Outstanding Teacher Russell Gorga Helps Students Connect with Concepts

Dr. Russell E. Gorga, associate professor, Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science, received the 2016 university-level Outstanding Teacher Award (as the nominee for the Wilson College of Textiles). Gorga first received this award in 2007. The award was presented during the Teaching Awards Luncheon and Ceremony on April 11. In addition, Gorga was one of six outstanding NC State teachers selected to receive the Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher Award.

The award recognizes excellence in teaching at all levels and is a prerequisite for being considered for the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Alumni Distinguished Professor Award. Recipients become members of the Academy of Outstanding Teachers for as long as they are NC State faculty.

“Russell richly deserves this honor. He is one of the Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science (TECS) Department’s most effective teachers,” said Dr. Peter Hauser, interim TECS department head.

Gorga, who is extremely interested in classroom innovations and continually seeks new ways to make the classroom a learning-focused environment, teaches Polymer Engineering and Senior Design, the year-long capstone course for the Textile Engineering and Textile Technology degree programs. This course presents student teams with a relevant industrial or research problem that necessitates the need for the teams to leverage prior classwork to create a solution.

“I am continually trying to inspire and motivate the students in my classroom on many different levels ranging from the big picture level – why does this matter to you, your life, and your potential career, to the curricular level – how this class ties into past and future classes, to the course and content level – how all the parts of the course are related and fit into the big picture,” he said.

Gorga said that as a student himself, he was most impacted by teachers who inspired him, were determined to help him grasp concepts that many times required different modes of delivery, and were compassionate to him as a student and his learning styles. His teaching style incorporates those three approaches.

“I am driven to foster and facilitate student development and learning,” he said. “My greatest satisfaction is helping a student connect with ideas, concepts and interpersonal situations that are difficult for that individual to grasp. My greatest joys are when the light bulb goes on in a student’s mind and she or he says, ‘Now I get it’ and empowering students to take control of their own learning and development.”

Before coming to NC State in 2004, Gorga was a postdoctoral associate at MIT where he worked on improving the strength of brittle polymers. His doctoral work focused on developing relationships between molecular-micro-macro properties of polymer-polymer interfaces.  Specifically, interfacial strength was mechanistically related to miscibility and mobility characteristics of the polymer constituents. His research currently focuses on producing polymer fibers (including nanofibers and nanocomposite fibers) with superior mechanical and conductive properties.

Read more about Gorga’s work and background.