Outstanding Professors 2002-2003

October 1, 2003

Cal State L.A. Outstanding Professors

2002-2003 Announced


Los Angeles, CA—California State University, Los Angeles named its 2002-2003 OUTSTANDING PROFESSORS at the University’s Fall Faculty Day. Those honored were: Daphne Der-Fen Liu, professor of mathematics (San Gabriel resident); Majdedin Mirmirani, professor of mechanical engineering (Rancho Palos Verdes resident); Sunil K. Sapra, professor of economics and statistics (Arcadia resident); and Penelope Semrau, professor of education (Pasadena resident). These awards are made primarily for excellence in teaching, but significant achievements are expected in scholarly inquiry or creativity, professional activities, and service to the campus and community.


As part of the annual faculty tradition, Judith Hamera, Cal State L.A. professor of speech communication (Los Angeles-90046 resident), was selected as the recipient of the PRESIDENT’S DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR AWARD. This award recognizes superlative teaching and exceptional commitment to students as well as professional accomplishments and services. Only those professors who have previously been selected as Outstanding Professors are eligible for this award.


A reception in honor of these outstanding professors was held today at the Cal State L.A. University Club.


Daphne Der-Fen Liu, Professor of Mathematics - College of Natural and Social Sciences
Daphne Liu, a CSULA faculty member since 1991, has taught a wide range of courses—23 different subjects ranging from general education through graduate courses—and supervised more than a dozen graduate and undergraduate students in direct study courses. She has been instrumental in designing an upper division course on graph theory as well as an important core requirement course on discrete mathematics. She was also principal graduate advisor for mathematics, providing advisement and supervision to more than 60 M.S. students. Liu has been a visiting professor in Taiwan at the National Sun Yat-sen University, Academic Sinica, and the National Chiao Tung University. She is currently supervising two master’s students on their theses. Liu received her B.S. from National Central University, Taiwan, and her Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Some of Liu’s major professional achievements include more than 20 publications, some of which appeared in the most prestigious journals in her research fields. She has given more than 40 presentations at professional conferences, workshops and institutions nationally and internationally, including invited talks presented at Oxford University, Simon Fraser University, Rutgers University, and Caltech. She has refereed numerous research papers for major research journals in her field, and serves as a reviewer for NSF grant proposals. Liu is the recipient of two prestigious National Science Foundation research grants.


Her research involves both theory and applications, with a main focus on graph coloring problems including their interplay with number theory and their applications to broadcast communications, such as TV or radio channel assignments. For three consecutive years, Liu served as the final judge for a prestigious annual international contest for undergraduate students in her discipline.


At the university level, she has served on the Faculty Policy Committee, Educational Policy Committee, and the Academic Senate. Systemwide, she has been serving as the faculty mentor for the CSU Collaborative Academic Preparation Initiative Program since 2002.


Majdedin Mirmirani, Professor of Mechanical Engineering - College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology

Majdedin Mirmirani is currently serving his third term as his department chairperson while maintaining a very active, full-time research program. He has been a CSULA faculty member since 1981.


Mirmirani uses problem-based learning in his courses to promote critical thinking. He challenges students on the first day of class with an open-ended real world problem: by solving this type of problem, he says, his students learn all the required theories.

Mirmirani’s professional achievements include 40 publications in top-ranked journals and proceedings of conferences in his research field, book chapters, and various technical reports and briefs. He is the principal investigator or co-PI on external research grants that exceed $13 million.


Over the past eight years, Mirmirani’s research had focused on the design and construction of a testbed for large segmented telescopes. His current research, funded by NASA and the U.S. Air Force, focuses on the development of multidisciplinary tools for design, modeling and simulation of high-performance aircraft such as NASA’s air-breathing hypersonic air vehicle, design of intelligent flight control laws and aero-elasticity. All of his research projects directly involve the participation of undergraduate and graduate students.

Mirmirani has served at all levels of academic governance at Cal State L.A., including chairing the Ad Hoc Committee on the Academic Calendar, serving on Awards and Leaves Committee and serving on various search committees. He is currently the faculty advisor for Pi Tau Sigma, CSULA’s mechanical engineering student honor society, and he sponsors several pre-doctoral scholarship recipients.


Mirmirani received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from Tehran Polytechnic, Iran, and both his M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering specializing in dynamic systems and control from UC Berkeley.


Sunil K. Sapra, Professor of Economics and Statistics - College of Business and Economics

Sunil K. Sapra, who earned his B.S. from the University of Delhi, India, M.A. from Delhi School of Economics, India, and both his M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Columbia University, held the prestigious ASA/NSF/Census Research Fellowship at the Bureau of Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, DC, in 1989.


Since joining CSULA in 1991, Sapra has been extremely active in teaching and research. He has taught a wide variety of courses in economics, econometrics, and statistics, including business statistics, and international economics. A popular teacher on campus, Sapra has consistently received top teaching evaluations in all his courses.

Sapra’s research has focused on missing data problems, nonlinear statistical and econometric models, robust statistical procedures, duration data analysis, and semi-parametric econometrics. His research on some econometric problems is considered pioneering by other researchers in his field. He has published more than 50 articles in some of the most prestigious statistics and econometrics journals. His research in econometrics and statistics has also been cited in top journals in these fields as well as in a widely-used volume on statistical distributions. He serves on the editorial board of the journal InterStat, and is a reviewer for several econometrics and statistics journals. He has made presentations at national and international conferences and has been a chair and a discussant at these conferences.


Sapra’s university service includes chairing the Innovative Instruction Awards Committee and serving on the Scheduling Modules Task Force and Academic Senate. He is a member of the Inter-College Business Articulation Council, which includes faculty from the UC, CSU, and Community College campuses.


Penelope Semrau, Professor of Education - Charter College of Education-Division of Educational Foundations and Interdivisional Studies

In September, Penelope Semrau began her 16th teaching year at Cal State L.A. Semrau, professor of instructional technology, teaches both undergraduate and graduate classes in educational uses of computers. Her classes, which include Multimedia Design and Production, Authoring Tools in Education, and Information Technologies in the Classroom, use cutting-edge technology and constructivist approaches to learning.

Semrau pioneered the e-learning wave at Cal State L.A. She was one of the first professors in the CSU system to teach online, having taught her first online course in 1994. Because of such accomplishments, in 1998 she was invited to teach in Hamburg, Germany, on the topic of online learning.


Semrau has amassed an impressive record of publications, presentations, and 30 grants. She is currently the principal investigator and director of a project funded by the National Security Agency. She has authored the books, Using Interactive Video in Education and MacArt, and her writings are included in educational anthologies. Her many articles and book reviews have been published in prestigious journals in her field, including Educational Technology and The Computing Teacher.


Semrau served as the associate director for the University’s Center for Effective Teaching, helping Cal State L.A. faculty with their technological and instructional needs. She was appointed to the University WASC Technology Committee, which worked to obtain Cal State L.A.’s full accreditation status. She initiated and coordinated the KCET/Cal State L.A. Student Internship Program, providing real world opportunities for CSULA media technology students.


Semrau received her B.S.E. from University of Wisconsin, Whitewater; M.S. from Illinois State University, Normal; and Ph.D. from Ohio State University. Before pursuing a university career, she taught art in Wisconsin public schools and, as a muralist, was featured in Time magazine and on national TV news. She has also been a radio station disc jockey, a university photographer, a multimedia consultant, a proposal reviewer, a textbook reviewer, journal editor, and a project evaluator.


Judith Hamera, Professor of Speech Communication, College of Arts and Letters

Currently serving as acting associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters, Professor Judith Hamera is the recipient of the President’s Distinguished Professor Award for 2004.

Since 1987, when she arrived at Cal State L.A., Hamera has taught nine different graduate seminars and 15 undergraduate courses across two departments -- the Department of Communication Studies and the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. Her significantly superior student evaluations have addressed Hamera’s professionalism, the challenging nature of her course requirements, her caring attitude, and how much they learned. Hamera’s teaching philosophy is to provide challenging, intellectually stimulating and highly motivating courses to every student who enters her classroom. She provides an environment that fosters growth through brilliant, articulate and thoughtful guidance.


Hamera’s major professional achievements include more than 30 book chapters and articles in prestigious national and international journals in her field, and more than 40 presentations at national and international meetings. Hamera is a recipient of numerous professional awards and honors, including her selection as co-editor of the most definitive reference work in her field and as recipient of the highest award for outstanding scholarship by the national organization in this discipline. Hamera has served as the editor of Text and Performance Quarterly, a major peer-reviewed national journal. She is the recipient of the 1996 Cal State L.A. Outstanding Professor Award.


Hamera has served at all levels of academic governance, and has been department chair and acting chair in two departments. She served two terms on the Academic Senate, served on the University Faculty Policy Committee, was co-PI of two major federally-funded institutional grants, and authored the University’s Communication Code. She is director of the University Title III: Improving Institutions Grant.


Hamera received her B.A. from Wayne State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University.


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