Engineering Departments

Four Virginia Tech engineering faculty selected for National Academy of Engineering symposium


(Left to Right) Aditya Johri, Tom Martin, Lisa McNair, and Jake Socha
Blacksburg, VA , October 10, 2011
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Sixty-five of the nation's most innovative, young engineering educators, including four Virginia Tech engineering faculty members, have been selected to take part in the National Academy of Engineering's (NAE) third Frontiers of Engineering Education (FOEE) symposium.

The four from Virginia Tech are: Aditya Johri and Lisa McNair of engineering education, Tom Martin of electrical and computer engineering, and Jake Socha of engineering science and mechanics.

Johri’s primary research interests are in the area of computer supported global and virtual work, learning and knowledge sharing in online communities, and engineering design for social development. His research aims to increase understanding of learners in socio-technical collectives to help guide the design of digital and physical environments conducive to learning and knowledge sharing. He received the National Science Foundation Early Career Award in 2009 to study global engineering work practices and was recently awarded a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, as part of a four university consortium, to design technology for portfolio mining and visualization. He received the New Faculty Fellow Award from the Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Engineering Education, a center of the National Academy of Engineering in 2008.

McNair's research includes interdisciplinary collaboration, communication studies, identity theory, and reflective practice. Projects supported by the National Science Foundation include: interdisciplinary pedagogy for pervasive computing design; writing across the curriculum in statics courses; as well as a CAREER award to explore the use of e-portfolios to promote professional identity and reflective practice. Her teaching emphasizes the roles of engineers as communicators and educators, the foundations and evolution of the engineering education discipline, assessment methods, and evaluating communication in engineering. She serves as director of the engineering education graduate program and co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communication Center.

Martin is a 2006 recipient of a National Science Foundation Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. In 2005 Martin received a five-year National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) grant for his work in designing e-textiles — cloth interwoven with electronic components — for use as wearable computers. In 2004, Martin received the College of Engineering’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Innovation for developing an innovative course called Wearable and Ubiquitous Computing. In 2006, he was named a College of Engineering Dean’s Faculty Fellow, and in 2011, he was awarded Virginia Tech’s Edward S. Diggs Teaching Award.

Together, Martin and McNair were selected for the FOEE symposium for their work with an interdisciplinary design course for seniors in computer engineering, industrial design, and marketing, based upon open-ended design projects for pervasive computing products.  The course also has faculty from industrial design and marketing, with senior undergraduate students from all three programs working together to design and develop innovative products that utilize pervasive computing technology. 

Socha came to Virginia Tech from Argonne National Laboratory where he was the Ugo Fano Postdoctoral Fellow from 2004 until 2007, and then a research scientist. His research at Argonne concentrated on insect biomechanics, using powerful synchrotron x-rays to visualize the living internal anatomy of species such as beetles and butterflies. In the past two years, Socha has conceived and developed an innovative two-semester series of courses focusing on the mechanics of animal locomotion.  This series teaches advanced undergraduates and graduate students how animals move on land, in fluids, and at the air-water interface; Jake directly teaches the fluids-based course entitled “Biomotion: Life in Moving Fluids”.His work has been featured major national media, including the N.Y. Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, and the Discovery channel.

Early-career faculty members who are developing and implementing innovative educational approaches in a variety of engineering disciplines will come together for the event, where they can share ideas, learn from research and best practice in education, and leave with a charter to bring about improvement in their home institution.  The attendees were nominated by fellow engineers or deans and chosen from a highly competitive pool ofapplicants.  The symposium will be held Nov. 13-16 in Irvine, Calif.

"The Frontiers of Engineering Education program creates a unique venue for engineering faculty members to share and explore interesting and effective innovations in teaching and learning,” said NAE President Charles M. Vest.  “We want FOEE to become a major force in identifying, recognizing, and promulgating advances and innovations in order to build a strong intellectual infrastructure and commitment to 21st-century engineering education.”

This year's program will focus on teaching leading-edge engineering knowledge, project-based learning, active and self-directed learning, and assessment of student learning and education innovation.  “In our increasingly global and competitive world, the United States needs to marshal its resources to address the strategic shortfall of engineering leaders in the next decades,” said Edward F. Crawley, Ford Professor of Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the chair of the FOEE planning committee.  “By holding this event, we have recognized some of the finest young engineering educators in the nation, and will better equip them to transform the educational process at their universities.”

The 2011 Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium is sponsored by the O’Donnell Foundation.

The NAE is an independent, nonprofit institution that serves as an adviser to government and the public on issues in engineering and technology.  Its members consist of the nation's premier engineers, who are elected by their peers for their distinguished achievements.  Established in 1964, NAE operates under the congressional charter granted to the National Academy of Sciences in 1863.


Lynn Nystrom
(540) 231-4371