Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Academic Inspiration – How Did Professors Excite You About Engineering?

    Posted 05-14-2021 01:40 PM

    Sometimes, one takes a class that inherently sparks an interest a person.

    Other times, this interest is cultivated through the efforts of a professor.

    Did your professors do anything when they taught to stimulate your interest in a particular class or field? What qualities in a professor make for an engaging class?

    For myself, I had a professor who was new to the university when I was a senior. He was in charge of one of our "Engineering Clinic" classes. These were courses designed to work on real-world projects.

    My team was tasked with building an H&H model of a river system. Our professor was very communicative and readily admitted to not knowing the answers to all of our questions. However, he was very helpful as suggesting logical ways to build out our model and gave us a lot of autonomy in the way we did so.

    It was nice to have a professor act like a real human who didn't have all of the answers, and his guidance style helped us to take ownership of our work. I took such an interest in his work that I went back for a masters with him as my advisor.

    I tried to apply these same concepts as a fluid mechanics and water resources lab instructor when I went back for my masters. The first lab was in early September, so I decided to focus it outside and have students estimate the pressure inside different water guns, and measure and calculate the actual and expected distance that the water would travel. I made a mistake with one team and gave them a water gun with an oscillating barrel that swayed left and right as it released water. They were originally dismayed and concerned that they wouldn't be able to complete the lab. I worked with them to find a way to measure the water, and in my opinion, more importantly, write up the conditions and caveats to their results.

    I tried to continue "keeping it real" with the students throughout the year, and focus on tangible experiments that would be applicable to the real world. If they asked a question and I didn't know the answer, I just admitted that I didn't know, and would later try to look it up. To a large extent, I believe it worked out, as the student feedback at the end of the year was very positive.

    So for me, a very approachable professor and very hands-on labs were helpful in shaping my interest in water resources.

    Does anyone else have a memory or experience from school that they would like to share?



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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 2.  RE: Academic Inspiration – How Did Professors Excite You About Engineering?

    Posted 05-17-2021 04:57 PM
    Yes I developed passion and interest during a project in school, had to do a research on the effects of corrosion performance on self compacting concrete using bagasse ash and granulated blast furnace slag, the process was tedious and extremely stressful based on the unavailability of the material at that time but my professor was always motivating  and reminding us of the benefits of being a great engineer ...At a point I had to mix concrete and being a lady doing that when people see they encourage and praise me which made me feel real good and determined to work harder..
    Now all i think about and work towards is how to become a great female engineer and a role model to the society...

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    Imarayi Oseremen S.M.ASCE
    Lagos LA
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  • 3.  RE: Academic Inspiration – How Did Professors Excite You About Engineering?

    Posted 05-25-2021 08:28 AM
    Thank you for sharing! I am glad to hear that you had a professor who you felt encouraged by.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 4.  RE: Academic Inspiration – How Did Professors Excite You About Engineering?

    Posted 06-08-2021 08:33 AM
    There were several professors that made an impact on me. Here are a few examples I can think of at the moment:

    - One of our professors was deeply passionate about structures, and he made class genuinely interesting. He had students volunteer to come "be" a frame at the front of the room one day. If it was a fixed connection, they held the other volunteers shoulder. If it wasn't, they just touched their fist to the shoulder. Then he'd apply a "force" to one of them, and they'd physically demonstrate how the frame would react. Things like that were so helpful as someone that needs visuals to understand some topics, and it was entertaining. He also excitedly shared some of his research breakthroughs with us, and it's always cool to see what we're learning being applied.

    - One of our professors went into being a professor because he is passionate about supporting students. He was the sponsor of both our ASCE and EWB chapters. When he had graduate students, he let them guide the selection of their research subject. He had participated on basketball teams with students. That kind of support and involvement made such an impact for so many of us learning under his guidance.

    - One of our professors has some little quirks when teaching that made class fun to attend. For example, if the number 23 came up in a problem he had to mention Michael Jordan or he would get distracted thinking about it and lose his place. He also loved prime numbers and would purposefully use them in problems or set up problems to have a prime answer. He would make bets with students about sports because he was a graduate of our rival school. If the student lost, he'd bring a shirt from his team for the person to wear for the day. Even though none of this was actually related to the course, it was endearing. It made class interesting. It was bonding for students in his class. It made him approachable. He was my advisor, and we'd have 2 or 3 hour advising sessions sometimes because he honestly wanted to be available to really talk about options for the future and how things were going.

    I think my advice to professors would be to find a way to share your passion with students. Don't be afraid to show your personality and take a few minutes to have fun. Remember that by empowering your students you extend your impact on the industry through them.

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 5.  RE: Academic Inspiration – How Did Professors Excite You About Engineering?

    Posted 06-10-2021 09:59 AM
    Thats great Heidi! That reminds me that every year, there was a teacher vs student basketball game held at my school. I never got to see it take place but was told a few times that our professors still had some moves!

    In terms of other bonding opportunities outside of the classroom, one of my material science professors found out that I had been a swimmer growing up (his son and I both had the same coach, just about a decade apart) and after that we took to going to practice together once a week or so. Its always nice to see the human side of your teacher, as you mentioned in many different ways above.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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