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Beltramo Receives UMass Amherst Lilly Teaching Fellowship

Peter Beltramo

Peter Beltramo

Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Peter Beltramo has been selected as a University of Massachusetts Amherst Lilly Teaching Fellow for the 2020-21 academic year. Eight Fellows are selected for the program each year from departments across the campus. The Lilly Teaching Fellowship provides early-career faculty with an opportunity to enhance and refine their teaching abilities both inside and outside the classroom.

Each Lilly Fellow is expected to redesign a course based on skills learned in the program over the course of the academic year. During their fellowship year, participants attend bi-weekly seminars on teaching pedagogy, develop a new course or substantially redesign an existing one, complete a teaching portfolio that includes teaching reflections and activities adapted to the course, and work with mentors to anticipate many of the challenges and rewards of faculty life at UMass Amherst.

According to Russell Tessier, the senior associate dean of academic affairs and operations in the College of Engineering and a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, “As part of his fellowship effort, Peter will redesign ‘CHEM-ENG 297A: The Business of Chemical Engineering’ to be an elective course accessible to all engineering majors. The designed course will give students a unique view of engineering innovation and entrepreneurship and afford students the financial vocabulary to analyze various industries, identify the business plans of current companies, and reveal bottlenecks and challenges.”

Tessier added that “This goal will be accomplished by effectively tailoring group projects to each student’s major or field of interest and designing activities to spur contributions from varied backgrounds and perspectives.”

This effort was motivated by Beltramo’s involvement in the College of Engineering Invention to Innovation working group. Sundar Krishnamurty, chair of the group and the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department head, said that the group is “trying to unify a suite of engineering technical electives for students interested in business, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The class taught by Beltramo will effectively introduce students to these topics through a series of cross-disciplinary activities and case studies.”

According to Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department Head John Klier, Beltramo is passionate about preparing undergraduate students for successful careers and is strongly committed to both a stellar technical education and also providing students with critical background in understanding of contemporary topics, soft skills, and relevant business skills vital to their post graduate careers. 

As Klier said, Beltramo “has developed a truly innovative undergraduate elective course. The need for a similar course had already been identified by our [ChE] advisory board, and having Professor Beltramo independently propose it is a testament to his vision as an educator. This course breaks the mold of other courses in our department and in engineering, which are mostly lecture or lab-based, and emphasizes active learning through case studies, discussion, and team projects which challenge students to exercise their critical thinking, analysis, and communication skills.”

Klier also said that the fellowship “is a tremendous opportunity for [Beltramo]…to learn from and adapt the teaching techniques of others in his cohort and redesign the course into a highly sought-after, broadly interesting, and valuable technical elective for all engineering majors. Involvement of our faculty in programs such as the Lilly Fellowship is valuable to our entire department.”

In addition to the Lilly Fellowship, Dr. Beltramo previously received a Student Centered Teaching and Learning Fellowship in 2018-2019 and has worked with the Discovery Museum in Acton, Massachusetts, and the STEM-Ed program at UMass to develop outreach activities for K-12 students. 

Beltramo also heads the Beltramo Research Group which focuses on soft matter, interfacial, and colloidal science research.

Beltramo has recently received several early-investigator awards, including a five-year, $592,332 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program to support his research into artificial biological membranes and a two-year, $110,000 grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund to support research into the dynamics and assembly of microparticles at liquid interfaces. (May 2020)