Learning

Overview

At Purdue, each faculty member, and in broader terms, each laboratory, focus their efforts on learning, discovery, and engagement. In the past, these were often referred to as teaching, research, and service, respectively. Either way, they represent the positive outcomes of our efforts. In the H.I.R.R.T. laboratory, learning takes the form of courses, textbook development, workshops and seminars.

Dr. Nauman has taught a number of different courses. He specializes in undergraduate mechanics – Basic Mechanics I (Statics and Particle Dynamics) and II (Dynamics), and Honors courses like Engineering Disasters, Multiphysics Modeling, Toy Design, Systems Thinking, ┬áthe History of Great Ideas, and Toy Design. It should be noted that he also enjoys teaching graduate courses like Human Motion Kinetics (Collisions and Human Injury at Tulane), Biomedical Fluid Dynamics, Continuum Models, Stem Cells for Tissue Engineering, Biophysics, and once – Structure-Function Relationships in Biological Tissues.

Some of our graduate students have participated in a teaching fellowship program, earning valuable experience and high marks for teaching. Beth Galle was the first, teaching Basic Mechanics I and Thermodynamics I. Douglas Cook followed, also teaching Basic Mechanics I. Monica Susilo is the most recent Lambert Fellow, having taught Basic Mechanics II and Mechanics of Materials.

Advice for Prospective Graduate Students (Hopefully relevant no matter where you choose to go to school)

Whenever we visit with prospective graduate students, I want to ask them what their plans are when the graduate. I recognize it’s not really a fair question because my ideas of what I wanted to do changed every year or so while I was in graduate school.┬áNevertheless it is a good thing to consider – and to consider repeatedly before you choose a school and while you’re there.

The first thing is that most advisors would be very happy to have you take the minimum number of courses, focusing primarily on research and writing papers. The thing that you have to be careful of is that, when you graduate, you will really only know the things that go on in your laboratory. I’ve seen that a lot and it is disheartening to talk to somebody about cartilage biomechanics who doesn’t know anything about bone, ligaments, or some of the advanced topics in continuum mechanics. It necessarily limits what you can do afterwards. You might be okay going to industry, but it will be very difficult to make the transition to a faculty position.

Consequently, I push all my Ph.D. students to define a major area. It doesn’t have to be anything official. Some students in my laboratory choose solid mechanics, some choose biophysics or numerical methods. The key is that they take 5-7 classes in an area and get to see the whole field. Then they are experts, not only in their specific research area, but in the broader realm of their field. When I was a student my area was continuum mechanics and I got to study nonlinear elasticity, thermodynamics, plasticity, and mixture theory. This became my primary area of expertise and is why my primary appointment is in Mechanical Engineering here at Purdue.

Then I encourage them to get 2 minors (2-3 classes each). Those minors are going to be the things that help them take their research in a new direction after they graduate. When I was a student, my minors were math and dynamics (although I took some interesting biomechanics courses too). Both have helped tremendously and allowed us to push in new directions, especially with the head injury work and the cancer research.

For Masters students, my advice is the same but you might not get to focus as many classes on your major and you might just choose one minor. Either way, it is a good way to choose courses.