2018-2019 Distinguished Teaching Award for Senate Faculty

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Professor Anastassia Alexandrova has been selected for one of UCLA’s highest teaching honors, the 2018-2019 Distinguished Teaching Award for Senate Faculty.

Department Chair Professor Catherine Clarke said of Alexandrova, “Anastassia is a phenomenal teacher who is deeply passionate about improving education at UCLA. She is an exceptional educator and mentor. She is recognized by UCLA students as one of the best teachers in a department known for an exceptionally rigorous curricula and faculty dedicated to education on all fronts.”

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Alexandrova is one of six campus-wide recipients chosen by the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Teaching for the award which recognizes academically and professionally accomplished individuals who bring respect and admiration to the scholarship of teaching. Recipients are selected from nominations received by colleagues and leaders across the campus and recommendations by students. 

Photo right: Alexandrova with members of her research group. See caption below.

“I spent four years working with Professor Alexandrova, and everything she did helped encouraged greater scholarship; at each step of the way she knew what kinds of critique would get me to the next step” said Paul Robinson, a former undergraduate researcher in Alexandrova’s group, now an NSF Graduate Research Fellow in Chemical Physics at Columbia University. “Before I met Professor Alexandrova, I didn’t know what theoretical chemistry was, and now I want to spend my life in that field.”

Fellow faculty member Professor William Gelbart describes Alexandrova as “an exceptionally lively and engaging personality who connects easily with students and makes them feel – at the same time – both comfortable and inspired”.  She is a great teacher, he adds, “because she embodies a rare combination of intellectual brilliance and passion with a palpable sense of caring and concern for people”.   

The winners will be honored during the annual Andrea L. Rich Night to Honor Teaching ceremony in the fall, an event co-hosted by the Academic Senate and the UCLA Office of Instructional Development.

“Professor Alexandrova not only sets the example for students with complete mastery of her field of study, she also considers it her duty to actively seek out the spark of inspiration – often hidden deep – in every student that sits down in front of her,” said Derek Urwin, a graduate student in Alexandrova’s group.

“Although Professor Alexandrova is a theoretical chemist, she provides real-world cutting-edge applications of the course material during her lectures which makes students even more enthusiastic about the class,” said Borna Zandkarimi, a graduate student in Alexandrova’s group, who also took two courses with her. “She is an inspiring instructor, who establishes a positive classroom climate, and teaches students how to think deeply about a scientific problem.”

A UCLA professor of physical chemistry since 2010, Alexandrova’s group focuses on computational and theoretical design and multi-scale description of new materials.  A native of Russia, Alexandrova obtained a B.S./M.S. Diploma in chemistry from Saratov University, Russia. She was then briefly a researcher at Vernadskii Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Russia. She obtained her Ph.D. in theoretical physical chemistry from Utah State University with Professor Alexander Boldyrev. Her doctoral work was on novel small inorganic clusters and development of general theory of chemical bonding. She was a Postdoctoral Associate in computational biochemistry at Yale University, with Professor William Jorgensen, and then an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow in biophysics with Professor John Tully, also at Yale.  

Her awards and honors include the 2018  UCLA Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor Award, the 2016  UCLA Hanson-Dow Award for Excellence in Teaching, the 2016 UCLA Herbert Newby McCoy Award for excellence in faculty research, 2016  Fulbright Fellow, 2015  Rising Star Award of the WCC American Chemical Society, 2014 Early NSF Early Career Award, DARPA Young Faculty Award, and 2013 Sloan Research Fellowship.

Pictured above: Alexandrova with members of her research group – Bottom row: Derek Urwin, Amy Lai, Professor Anastassia Alexandrova, Zerina Mehmedovic. Middle row: Huanchen Zhai, Dr. Han Guo, Patricia Poths, Kirill Shumilov. Top row: Jack Fuller, Borna Zandkarimi, David Reilley, Professor Mitsuhiro Asato, Matthew Hannefarth.

To learn more about Alexandrova’s research, visit her group’s website.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.