Janik receives 2018 Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Michael Janik, professor of chemical engineering, is one of six Penn State faculty members who have received the 2018 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The award, named after Penn State’s seventh president, honors excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level.

“It is great to see Mike receive this recognition, as he is dedicated to his students, both in the classroom and beyond,” said Phillip Savage, chemical engineering department head and Walter L. Robb Family Endowed Chair. “I know that they very much appreciate his teaching excellence and investment in their professional and personal development.”

As an undergraduate engineering student, Janik often noted that his engineering classes lacked the open and impassioned discussions found in his English and poetry classes. So, he set out to change that.

It took his experiences as a process engineer and graduate courses at night to get him engaged and excited about the chemical engineering profession, which motivated him to return to graduate school and pursue an academic career.

“As the teacher, I aim for an interactive classroom that engages and excites students to meet the course objectives,” Janik said.

He relies on daily exercises to ensure students arrive prepared and remain involved. Interactive exercises and group work aid in learning.

Additionally, he designed and taught a senior-level elective course in chemical energy technology that illustrates how project work and classroom activities are integrated to meet course objectives. Students construct future energy scenarios for the next 25 to 50 years, analyzing potential energy sources and technology needed to meet future energy demands.

“I’m thrilled to see students eager to come to class and participate in interactive exercises and discussions and, more generally, to express an excitement for the course material,” Janik said. “Through a course and class structure that maximizes interaction among students and engagement with the material, students meet the learning objectives of the course and leave enthusiastic about the further learning.”

A student praised Janik for teaching real-world applications of chemical engineering, including a major class project looking at the analysis of different separation techniques for methane and carbon dioxide, something very relevant for students looking to enter the energy field.

“Janik goes above and beyond the requirements of his position and actively searches for opportunities to benefit his students,” the student said. “It’s the personal attention Janik gives to his students that truly makes him an excellent professor and set them apart.”

Citing a chemical energy technology course, a colleague praised Janik’s use of interactive games and other methods and for his ability to elevate each student.

“Teaching with Dr. Janik has been a precious learning experience in my career,” the colleague said. “His ability to put great focus on each student is something I strive to do in my career.”

Past recipients of the George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching within the College of Engineering include Robert Beaury (2016); Christine Masters (2012); Themis Matsoukas (2009); Arthur Miller (2000); Renata Engel (1999); Bohdan Kulakowski (1998); John Cimbala (1997); Harvey Manbeck (1991); Louis Geschwindner (1986); and Robert Kabel (1983).

For information about other 2018 honorees, visit https://bit.ly/2pZ2e6G.


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Megan Lakatos




The Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering, established in 1948, is recognized as one of the largest and most influential chemical engineering departments in the nation.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry.

Department of Chemical Engineering

119 Greenberg Complex

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2574