May 15, 2019
Mathematical Sciences Professor Giovanni Leoni has been honored with the Mellon College of Science’s 2019 Richard Moore Award. This award is presented every year to a faculty member in the college who is making substantial and sustained contributions to the educational mission of the college, particularly when those contributions have extended over a substantial portion of their academic career.
One of Leoni’s greatest impacts has been the creation of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, which has completely transformed and strengthened the undergraduate program over the course of the last decade. Since its inception, Leoni has served as chair of the committee with the goal of providing excellent mathematical education to all Carnegie Mellon University students, regardless of major or college. The committee’s main achievements include a complete redesign of the introductory course sequence for math and computer science students and a redesign of the honors course sequence for mathematics majors.
As almost every Carnegie Mellon student passes through the mathematical sciences department, Leoni has worked with faculty across the university to tailor the mathematical sciences program to suit students from all majors. His efforts have also helped grow and strengthen the mathematics major at Carnegie Mellon; each cohort has nearly 100 math majors, which is three times more than the number of students before the new curriculum was implemented.
Another focus of Leoni’s has been to equip postdoctoral students with the tools to effectively teach upper-level mathematics courses. In the summer of 2017, he implemented an orientation program for all incoming postdocs to instruct them on how to write syllabi in line with Faculty Senate guidelines, how to conduct student assessments, how to work with teaching assistants and how to use CANVAS, the university’s learning management system. Leoni also provided constructive feedback for postdocs through “mock” classes.
In addition to his focus on the broader educational and administrative aspects of the department, Leoni cares deeply about his students and dedicates his time to making sure they succeed. He holds recitations for courses that do not have a recitation and conducts research projects with students over the summer. Leoni received the 2013 Julius Ashkin Teaching Award from the Mellon College of Science in recognition of his contributions in the classroom.
“Giovanni Leoni regularly steps in and takes charge of administrative details that have a very high impact on the education of students in mathematics courses,” wrote Tom Bohman, head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, in his nomination letter for Leoni. “He is a significant part of the great success of our undergraduate program and mathematics.”