Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Paul Sanders

Paul Sanders
Paul Sanders

College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan has selected Professor Paul Sanders of the Materials Science and Engineering Department for this week’s Dean’s Teaching Showcase. Sanders coordinates MSE’s curriculum-critical capstone design course sequence, as well as the pre-capstone preparation course. Callahan notes, “Dr. Sanders has built MSE’s capstone program into a highly effective sequence that not only teaches critical design skills, but prepares his students to become highly sought-after employees.”

A six-sigma black belt engineer during his prior association with Ford Motor Co, Sanders has developed this sequence into a professionally-relevant, and sustaining experience for the department and its students. Subjects and approaches included in the MSE student preparatory course and later in capstone projects include hypothesis development, simulation and prediction, designed experiments, laboratory experiences, measurement system analysis, analysis of results, and communication skills. The amount of personal contact time and dedication that he provides the students far exceeds that which is normally expected or expended on coursework. He remains active and dedicated to its continuous improvement. In addition to and in support of these classroom duties, Sanders has been successful in securing 100% sponsorship of all capstone projects since he began leading these courses in 2010.

Sanders’ reputation as an effective and innovative educator is well known across the discipline and external to Michigan Tech. Michigan Tech’s MSE senior design teams have placed in the ASM International Undergraduate Design Competition in eight of the last nine years, taking first place in the last three; this level of success is unmatched by any other university nationwide in this international competition that began in 2008. Not surprisingly, yearly assessment and feedback from project sponsors and MSE’s external advisory board (EAB) underscore the relevance of his classroom activities to the duties of a practicing engineers, and the edge that these courses give our students. Tied to this success, Sanders delivered an invited presentation in the Materials Design Symposium at a TMS conference to summarize the successful implementation of the implementation of Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME; aka the “digitalization” of MSE via the federally-advocated Materials Genome Initiative) into an undergraduate curriculum, for which Michigan Tech has been recognized as a leading example and model program.

To make his accomplishments in the classroom all the more significant and impressive, Dr. Sanders is one of Michigan Tech’s most prolific and creative researchers. He holds the Patrick Horvath Endowed Professorship of Materials Science and Engineering, and leads and supports a large, externally funded research team; typically comprised of about 8 graduate students, several undergraduate interns and co-op engineers, and four technical staff members. His research focuses on alloy development, and in particular on alloy design using computational simulation which is followed up with subsequent processing, calibration, and optimization in MSE’s materials processing facilities.

MSE Department Chair Steve Kampe said, “Paul is an amazingly dedicated teacher and an effective mentor to our students at this formative and defining time in their educational experience at Michigan Tech. He is really able to capture and nurture the essence of what makes Michigan Tech students unique and valued as engineers and scientists.”

Sanders will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

By Michael R. Meyer, Director William G. Jackson CTL.

Written by Stephen Kampe, Department Chair, Materials, Sciences and Engineering


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