Alper Earns Regents’ Outstanding Teacher Award

Professor Alper at the Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards ceremonyProfessor Hal Alper has been awarded a 2012 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, the highest teaching honor granted by The University of Texas Systems’ Board of Regents to recognize extraordinary educators from system institutions. 

The awards, which focus on undergraduate education, are among the largest in the nation. Given the quality of talent across the university system, the awards program is also one of the nation’s most competitive.

“We have a responsibility as a Board to support, encourage and reward our most innovative and effective educators,” said Regents’ Chairman Gene Powell.“These annual awards help advance a culture of excellence and recognize outstanding performance in the classroom and laboratory that directly benefits our students for life.”

In the past four years, Alper has taught two core courses: intro to chemical engineering analysis and chemical reactor analysis and design. He has also developed new courses to teach, such as an undergraduate signature course entitled engineering biology and an undergraduate and graduate level elective on biochemical and metabolic engineering.  He also created the graduate seminar series, a newly required course where third-year students present their research in front of peers.

Alper’s commitment to the success of his students extends beyond the classroom.  He runs Sunday review sessions, manages a database of extra practice problems for students, conducts mid-semester evaluations to assess courses and regularly encourages students to visit his office hours. He serves as a research mentor to graduate and undergraduate students in his lab, with 14 undergraduates having contributed to earn authorship on research papers.

“Dr. Alper is always willing to answer questions,” said Deepti Srivastava, a recent chemical engineering graduate.  “He is the most approachable professor I ever interacted with at UT.  His office hours were usually packed, but he always stayed past the scheduled time in order to listen to everyone.  His dedication to students is admirable and he embodies all the qualities I believe a teacher should possess.”

Alper’s dedication is not only evident to students but also to parents.  “I’ve graduated four children from college- together they have had a lot of professors,” said Norm Pallister, a parent of one of Alper’s recent graduates.  “The only professor any of them have talked about by name is Dr. Alper.” 

Alper is the first professor in chemical engineering to receive a Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. In 2008 student nominations led to him win the Texas Exes Teaching Award. It was the first time an assistant professor had ever won the award in their first semester of teaching. 

“Hal is a great teacher—demanding, diligent, creative and caring,” said Roger T. Bonnecaze, department chair.  “He is molding great chemical engineers and indeed our engineering leaders for the next century.”

Speaking about his latest teaching award, Alper said: “My job is to train and prepare the next generation of engineering students for a world and workplace that is ever-evolving. After completing any course I teach, my hope is that I give students the knowledge of how to approach a problem and empower them with the tools to be able to solve it. Put simply, my goal is to teach students how to think critically.”

Alper was honored with 26 other Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award recipients from UT Austin at a special dinner August 22.

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