James Hone Wins Great Teacher Award

Jun 13 2014 | Photo: Eileen Barroso

The Society of Columbia Graduates (SOCG) has selected James Hone, professor of mechanical engineering, as one of its two recipients of the Great Teacher Award, an honor given annually to professors who stand out in undergraduate teaching at both Columbia College and Columbia Engineering.

The College recipient is Susan Pedersen, James P. Shenton Professor of the Core Curriculum and professor of history. Both professors were honored at SOCG’s awards ceremony held May 31 in Low Rotunda.

At Columbia Engineering, Hone leads an interdisciplinary research group focused on novel materials and nanofabrication, collaborating with teams from physics, chemistry, material science, and electrical engineering. He is a renowned researcher in nanoscience and technology, and his pioneering work in graphene, a very thin yet remarkably strong sheet of pure carbon just one atom thick, has helped advance that burgeoning area of research. In 2008, Hone, Columbia Engineering Professor Jeffrey Kysar, and colleagues conducted a series of experiments proving for the first time that pristine graphene was the strongest material ever measured. They have since made major headway, and in 2013, Hone and Electrical Engineering Professor Kenneth Shepard took advantage of the material’s mechanical strength and electrical conduction to develop a new nano-mechanical system that can create FM signals, in effect the world’s smallest FM radio transmitter.

In SOCG’s award citation, Hone is being recognized for his deep commitment to his students, being sincere, approachable, and always accessible to his students. Hone encourages student questions and feedback, and places an emphasis on small-group learning. Students have praised him for “the simplicity and clarity” of his teaching as well as his “genuine desire for everyone to do well.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree in physics from Yale in 1990, he returned to New York City, where he taught science and mathematics at the High School of Art and Design and at Brooklyn Tech. In 1998, he earned his PhD in experimental condensed matter physics from UC Berkeley. After postdoctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania and Caltech, where he was a Millikan Fellow, he joined the Columbia Engineering faculty in 2003.

The SOCG established the Great Teacher Award in 1949 to honor the outstanding teachers from Columbia College and the Engineering School. Two awards are bestowed each year to one professor from each school. Hone joins an impressive list of past recipients, including the late historian Jacques Barzun and former University Provost Alan Brinkley, and in recent years, fellow Columbia Engineering Professors Kathleen McKeown, George Deodatis, and Shih-Fu Chang

James Hone, Wang Fong-Jen Professor of Mechanical Engineering.