Spring 2014 and (tentatively) every three years thereafter:
Fall 2013 and Fall 2014:
I believe that teaching is based upon a bond of shared responsibility between the instructor and the student. This bond requires dedication and effort from both involved parties, and this effort is rewarded by knowledge and confidence on the side of the student, and accomplishment and fulfillment on the side of the instructor. The heart of the challenge for the instructor is to first establish trust with the student, then communicate the need for sharing the responsibility for learning, and finally assess the student’s performance in taking on that responsibility for learning. This forms a closed loop which allows both the instructor and the student to make the most of knowledge that the instructor has to offer, and the curiosity and talent that the student is able to develop. The joy of teaching comes from the fact that both the teacher and student share in something exciting, new, and of such vital importance as learning. The future rests in the ability of both the teacher and the student to come together and establish this relationship of teaching and learning. It is truly a mutual, two-way exchange in which both parties have much to offer. To teach without learning, or to learn without teaching is impossible; they must work together for the magic of learning to happen.
Learning starts before birth, and lasts a lifetime. It is arguably the activity we spend the most time on, and surely the one that gives us the most joy and sense of accomplishment. Knowledge occurs on many levels. As undergraduate students, we develop a working knowledge of our field, a knowledge based on the ability to “work” the formulas, program the machines we use everyday, and develop a microscopic view of the details of scattered rules and mechanisms of knowledge. Then along comes graduate school to teach us that there may be more, a relationship between the rules and formulas, a whole hierarchy of levels. We are forced to zoom out from the details of facts and formulas to the bigger picture and catch a glimpse at the vast sea of knowledge. This is a second kind of knowledge, based on relationships. At this level, the student’s knowledge is strengthened by forming connections between concepts and across subjects. Next comes research, requiring original, inventive work with a fresh approach to solving the problems of the future. Research forces the student to become a teacher for the first time, teaching him or her self, developing a third kind of knowledge based on intuition, one that is almost universal and can apply to new problems, and create solutions that never existed before.
In order to teach effectively, one must combine all three kinds of knowledge: working knowledge, hierarchical knowledge, and intuitive knowledge. This approach forms the basis of the bond between teacher and student because the teacher can first provide a big-picture view of the subject, then fill in this skeleton with details of working knowledge, and finally guide the student to an intuitive perception which leads to understanding. Then teaching and learning join hand-in-hand, and learning can happen. My overarching goal as a teacher is to reduce the learning curve required for understanding both the physics of natural processes and their application to designing advanced engineering systems. I strive to achieve this goal by introducing computer simulation into the curriculum and utilizing numerical modeling to bring research into the classroom. As a result, my students gain a better understanding of the physical processes involved in the semiconductor nanostructures that will form the basis of our future economy and the product of my future students’ scientific knowledge and engineering abilities.