McKinley named winner of Distinguished Teaching Award

April 21, 2011

Ten University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty have been named this year's Distinguished Teaching Award winners, including Galen A. McKinley, assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and an affiliate faculty member in the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research. McKinley is the recipient of the Class of 1955 Award.

Galen McKinleyGalen McKinley
Nominator Jonathan Martin describes McKinley as "an innovator." "Not long after arriving here, she secured a grant that provided a rotating tank apparatus that has been a powerful, hands-on addition to her lectures on aspects of fluid flows," Martin writes. "We now offer a course on use of the tank, in which senior undergraduate and graduate students are challenged to come up with illustrative experiments that exploit the power of live demonstration to elucidate complicated fluid dynamical concepts."

McKinley shows her innovative spirit in her lab work, including field trips to Lake Mendota for her Physical Oceanography course, where she provides students with hands-on opportunities to make and interpret observations. She has students in another course run their own experiments and developed a Carbon Cycle website, in which users define the future trajectories of carbon sources and sinks and see the impact of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.

McKinley also has been an undergraduate research mentor within the department, with two publications with undergraduates in which the undergraduate collaborator is the first author.

McKinley also has participated in the Wisconsin Idea seminar and conducts workshops for K-12 teachers on climate science and climate change.

"We believe that Galen's scholarly contributions to the areas of ocean and Great Lakes biogeochemistry and carbon cycling are indeed exceptional," writes Martin. "It is clear upon considering her equally compelling research prowess that the energy she brings to teaching and mentoring is powered by and an extension of her national and international renown as a creator and articulator of knowledge of the natural world."

"Professor McKinley's teaching style provides her students multiple avenues in which to learn and reinforce material through a variety of hands-on applications," writes Andrew Winters, a senior in the department. "Instead of simply presenting information, Professor McKinley allows students to grasp and take ownership of their own education."

Read a February 2011 Nelson Institute profile of McKinley's work.