The Alumni Association this week honored 26 NC State professors with the 2014 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 Alina N. Duca, director of undergraduate programs in the Department of Mathematics. Duca is one of eight professors recognized with Outstanding Teaching Awards.
What prompted you to become a professor? Math has always been an enjoyable subject to me. Growing up in Romania I was constantly challenged to find creative ways to solve sophisticated mathematics problems and participated in numerous Olympiad-style competitions at various levels. It is impossible not to fall in love with math when you are successful at solving difficult problems and understand every little logical step involved in a solution. As I was going through grade school I realized not only that I loved math and I was good at it, but I was also enjoying sharing my “discoveries” with teachers and fellow students. This was the combination that carried me to the place I am now.
What are the keys to being a successful professor? The main quality in a teacher, and in particular a math teacher, is to be able to convince the student that no problem is too difficult to attempt to solve, no question is too hard to try to answer. A successful teacher is one who’s teaching feeds off the excitement of guiding students to actively discover connections between what they already know and what they are learning so they take ownership of their discoveries.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? The excitement in the student’s eyes when the “Aha!” moment comes after a long struggle is probably the constant satisfaction that I experience in my teaching career. I am also thrilled when former students knock on my office door or send me an exciting email to let me know about their amazing path their life and career has taken.