David Putnam selected for one of Cornell's highest teaching honors

Meinig School professor David Putnam is one of ten faculty members selected as a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow, honoring excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring, President Martha E. Pollack announced Oct. 18. The award is one of Cornell’s highest honors. 

Excerpts from original article as published October 18, 2021 in the Cornell Chronicle follow: 


David Putnamprofessor in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering and Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, joined Cornell's College of Engineering in 2002 and is “the faculty member we all aspire to be,” excelling in any class he teaches, nominators wrote, including a “legendary” drug delivery class.

He developed multiple innovative courses from scratch for a new curriculum and engages students with his creative lectures and teaching style – hopping around the room to illustrate an emitted electron, or challenging students with design problems faced by clinicians or engineers.

Putnam’s student engagement extends to award-winning mentoring and involvement in internships, jobs and graduate programs. His research group focuses on the design and synthesis of functional biomaterials in areas including vaccine/adjuvant design and delivery, synthetic lubricants, surgical devices and drug delivery systems.

“The Weiss Awards highlight the centrality of undergraduate education at Cornell, and I’m delighted that we’re able to recognize our exceptional faculty for their achievements,” Pollack said. “It’s especially wonderful to have such a large group of talented and accomplished teachers to celebrate this year, after last year’s awards hiatus because of the pandemic.”

Three awards are named in honor of the late Stephen H. Weiss ’57, who chaired the Cornell University Board of Trustees from 1989-97. Weiss conceived of the Presidential Fellowship Award, first bestowed in 1992 to recognize a sustained record of commitment to undergraduate education. The board in 2016 introduced the Junior Fellowship Award, recognizing early-career tenured faculty, and the Provost’s Teaching Fellowship Award, honoring nontenured faculty members.

A selection committee of six faculty members and three students (two graduate students and one undergraduate) recommended this year’s recipients after reviewing 20 nominations detailing the instructors’ skill and dedication inside and outside the classroom, based on course evaluations and letters from students and faculty or staff.


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