Great Teachers 2023: Dibakar Bhattacharyya helps students realize their full potential

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 6, 2023) — In February, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association honored the six recipients of this year’s Great Teacher Awards. Launched in 1961, they are the longest-running UK awards that recognizes teaching. Over the next six weeks, UKNow is highlighting the passionate and accomplished educators who were named a 2023 Great Teacher.

Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Ph.D., is one of this year’s Great Teacher Award recipients. For the UK College of Engineering professor known across campus as "DB," there is nothing more exciting than that “aha!” moment when a student realizes their full potential. Teaching students continues to drive Bhattacharyya, now in his sixth decade at UK.

"My intention as a teacher is not only to educate the highest-performing students, but also to support those who may have attended less privileged high schools or come from disadvantaged areas,” Bhattacharyya said. “All students, despite their circumstances, possess great intelligence and brilliance. When given the opportunity, they often discover their own capabilities and say ‘Wow, I never realized I could accomplish all these things!'"

Bhattacharyya keeps the classroom environment interactive, inspiring and open to new approaches to thinking — with the goal to go beyond the textbook and use that knowledge to solve societal and other environmental problems.

As the director of the UK Center of Membrane Sciences and co-principal investigator of the UK National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program, Bhattacharyya is renowned for his research on membranes for filtering and producing clean water. He was awarded the 2023 Alan Michaels Award by the North American Membrane Society in recognition of his long-term membrane innovation and technology development work supported by the outstanding graduate and undergraduate researchers in his lab.

Bhattacharyya’s students can engage in hands-on research, with many going on to become internationally recognized researchers themselves. He says teaching and mentoring students has had a significant impact on his research.

"Learning is a two-way street, I learn a lot from my students too. I often share with my students nowadays that they possess a wealth of knowledge far surpassing what I had at their age, thanks to the internet,” Bhattacharyya said. “Engineering, being a multifaceted discipline, encompasses the integration of math, physics, chemistry, biology and the resolution of medical challenges. As they gradually grasp these concepts, students surprise me with their fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. Witnessing this is truly exciting."

In order to receive a Great Teacher award, educators must first be nominated by a student. The UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Committee, in cooperation with the student organization Omicron Delta Kappa, then makes the final selection. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and stipend.

Hear the stories from all the 2023 Great Teacher Award winners here.

DB in classroom with students
DB in classroom with students

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