MAE Senior Graduate Teaching Associate wins Ohio State University’s Graduate Associate Teaching Award

Posted: March 23, 2023
Nehal Jajal

Nehal Jajal, Senior Graduate Teaching Associate and PhD Student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, has been selected as a recipient for one of the Ohio State University’s Graduate Associate Teaching Award (GATA).

The GATA is Ohio State’s highest recognition of the exceptional teaching provided by graduate students serving as Graduate Teaching Associates. The recipients of the GATA are awarded $2,000 for their accomplishments and honored at the Graduate School Awards Ceremony.

All recipients are nominated by faculty, staff, researchers or other graduate students. The selection committee is comprised of the Graduate School's Award Committee (faculty representing the range of graduate programs), Council of Graduate Students representatives, and previous GATA winners.

Nehal is advised by Sandip Mazumder, a professor in MAE, and has been a GTA in some capacity dating back to Spring 2020. He now serves as the Senior GTA tasked looking after the entire GTA community in the MAE department.
"Nehal exhibits a depth of technical knowledge that is exemplary,” Clarissa Belloni, an associate professor in MAE and one of Nehal’s nominators, said. “He was able to answer even the most complex student questions with the ease of an experienced instructor often making use of examples and visual aids for clarity. His research experience in fluid simulations further provided an excellent foundation for my course."
Nehal, originally, joined graduate school to pursue an interest in research, but quickly found that academia may be the best career path for him. To Nehal, the GTA is vital and the link between the student and the instructor.

“In our department, GTAs have different responsibilities based on the course,” Nehal said. “So, being a GTA often means doing different things based on the assigned course and the instructor you are working with. In general, I think GTAs can serve as a bridge between the instructor and the students”

Receiving this award served as proof to Nehal that he is on the right path.

“Being a GTA since 2020, I had already realized that I enjoyed teaching,” he said. “Interacting with students and discussing ideas always felt like a refreshing break from my research. However, I was never sure if I was really good at it. I continued to do better in the hope that I would shape my teaching philosophy for faculty roles down the road. Receiving this award and recognition has given me some faith that I am on the right path, and I should keep honing my skills further to shape my teaching philosophy. I also hope this brings some awareness to other GTAs interested in teaching to look into such awards. Once nominated for GATA, going through the application process is a great learning opportunity regardless of the outcome.”

Nick Breckenridge, graduate program coordinator in MAE, praised Nehal for all of his hard work.

“Nehal’s GATA award is a testament to how skilled he has been as a GTA and how much we value his acumen for teaching,” Breckenridge said. “There is no one more worthy of this award and this is a well-deserved accolade.”

Nehal took the time to thank everyone who has given him support.

“Receiving this award would not have been possible without the numerous support I got from various faculty and staff members in the MAE department,” Nehal said. “My advisor, Dr. Sandip Mazumder, has been mentoring me on the different aspects of being a faculty member over the years that have been crucial in my growth inside and outside the classroom. His feedback on my teaching statement allowed me to refine many aspects of my teaching philosophy. As a GTA I have worked with my advisor, Dr. Zhenyu Wang, Dr. Clarissa Belloni, Dr. Shaurya Prakash and Dr. Levent Guvenc for different courses in the department. They have all been extremely supportive and helpful. Dr. Wang and Dr. Belloni even agreed to write a recommendation letter for this award, and it wouldn’t have been possible to receive this award without their letters. In Fall 2022, I was appointed as the Senior GTA in the department and Nick Breckenridge and Dr. Manoj Srinivasan have been extremely helpful navigating this new role. Taking up this responsibility also helped me shape my teaching philosophy. Additionally, Nick has been a cornerstone in preparing my application packet for this award and getting everything submitted. The FAST courses offered by the MAE department were also extremely helpful. Teaching oriented discussions led by Dr. Satyanarayana Seetharaman in FAST 1 laid the groundwork required to think about my teaching philosophy. I would also like to recognize The Drake Institute consultation service for the GATA. Their consultants help provide a third person perspective, outside the discipline, that can help improve the GATA application.”