Rustum Choksi wins Leo Yaffe Award

Published: 31 May 2021

The Leo Yaffe Award is given each year to recognize a faculty member for superior teaching at the undergraduate level in the Faculty of Science.

The recipient for 2021 is Dr. Rustum Choksi from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, an outstanding educator, who communicates the beauty and relevance of mathematics to students from all backgrounds.

Rustum teaches challenging courses designed for students in mathematics, engineering and physics. His students consistently rate him as one of McGill’s best professors, emphasizing that he conveys the beauty of mathematics in a way they had never realized before, and how much they have enjoyed and valued this discovery.

The following collage of comments illustrates in students’ own words why Professor Choksi’s teaching is so special:

“This is the most enlightening course I have taken in my life; he is simply a perfect teacher and made us learn way more than the content of the class, he made us view mathematics differently.”

“He taught us to look at the world around us and express it mathematically so as to extract useful information from it.”

“He has a very strong vision for what he wants his students to learn and understand, and during lectures his passion for the subject is contagious.”

“Sequences and compactness and continuity were no longer only symbolic definitions but rather living, breathing, ideas that we can see and visualize and understand in a practical way.”

“This is a very progressive way of teaching math, he stressed the necessity of a problem-solving mindset and emphasized the logic behind math: the focus is on comprehension rather than computation which is better done by a computer.”

“He makes me excited to wake up far earlier than I’d like to, in order to come to class.”

Students also derived great benefit from Professor Choksi’s detailed notes for each lecture, and from his recently completed textbook, Partial Differential Equations: A First Course, which is now being used at other universities in addition to McGill. Here are some of their comments:

“His notes are magical; they are so well written.”

“He wrote the most detailed and complete textbook that I've ever seen. Reading it feels as if he was right next to you, explaining the concepts.”

“[…] by far the best text I have ever read, for any subject, providing clear, intuitive explanations and proofs of the material. Not only was I able to actually understand what you were saying, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I also love that it provides a clear sense of appreciation for the poetic beauty of the material itself.”

Professor Choksi’s door is always open to anyone needing help or advice, and he has encouraged and mentored an impressive number of undergraduate students to do research projects, with notable success leading to multiple publications. Many of these students have developed a lasting love for mathematics and are now doing graduate studies.

In summary, Rustum Choksi is an outstanding educator who communicates the beauty and relevance or mathematics to students from all backgrounds, and it is a pleasure to announce him as the 2021 recipient of the Leo Yaffe Award.

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