Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Ohio State University
M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Ohio State University
B.S. Engineering Mechanics, Michigan State University
I'm currently an assistant professor at University of Dayton. I love my job because I get to both teach students and do research. One of my favorite classes to teach is Engineering Innovations, a class where freshmen students are introduced to engineering design. For the class I identified a problem in our community and the students worked in teams to use the engineering design process to identify a solution and build a prototype to test feasibility.
The problem was that a local non-profit art studio for people with disabilities had a pottery wheel that was uncomfortable to use and not accessible by people in wheelchairs. I helped my students learn the design process so that they all first researched the problem, users, and what was commercially available; brainstormed possible solutions; sketched designs; chose the best design; built and tested a prototype; and then gave recommendations for a redesign. They found that following the process was very important in helping make sure their design was good, and they also found that the most important part of the process was being able to talk about their process and design in writing and during a presentation.
I also do research focused on how engineers can help healthcare providers diagnosis health problems and provide treatment using new technology. Right now my students and I are examining how a special plate that can measure balance can best be used to identify who is most likely to fall and then use that plate to treat balance. I've found that looking at how people sway and doing special calculations on their sway data can indicate that the person had an impairment in their balance that can lead to falling or is related to diseases like Parkinson's disease. In the future I think it will be important that my work concentrates on helping translate the work that engineers do to being most useful for doctors. For example, an engineer can use special equipment and do complicated analysis but if it is not easy for a doctor to use and interpret what the data means, it is useless. Designing software that helps bridge that gap will be very important in my line of work.
My interest has always been biomechanical engineering, but that isn't a major at many universities. I choose to concentrate on engineering and then take elective courses like anatomy, physiology, and biology to help build up my background in the human body.
I never knew I wanted to be in engineer, until my high school chemistry teacher suggested I consider it as a career. I went to an engineering summer camp to learn more about engineering and learned about biomechanical engineering, where engineering is applied to the human (or animal) body. I loved that I would get to work directly with people and help them by designing better wheelchairs and making suggestions about how they could walk better.
I love working with people – students, researchers, and people participating in research studies. It is so fun to teach people what engineering is all about and how technology can be used to help others.
It is frustrating when my students have really great ideas but are unable to present them well through writing or presentation. A good design can get a low grade if it isn't communicated well. However, I am motivated by the excitement that students show when they learn something new. I love to see how students grow during the course of a semester. I showed my freshmen students the first presentation they gave to the class and the last – and they couldn't believe how much they had improved.
The most exciting thing that has happened is that I was selected to be featured in a video for PBS Think TV to talk about my work designing special starting blocks for the Olympic track team in Japan and encourage students to consider careers in engineering. The video is still being seen by so many people and people now tell me they know me because they saw me in it.
In the past ten years, teachers have been trying to include active learning in their classes so that students get to spend their class time doing activities, discussing, and participating rather than just listening to the teacher talk. Researchers are working more collaboratively so that engineers are not just working with other engineers.
In the next ten years, I think we'll see more technology used in the classroom to help students visualize what is being talked about. I think more and more important research questions will be answered, but they will open up more new questions for people to work on.