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Hemami, Niklas and Lipsky honored as Weiss fellows

David Lipsky
Karl Niklas
Sheila Hemami

Cornell professors Sheila Hemami, Karl Niklas and David Lipsky '61 have received Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowships in recognition of their inspiring teaching of undergraduate students, President David Skorton announced at the Cornell Board of Trustees meeting in October.

"It is my pleasure to announce the new Weiss fellows, whose nominations by their students and colleagues attest to their extraordinary teaching and mentoring," said Skorton. "These three prominent educators exemplify the excellence of our faculty and its commitment to students."

The fellowships, established in 1993 by the board, recognizes tenured faculty members with "sustained records of effective, inspiring and distinguished teaching of undergraduate students and contributions to undergraduate education." Named for former board chair Stephen H. Weiss '57, who endowed the program, the award includes $5,000 per year for five years to be used for any university-related purpose.

Hemami, professor of electrical and computer engineering and an expert in image and video processing, was recognized in student nominations for her "creative and dynamic" teaching style. Students praised the organization and clarity of her lectures, her "contagious excitement" about the subject matter and her focus on teaching students problem-solving skills with real-world applications. In addition, colleagues noted her leadership in curriculum revisions, faculty mentoring, dissemination of best practices in teaching and work in developing programs that support women students and faculty.

A Cornell faculty member since 1994 and head of Cornell's Visual Communications Lab, Hemami is a fellow of the IEEE and serves on many organizing committees in the fields of signal and image processing, compression and perception. She has received numerous teaching awards, and in 2005 she received the Alice H. Cook and Constance E. Cook Award at Cornell for her leadership of the Women in Science and Engineering committee.

Niklas, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Plant Biology, was appreciated by students for his "lively style" and "flair for making complex physical and quantitative material intuitively obvious." Students described his labs as "terrific learning experiences" and praised his generosity in giving one-on-one time to explain material or give advice. Several students viewed Niklas as a role model. Colleagues noted Niklas' work to improve the curriculum and for developing a course on orchids based on student interest.

Niklas studies how plant shape, size, internal structure and reproductive biology have changed over evolutionary history. He joined Cornell in 1978 and has authored more than 320 scientific papers and four books. Among other honors, the Princeton Review named Niklas one of the best 300 professors in the country in 2012, and the Botanical Society of America awarded him a Centennial Medal in 2006.

Lipsky, the Anne Evans Estabrook Professor of Dispute Resolution and director of the ILR School's Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution, joined the Cornell faculty in 1969. Colleagues have described him as a role model for younger faculty members who combines eminence in his field with "uncommonly devoted commitment to advising, teaching and mentoring undergraduates." Nominators cited Lipsky for his warmth and steady encouragement of students, his support for undergraduate research and his ability to "illuminate both research findings and the art of conflict management and resolution." Many students wrote letters attesting to Lipsky's generosity as a mentor.

Lipsky's work focuses primarily on negotiation, conflict resolution and collective bargaining. He has published more than 70 articles and book chapters and is author or editor of 15 books and monographs. In 1997, the New York State Senate passed a resolution honoring Lipsky "for his distinguished contributions as dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations [at] Cornell University."

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Claudia Wheatley