ORIE Professors Renegar and Frazier receive Excellence in Teaching Awards
Introduced by College of Engineering Dean Lance Collins at the recent College Awards luncheon, ORIE Director Adrian Lewis presented Excellence in Teaching Awards to ORIE faculty members Professor James Renegar and Assistant Professor Peter Frazier, both ORIE faculty members. Frazier received the Sonny Yau '72 Award and Renegar the Dorothy and Fred Chau MS '74 Award. The awards have been established by alumni, with winners chosen by a committee of the faculty and David J. Gries, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs.
James Renegar: Dorothy and Fred Chau MS '74 Award Winner
Renegar, who had been on sabbatic leave following five years as director of the School, completely redesigned and then taught the Optimization Modeling course to financial engineering Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) students and others.
In his course design, Renegar incorporated two projects and an oral final design. A student noted that the projects were "very helpful in understanding the real world applications of the material." Having an oral final exam is highly unusual in a technical course, Lewis has noted, but "one that is highly valuable for students who will encounter, in their professional lives, the need to articulate technical material orally." Renegar administered individual 45 minutes oral exams to each of 57 students in the course. The final was "conducted in an intuitive and very inspiring way," said one student.
While Renegar was designing the course he also taught a Ph.D. level course in mathematical programming, both lecturing and leading the recitations. He also advised a very successful Financial Engineering M.Eng. project that semester, using distance-learning facilities to communicate with the project's Wall Street cleint and students at Cornell Financial Engineering Manhattan (CFEM).
Renegar, whose conducts deep research on the optimization of constrained nonlinear functions, joined ORIE in 1987. He has a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley, and a B.A. from Rice Unversity.
Peter Frazier: Sonny Yau '72 Award Winner
Frazier, who joined ORIE in 2009, has already established himself as an exceptional researcher and teacher, according to Lewis. In his first semester at Cornell, he designed and taught a new Ph.D. course, Optimal Learning. "The instructor gives vivid lectures, and makes effective communication with the students," one student commented about the course. Another said that the lectures were "well balanced between technical details and general insight."
Frazier subsequently taught two courses in computer simulation. Undergraduates and financial engineering M.Eng. students take one of them, Monte Carlo Methods in Financial Engineering. The other is a Ph.D. course in Simulation. Both were very well received, with a student noting that Frazier was "very willing - no, excited - to help students outside of class." He also co-taught a large enrollment undergraduate course, Industrial Data and Systems Analysis, with professor Peter Jackson, who said Frazier "approached the course with great enthusiasm and introduced the students to a slew of practical statistical techniques with engineering applications."
The client for an M.Eng. project advised by Frazier, walmart.com, said "Professor Frazier was AWESOME! He always made sure we stayed on topic and he was always available for advice/guidance." The project won the top prize in an annual college-wide Master of Engineering competition.
Frazier is a Ph.D. graduate in Operations Research and Financial Engineering from Princeton, and holds a B.S. in Physics and Engineering & Applied Science from the California Institute of Technology. His research interest is stochastic optimization and statistical learning.
Sonny Yau '72 is a graduate of ORIE. He is the chief executive officer of Yen Sheng Factory Ltd., a manufacturer of handbags and small leather goods in China. He is also the chairman of Ever Credit Consumer Corporation, a consumer finance company that operates in China and Hong Kong. He, his wife Cecelia, and their two children reside in Hong Kong. " It is both important and beneficial to students that professors value teaching ability no less than research ability," he said.
Frederick Chau MS '74 received his master's degree in Applied Physics from Cornell. Chau then worked as a scientist, an engineer, a manager, and an entrepreneur. He is now president of Pacific Quality Packaging Corp., a company that manufactures corrugated packaging and entertainment displays, which he founded in southern California in 1984. He is married to the former Dorothy Lau; both are originally from Hong Kong.
"The logic [behind the award] is very simple," said Chau. "Good teaching leads to better educated students, which leads to a better educated population, and finally it leads to a better world. A better world is the best thing we can leave our children to improve their chances of survival and happiness."
Cornell President David Skorton, who is himself a professor in the College of Engineering's Department of Biomedical Engineering, has written "I appreciate how demanding it can be to provide rigorous educational experiences in a supportive learning environment that not only keeps pace with, but also leads scientific and technological progress." He commended the College of Engineering for its commitment to its students, and thanked the college’s alumni, parents, and friends for enabling the college to recognize distinguished teaching and mentoring with the annual awards.