Last academic year was the beginning of a number of experiments. We hired a new faculty member (Deborah Sunter will join us in Fall of 2018) and new staff in the department (Pat Fennessy to assist the faculty and Briana Bouchard, E14, to assist the students). We had exceptional success in bringing in new funding, with another NSF CAREER award and almost half of the dollars we requested. We started brainstorming how to completely rethink the undergraduate curriculum to better reflect the tools and skill sets needed for a modern engineer. They have changed substantially since my youth, where the drafting board and calculator were in charge (that is right—I am too young for the slide rule). Changing the undergraduate curriculum will be a multi-year endeavor and will hopefully culminate in a degree that's even more useful for all our students.
From an organizational viewpoint, our biggest experiment was hiring our first academic coordinator, a person whose job it is to ensure the students have as good an experience as possible. This is a new position at Tufts, and we were lucky to hire Briana. She makes sure all students graduate, nudges them to go in new directions, and supports our various student groups. Having been an undergraduate in our department, Briana knows all of the strengths and challenges of the department and has been instrumental in starting to change how we do business, from class offerings to an entirely new advising software.
Another interesting experiment has been to increase the upper-level offerings from outside instructors. We have a number of experts from Boston-area companies teaching new classes, from socially responsible design and entrepreneurship to aircraft design and prosthetics. We have new materials classes, vibrations classes, and even a new class on autonomous cars. My long-term goal is to provide students with a mix of traditional courses taught by permanent faculty and targeted courses taught by practicing engineers.
Professor & Chair
Department of Mechanical Engineering