Amir Haji-Akbari Wins 2023 Ackerman Award

For his patience, empathy, and ability to make difficult topics accessible, Amir Haji-Akbari, assistant professor of chemical & environmental engineering, is the winner of this year's Ackerman Award for teaching and mentoring.

His dedication to his students is one of the many reasons Haji-Akbari has been selected to receive the 2023 Ackerman Award for Teaching and Mentoring. Made possible by a generous gift from SEAS alum Robert W. Ackerman '60, this annual award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize, recognizes outstanding teaching and mentoring as evidenced by the faculty member's impact on students. 

In their nomination letters, students described Haji-Akbari as a compassionate teacher focused on helping his students succeed. Here are a few of their comments:

  • “Beyond his expertise in teaching, Amir is a thoughtful mentor and incredibly genuine person. He is upfront and direct with his expectations in his courses, providing meaningful explanations for why he believes certain outcomes are important.”
  • “Whenever I’m unsure of something, he explains it to me with lots of patience. And whenever I’m doing something new that he knows about, he even gives me a mini-class about the topic. As a first-generation student, many times I feel like my background has holes in it so I’m very grateful Amir takes the time to fill in those holes and direct me to the right place with compassion and tolerance.”
  • "What sets Professor Haji-Akbari apart as a teacher is his remarkable empathy, understanding, and dedication to his students. He genuinely cares about his students' success and continuously goes above and beyond to ensure that they receive the support they need."
  • "As a research mentor, Prof. Haji-Akbari went above and beyond his role as an academic advisor. He is the most patient mentor I have ever met. He taught us that the most important virtue of a scientist is the commitment to ensuring the robustness and high-quality of research. He embodied this idea and always led by example."

The benefits go both ways, Haji-Akbari said. By teaching his students, he’s “gained a deeper and better understanding of the same topics in a way that I didn't have when I was a graduate student.”

“It's really refreshing to interact and communicate with students and to be able to address their curiosity,” he said. “This is particularly true for the amazing students that we have at Yale. Also, I really believe that if you want to learn something well, you have to teach it. It’s an instrument or a tool for myself to be better and to have a better understanding of the topics that I teach.” 

Haji-Akbari, who is visually impaired, said the award is particularly meaningful to him considering the additional challenges he faces. 

“It’s refreshing to feel that despite all these challenges, the genuine effort that I put into becoming a good teacher is appreciated somehow by my students. I can't express how much that means to me personally.”