College Honors Three Faculty as Prized Teachers
Dean Estella Atekwana, dessed in blue, stands with this year's winners of the 2024 L&S Teaching Awards
Masoud Jasbi (left), Tucker Jones (second from right) and Thomas Weideman (right) were recognized for acclaimed educational leadership. Here, they stand with Estella Atekwana (second from left), dean of the College of Letters and Science.

Three faculty members acclaimed for educational leadership are recipients of the 2024 College of Letters and Science Teaching Awards. 

The annual awards recognize outstanding teaching of all kinds: at the undergraduate and graduate level, and inside and outside the classroom. Awarded faculty are members of the Academic Senate and Academic Federation who have been at UC Davis for at least three years. They were nominated for their accomplishments by faculty, students, student organizations, staff, alumni and College departments. A five-person faculty committee selected the winners as follows:

Masoud Jasbi

Assistant Professor of Linguistics

Masoud Jasbi

An innovative educator, Jasbi teaches language arts ranging from linguistics and linguistic analysis to language learning in humans and machines, and advanced syntax and semantics. 

Masoud is an outstanding teacher and mentor to undergraduate and graduate students. Masoud has contributed immensely to the intellectual community for undergraduates majoring in linguistics, cognitive science, psychology and philosophy at UC Davis. He takes an active, leading role in community-building activities for our students and brings a tremendous enthusiasm to everything he does.” — Associate Professor of Linguistics Georgia Zellou wrote in her nomination letter. 

Jasbi’s research focuses on questions like “How much do languages vary in the ways they encode functional meaning?” and “How do abstract functional meanings emerge and develop in a child’s mind?” In the classroom, Jasbi consistently evolves curriculums, creating new projects that encourage students to view linguistics through a critical thinking lens. Last year, Jasbi developed a project in which undergraduates created an invented language based on their knowledge of language structure and linguistic analysis. 

“Professor Jasbi is not one to shy away from taking on a difficult challenge, especially one that might have a positive impact on the educational performance of his students,” students wrote in their nominating letter. “He is also dedicated to fostering the critical thinking skills of students through his rigorous course design.” 

Jasbi, who joined the department in 2020, is also spearheading the development of an undergraduate degree program in language sciences.   

Tucker Jones

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Tucker Jones

An observational astronomer, Jones is an expert in the identification and use of gravitational lenses to view distant galaxies at greater spatial resolutions. Geared towards a growth mindset, Jones teaches a wide range of courses with effectiveness, including large-enrollment general education classes and upper- and graduate-level physics and astronomy. 

Tucker constantly strives to improve his teaching. In all of his classes, Tucker takes detailed ‘postmortem’ notes reflecting on both successes and areas for future improvement. This includes notes on student performance from homework, exams, and/or lab reports, and experimenting with different activities and methods of instruction.” —  Lloyd Knox, Professor of Physics and Astronomy and the Michael and Ester Vaida Endowed Chair in Cosmology and Astrophysics

Jones, who joined UC Davis in 2017, was praised for his commitment to research mentorship and leading a diverse research group at UC Davis. Mentees from Jones’ lab have gone on to win Hubble Fellowships, Goldwater Scholarships and Outstanding Thesis Awards, among other accolades and accomplishments for their work. In recent years, Jones has also been an instructor in the “Introduction to Astrophysics” cluster in UC Davis’ COSMOS program, a residential program for high school students.

“Professor Jones is as much a teacher as he is a researcher, a trait not often the case among professors,” a student wrote in their nomination letter. “He dedicates genuine effort to teaching his students, ensuring that his knowledge is passed down to generations after him.”

“The fact that Professor Jones cares so much about his students while also juggling a growing family, a significant grant proposal for a telescope during the time I was in his courses, and his own research on top of all of it, is a testimony to his determination to do his job well,” the student added. 

Thomas Weideman

Continuing Lecturer of Physics and Astronomy

Thomas Weideman

A committed lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Weideman was praised by his nominators for consistently contemplating the educational effects of technology, both good and bad, on teaching. For the past eight years, he has overseen the development of two pivotal introductory physics course series, one for physics majors and another for engineering and physical sciences majors.

“That includes updating the course labs, training and supervising the teaching assistants who run the labs, and providing new instructors with sample syllabi, discussion questions and other materials,” wrote Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rena Zieve in her nomination letter. 

“These instructors are often inexperienced associate instructors, who rely heavily on Dr. Weideman’s guidance. Dr. Weideman goes far beyond these official duties though. He constantly considers ways to improve the courses in effectiveness and efficiency. To this end he has introduced an astonishing number of major new ideas over the past eight years.” 

As part of his work, Weideman has made efforts to cut textbook costs for students by writing multiple Libretexts for his courses. Libretext is an online textbook platform and open education project launched by a UC Davis faculty member. 

The many ideas Dr. Weideman pursues have the common goal of increasing students’ learning. He demands that his students work hard but nonetheless earns their respect.” — Zieve

“He does the groundwork of exploring new directions, finds what works and what doesn’t, and then helps others to follow in his footsteps,” she added.  

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