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Dr. A. Wade Boykin

Dr. John Tharakan
May 2009

A Professor of Chemical Engineering, Dr. John Tharakan has established an outstanding record of teaching, research, and service since he joined Howard in 1990.  He has served as the Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Director of its Graduate Studies Program, and Chair of its Educational Programs and Policies Assessment Committee.  He also directs the Biochemical and Bioenvironmental Engineering Research Laboratory. 

While conducting research on biotechnology, biochemical engineering, and appropriate technology, Dr. Tharakan has continued to focus on student learning.  Indeed, he has demonstrated how faculty can successfully combine teaching and publishing.  A scholar of engineering education, he has published numerous articles about teaching environmental engineering in peer-reviewed journals and in the proceedings of conferences where he presented.

Dr. A. Wade BoykinAccording to Dr. Tharakan, he practices a pedagogy grounded in experiential learning, a pedagogy that encompasses “project-based learning, field-based learning, knowledge transfer, and development of critical thinking skills.”  To promote such learning, he has developed both online and traditional courses on environmental engineering, led seminars and student projects on environmental justice, and designed courses on the ethics and philosophy of appropriate technology.  To promote “real-world” service-learning, he also serves as Faculty Advisor to Howard’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which recently sponsored a trip to Kenya.  There he supervised engineering students as they constructed a building in an orphanage for HIV-affected children.

Dr. Tharakan’s teaching has garnered many awards.  A Senior Fulbright Scholar, he has won national and international awards for his contributions to engineering education, for instance, the Best Paper Award in the environmental Engineering Division from the American Society of Engineering Education and the Outstanding Paper Contribution Platinum Award from the UNESCO International Center for Engineering Education Conference on Engineering Education.  At Howard, he has won the Faculty Senate’s Inspirational Interdisciplinary Project Award as well as an Outstanding Teaching Award from both the School of Engineering and the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Sciences. 

At CETLA, Dr. Tharakan has received honors as well.  He was invited to serve as CETLA’s Spring 2009 Fellow and as a Faculty Mentor in CETLA’s FRieND program.  He has also won Honorable Mention from the judges for CETLA’s Teaching with Technology and Syllabus Awards.  In 2007, CETLA recognized him for the way he had integrated Blackboard technology, a textbook CD, and POLYMATH software to enhance learning in a chemical reaction engineering course.  The year before, CETLA featured his lecture for graduate students on thesis writing (see the video “Academic Writing for the Sciences and Engineering” at http://www.cetla.howard.edu/wac/tharakan1.aspx).

It is not surprising that on anonymous evaluation forms students have consistently rated Dr. Tharakan as an effective teacher.  They value his subject matter expertise, his course preparation, and the quality of his exams.  They also appreciate his clarity, enthusiasm, availability, helpfulness, fairness, and concern.  No wonder he won the Faculty Senate’s 2009 Exemplary Teaching Award!


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