keys to being a successful teacher/professor?
The main keys to successful teaching are knowing your students well and caring enough to fix problems that get in the way of learning. There are many different reasons why a student might do poorly in an academic course. One reason might be a weak background in prerequisite material. Another could be the inability to absorb concepts at the pace of the lecture. As an instructor there is a strong temptation to focus on the students who are doing well. A successful teacher is able to teach, motivate, and help all students, regardless of background and academic performance.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? I get the greatest satisfaction in seeing a student start the semester at the bottom of the class and then through hard work and perseverance finish near the top of the class. To this student the experience becomes a valuable lesson about the work and preparation needed for success in life.

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