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Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Just One Question: If you had a favorite professor, what made that teacher memorable?

My favorite professor was Ed Brown, “Brownie.” Not only did we have good arguments on hydrodynamics theory about what happens to pressure when high-speed water is reflected off a boundary, but also he coached me on a problem consisting of full-pipe flow becoming open-channel flow into a steep tailpipe and gradually turning into full-pipe flow (for accelerated draining of my golf course’s lake during storms). He said I could not get that to work, but I was able to anyway by using tailpipe discharge submerged in a catch basin and giving it time for the tailpipe to fill up.
—Tom Harriman ’42 Th’43

Two professors come to mind. Professor Ed Taylor taught me about the time value of money, which I used throughout my life in project comparison and analysis. Professor Robert Dean came to Thayer School when our class was in its senior year and taught the fluid mechanics course in the winter term. He was so dynamic that when he offered me the opportunity to work with him as a research assistant, I changed my graduate major from Tuck-Thayer to the most scientific graduate degree, MS, and went on for a PhD in mechanical engineering at Stanford.
—Harris McKee ’61 Th’63

Myron Tribus was a wonderful prof not because he was a magical lecturer, but because his subject matter, “thermoeconomics,” made so much sense! The idea that all aspects of process could be translated into economic values to allow process optimization is a powerful concept.
—Steve Brenner ’63 Th’64

I’ll mention four memorable Thayer faculty. Professor Sidney Lee was in charge of my ES 21: “Introduction to Engineering” team. He did not micro-manage us; instead, he led from the front, performing an analysis of an energy-storing bicycle and showing that the weight of the battery was the critical variable. I converted his analysis to one expressing the effect of energy losses due to conversion from potential, to mechanical, to electric, to chemical, and back again—using whatever values I could measure and making the rest up. My team’s presentation, featuring a teammate riding into the lecture hall on a battery-driven bicycle with a sexy transmission, had an electrifying effect on the judging panel. ES 21 was my first A, my first citation, and the first time I understood that I could both do something and explain it. Professor Alvin Converse taught thermodynamics and every course had a project then. Dr. Converse was worried that mine—involving some applied math—was too hard, but he let me proceed and I succeeded. Bless him. This was the first case where I knew, or learned, more than a Thayer faculty member—but the Thayer ethos was that this was fine. Without a firm grounding in algebra or probability, Professor Myron Tribus set out to merge thermodynamics, information theory, and decision analysis. He made good progress on stuff I’m working on as a data scientist to this day. The one time I was able to correct him (a famous mathematician made the same mistake), he took it really well and wrote a good letter of recommendation for me for more graduate school. Finally, I needed another course to graduate and wanted to study more information theory. Professor John Strohbehn was very busy but consented to sponsor an independent study, letting me grade myself(!). His anchoring in the realities of then extant communication theory was very helpful to me—it balanced my enthusiasm. His skepticism anticipated developments that appeared some 25 years later. Yet another life lesson.
—Mark S. Tuttle ’65 Th’66

I had so many good and influential professors at Dartmouth, and not just in engineering, that I would do a disservice to all of them if I tried to pick one out! Perhaps it would be appropriate, however, to mention Professor George Colligan, who influenced me after my MS at Thayer to consider the University of Michigan, where I eventually enrolled for my PhD in materials science. Dr. Colligan not only connected the academic world with the real world of engineering and commerce, but he recognized my interest in plastics and had the foresight to direct me to Michigan, where several new and young professors in the field of polymer science were just getting started. I enrolled there in 1968, received my PhD in 1972, and because of the influence George Colligan had on my training after Dartmouth, I got involved in the development of a whole new business and technology that I eventually turned into a family of Plastic Technologies companies.
—Tom Brady ’66 Th’68

There were lots of good professors, though I have to mention Fred Schleipman in the machine shop as being especially memorable for his patience and easy access for all.
—Mike Steed ’74

Professor David Stratton
Professor David Stratton. Photograph courtesy Thayer School Archives.

Professor David Stratton. He seemed to enjoy teaching the class as much as I enjoyed being there.
—Steve Askey ’76

Professor David Stratton. Back in 1977 I wished to compress a second engineering science major into one year. I already got a physics major. For an ES major, I needed to finish “Digital Electronics” in the winter, but the prerequisite “Electronics I” was in the spring. I found “Electronics III” (a graduate course) offered in fall, so I talked with Professor Stratton, who taught the course, and explained my reasons for taking “Electronics III.” He politely let me sit in the course without enrolling me. Four weeks later, I took the first test and got a grade of 50. Professor Stratton said, “You are one of three in the class who passed the test. You can enroll in the class.” But, I said, “the class enrollment is already passed.” Professor Stratton offered to talk to the administration to let me enroll. I finally enrolled and passed the class with an A- and a citation from Professor Stratton. I also was able to complete the ES major in one year. I wish to take this opportunity to say thank you to Professor Stratton.
—Lapyiu Ho ’78

Professor Stratton (analog electronics) was simply life-changing. Why? He cared intensely about his students, as one of the most comprehensible profs ever, and had a lecture presentation style that included key reinforcements and lots of real-world application notes. I much regret losing contact with him—and never directly thanking him for his excellence and commitment. The best.
—Peter Heymann ’81 Tu’83 Th’83

My favorite professor at Thayer was David Stratton. He taught my first electronics class and I took everything I could from him after that. He was so dedicated to the students and to making sure everyone understood how current flowed in a circuit and how transistors, op amps, and analog and digital circuits worked. He really wanted to hear our questions so he could try the explanation from another angle if we didn’t understand. The labs were fun, the class was dynamic, and quite a few of us became engineers (and concentrated in electronics) because of his leadership and dedication to teaching. A good friend and fellow student—John McNeil ’83—did go on to become an electronics professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, very much inspired by David Stratton!
—Kimberley Quirk ’82 Th’83

My favorite professor would be Francis Kennedy: a great teacher and his door was always open.
—Tony Shaia ’82 Th’82

My favorite professor was Eric Hansen. He taught a great optics course and ultimately was one of my thesis advisors. I also appreciate the encouragement of David Roberts, MD, and Professor John Strohbehn.
—John Hatch Th’84

My Thayer School experience was probably similar to many: Almost every professor was memorable for good reasons, and I can count on only one finger the one who was memorable otherwise. However, if I were to single out a few, which I know is unfair to the many, my list would include Francis Kennedy (for his clarity and enthusiasm and supportiveness in solid mechanics and in our post-graduation communications), Erland Schulson (for making me a good researcher, helping me get my first published article and find wonderment in something as simple as ice, and for his friendship through the years), Barry Richmond (whose system dynamics class has been applicable in every engineering, political, and socioeconomic situation I have ever found myself in and should have been a required course for every math-and-feedback-loop-challenged politician), and Carl Long (whose ability to start a complex problem in class for which he’d never thought out a solution in advance taught me what it is to be an engineer vs. a technician, and whose passion for structural engineering inspired me to become a licensed structural engineer).
—Scott Sabol ’88 Th’88

There were so many great professors, but I really liked and enjoyed learning from and working with Professor Lee Lynd. I had a number of classes with him and continued to stay in touch after graduation.
—Quincy Vale ’90

I had many great professors at Thayer, but the one I probably spent the most out-of-class time with is Professor Benoit Cushman-Roisin. He was my informal thesis and life advisor. I also remember having many great chats with Ellen Stein and Andy Tuck (at the Tuck School), who was originally my supervisor for a data collection project, turned into an advisor on which grad schools to apply to, and eventually became a coauthor.
—Nel Dutt Th’06

I had so many outstanding professors, but a few stood out in particular: Doug Van Citters. I have never met someone more passionate about science and education. He worked extremely hard for his students and deeply cared about their education, both academic and with life skills. I remember one day working in the lab on a problem set when he came in and asked if we were getting that free pizza in the Atrium. As one, we all jumped up to go get some. Turns out Doug had been joking about the EBAs delivery that no one had come to pick up yet. Seeing our response, though, he bought us pizza to apologize. That’s what a favorite professor does! I consider him a friend, mentor, and role model. Thayer is lucky to have him! Francis Kennedy: I still remember his lessons almost 15 years later: “Pay attention to the details. If you don’t, people die.” I now work in medical devices and I hear his voice every time I think it’s close enough. John Collier: He’s the reason I’m in medical devices. His ability to ask the right question in ENGS 21, regardless of his experience in the field, was so captivating that I walked into his office, asked if he’d be my advisor, and asked to do research with him. What he studied was less important to me than being near him and learning from him. Erland Schulson: His ability to demand so much from his students while fully supporting them is unparalleled. I would storm into his office and demand to know why something he taught us was true. His joy at working with students and watching them come to understanding was palpable. Also, because of him, I can still be caught moving my jar around thinking about “Fracture Modes I, II, and III.”
—Evan Carlson ’08 Th’10

Professor Douglas Van Citters
Professor Douglas Van Citters. Photograph by John Sherman.

I had several great professors at Thayer, but one in particular stood out: Professor Doug Van Citters was both an excellent teacher and mentor. During our “Applied Mechanics: Dynamics” course, he went above and beyond to make the material engaging and ensure we understood it. We routinely abused his open-door policy to work through tough problems, but it showed how much he cared. While it was one of the most challenging courses I took at Thayer, it was also one of my favorites, thanks to his dedication and fun style of teaching. As graduation neared, he was also a great sounding board while exploring various employment opportunities, and he has continued to be a mentor through the better part of the past decade.
—Matt Wallach Th’08

Professor Vicki May. Photograph by Karen Endicott.

My favorite professor was Vicki May! I even wrote and performed a song for her in the Atrium. I’ve always thought highly of her and have lots of positive words for her. What most made Vicki effective was her candidness, which created a casual and comfortable atmosphere in her classes and during office hours. It made class fun and conversational rather than lecture-like.
—Sam Peck ’10 Th’11 Th’12

Professor Charles Sullivan
Professor Charles Sullivan. Photograph John Sherman.

I owe just as much to the staff of the instrument lab and the machine shop as I do to any of the professors, but if I have to pick a single professor, that would be Charlie Sullivan. When I first arrived at Thayer, I was planning to focus mostly on manufacturing and mechanical engineering and I didn’t really appreciate the importance of electrical engineering. But during my first year, I needed to design an electrical power system for a group project and I had no idea where to start. Professor Sullivan didn’t hesitate to help when I walked into his office and asked for advice. After that term was over, I realized I couldn’t afford to ignore electrical engineering if I wanted to be a good engineer, so I made sure to add as many electrical classes as I could for my remaining semesters. Professor Sullivan taught three of them, and I while they weren’t the best-graded classes I ever took, they were the most productive in terms of vital knowledge gaps closed. And in each of them, Professor Sullivan was patient and uncompromising with his standards of rigor.
—Max Fagin Th’11

Karl Griswold was a great academic advisor, capstone project advisor, and teacher. I love that he assigned innovative homework, such as paper reviews, which made us practice skills that were not directly about the topic of the class, but would still help us in our engineering careers.
—Sharang Biswas ’12 Th’13

I had so many memorable professors from Thayer, but I would have to say the two who stand out are Professor Doug Van Citters and Professor Jifeng Liu—both of whom have tenure! D.V.C. has been an incredible mentor to me for the past six years, even outside of Thayer. I enjoyed his teaching so much that I took all five of the classes that he taught (the engineering design process sequence, dynamics, biomaterials, and solids). He was instrumental in shepherding my decision to go to grad school, where I am currently a fourth-year in applied physics at Harvard. This summer, during the Thayer 150th reunion, I made a point to go back and visit D.V.C., particularly for his advice on organizing and teaching an engineering summer school course I designed through Harvard’s pre-college program. I took his advice, which was immensely helpful throughout the course. Jifeng Liu remains an inspiration to me, particularly through all of the work that I have done with him. He advised both my undergraduate and my master’s theses, which were my top academic accomplishments at Dartmouth. I still smile when I remember how every time I would enter his office feeling stuck in my research, his inquisitiveness and scientific perspectives had me exiting feeling as though I’d just made a scientific discovery. I took both his materials science and nanomaterials courses and continue to stay in touch with him personally and academically. For both of these professors, I thoroughly enjoy checking in on them and their families whenever I have the opportunity to venture back to the north.
—Drew Wong ’12 Th’14

My favorite professor at Thayer is “Doc,” Professor Eugene Santos Jr. His reading classes and seminars were very enlightening. Discussions with Doc were always very exciting. Doc’s lectures are well designed. He asked us a lot of questions during lecture and used our answers to move forward. I still remember the excitement of attending his lecture every week. I started studying about machine learning in his class, found it interesting, and eventually started a career out of it.
—June Shangguan ’13 Th’13

My favorite professor was Simon Shepherd (I ended up working as a teaching assistant for him my last two years). I found him engaging in class and very approachable outside of class. His classes were what actually got me to consider software engineering as a career! Here I am, three years later, a software engineer for BAE Systems in Boston.
—Kendall Farnham ’14 Th’14

I’d have to say Sol Diamond. I remember him being very professional and kind and having a keen and contagious interest in the topics he was teaching. I also briefly met him during Dimensions and he encouraged me to study engineering when I got to Dartmouth the following fall.
—Evan Landau ’15

Professor Sol Diamond was an incredible professor and mentor. His classes combined engaging design projects with engineering principles and skills, leading to some spectacular experimentation and novel mechanical creations.
—Anna Miller ’16 Th’17

Professor Vicki May was one of my favorite professors at Dartmouth, and her structural analysis course was one of Thayer’s best. Vicki was an incredible professor and quickly got to know each student by name, so it felt like a very personal experience throughout. She explained every concept with as much humor as she did clarity, and always walked through specific examples in class—an otherwise underrated but profoundly helpful use of class time! Designing and building a children’s playhouse from wood in the latter half of the term was a great way to meet other students and learn engineering from an enjoyable, hands-on perspective.
—Matt Rossi ’16 Th’17

My favorite professor while I was at Thayer was Dr. Cushman-Roisin. He really involved us in the practical application of environmental engineering and organized field trips to see engineering in action. Outside of the classroom, his open-door policy removed the barrier for asking questions on homework, career choices, and life in general. His compassion for students was visible in his attitude towards the students every day.
—Mariette van der Wegen Th’17

Categories: Alumni News, Just One Question

Tags: alumni, curriculum, faculty, history, students

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