Professor Dan Blumstein named Distinguished Teaching Award Winner
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology professor and chair receives prestigious academic honor.
Originally published in UCLA Today
By Alison Hewitt
Distinguished Teaching Award winners like Blumstein are often recognized for their excellence in teaching, research and publishing that research. Blumstein also stands out for the sheer number of students whom he has led to publication in top scientific journals.
Teaching his undergraduates to research science’s as-yet unanswered questions is Blumstein's sneaky way of getting the students engaged in learning, while also showing Bruins that they can do "real" science as undergraduates.
As much as students love the thrill of getting published, it's clear they're even bigger fans of Blumstein's teaching. Whether in his classes on ecology, ornithology or ecological ethics, his students lavish praise on their professor, who will be awarded the Undergraduate Mentorship Award.
"He is one of the best professors I've had at UCLA," one said simply in a course evaluation.
Another wrote, "His highly visible enthusiasm for course material and field work was contagious. … He made ornithology fun … and I used to hate birds!"
One of his recently published students, Alvin Chan, a senior majoring in marine biology, wrote that Blumstein "inspires the uninspired. Any man can tell you what he thinks of the world, but hardly any can motivate you to wonder what you think of it. Dan has that gift."
"Professor Blumstein was a phenomenal lecturer," another student added. "I never wanted to miss a class."
What's his secret? "I want to learn with them," Blumstein said. "That's why I love what I do. I get to study the questions I want, and work with inspiring people. I get excited about what I'm talking about, and, if some of my enthusiasm engages others, that's good."
His colleagues note that Blumstein is a demanding teacher, and while they often hear from students that Blumstein's classes are among the most difficult they've ever taken, they're also the most rewarding. "Dan is not a popular teacher because he is easy," wrote Ecology and Evolutionary Biology professors Peggy Fong and Peter Narins. "Dan is a loved and respected teacher because he helps students achieve his high expectations!"
Blumstein admits that he's a demanding professor, and when he was up for promotion to full professor just last year – which he got, of course – he was touched when he read students' letters of support. "I cried, because I know I'm a tough teacher. Yet I could see I had really gotten through to them."
Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010