Masao Sako: Faculty Co-Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Innovation

masao sako

Provost John L. Jackson. Jr. and Deputy Provost Beth A. Winkelstein announced the appointment of Masao Sako, the Arifa Hasan Ahmad and Nada Al Shoaibi Presidential Professor of Physics and Astronomy, as faculty co-director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Innovation, beginning April 1, 2024.

“Masao Sako is widely known and respected as one of our most dedicated, inventive, and inspiring teachers,” said Provost Jackson. “He is consistently at the forefront of bringing new educational ideas and methods to campus, which makes him an ideal leader to help us chart the future of teaching at Penn as part of the new Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Innovation.”

Dr. Sako, a professor at Penn since 2006, is an expert in observational cosmology and machine learning who has received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, the highest University-wide teaching award; the Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching, the highest school-wide teaching award; the Dean’s Award for Innovation in Teaching; the Dean’s Award for Mentorship of Undergraduate Research; and the student-led Charles Ludwig Distinguished Teaching Award in the School of Arts & Sciences, for “an extraordinary commitment to the engagement of students as active and interactive participants in the learning process.”  

He is a pioneer of Structured Active In-Class Learning at Penn, as well as the Summer Undergraduate Research Academy; the Penn Boot Camps, which train working professionals in new skills of web development, cybersecurity, and data science; and the Peer-Led Team Learning initiative, which provides first-generation, lower-income students with resources to succeed in introductory physics courses. He currently serves as a faculty co-director of the new data science and analytics minor, and he has served as undergraduate chair of the department of physics and astronomy, chair of the School of Arts & Sciences Committee on Undergraduate Education, and a member of the Online Learning Faculty Advisory Committee, among numerous other leadership roles. He earned a PhD, MA, and BS from Columbia University and was the KIPAC Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Stanford University and the Chandra Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology.

The Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Innovation was formed in 2023, through the merger of the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Online Learning Initiative, to promote teaching excellence and innovation, enhance the learning experiences of all students and learners at Penn, and extend the quality and reach of a Penn education.