Inspiring Ideas: College of Engineering
Innovative teaching. Encouraging demeanor. A passion for the subject. Contagious enthusiasm. All of these traits help inspire students to great ideas. Here are two faculty members from the College of Engineering whose teaching, research and community service are both inspired and inspiring.
This is why Chris Cherry chose transportation engineering as his life’s work.
“Transportation engineering really is something that impacts everyone daily,” said Cherry. “It is also quite complex as it deals almost exclusively with human behavior and decision making.”
Cherry, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, is responsible for launching the nation’s first automated e-bike sharing system on UT’s campus. Called CycleUShare, it is a research and education project he works on with students.
“The electric bicycle sharing project has really required us to think outside the box and come up with some creative solutions,” said Casey Langford, a doctoral student. ”Dr. Cherry has been very hands-on with the project and has put in several long nights working with me and the other students in the lab, which really inspires us to work just as hard.”
Dayakar Penumadu, department head, said UT is “fortunate to have Dr. Cherry on our faculty addressing the nexus between novel transportation technologies, including e-bikes, energy, and public health. He is very passionate about making the UT campus amenable to green transportation.”
Cherry also has published multiple studies that have garnered international attention from media outlets such as US News and World Report, Time, and the Wall Street Journal.
Cherry hopes his research will influence transportation policy toward technologies and systems that encourage effective and efficient use of the world’s scarce resources.
He said he’s trying to inspire his students so they will have an impact on the future.
“We have serious problems related to our transportation and we need professionals that are serious and creative about addressing the problems,” he said. “Many of these problems are new, some are old, all have big impacts, and I try to inspire my students by showing them how much room there is to improve the well-being of so many people.”
Lynne Parker, professor and associate head in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, does this in her own research. And she urges her students to do the same.
“Do we presume something can or can’t be done, just because most people presume it is that way?” said Parker. “I try to inspire students to see if revolutionary new ideas can result.”
Hao Zhang, a doctoral student, said Parker constantly challenges his work and helps him find the missing links in his ideas.
“Dr. Parker helps me analyze the pros and cons and suggests real-world applications to use my methods,” said Zhang. “Most importantly, she changes my way of thinking and always instructs me to think critically.”
Parker is a leading researcher in the field of distributed multirobot systems.
Parker’s work involves developing robots that are able to perform society’s most mundane and challenging tasks.
“Robots could help us around the house or the office, so that we can be more productive,” she said.
One ongoing project in Parker’s lab is training a robot to teach life skills to adults with learning disabilities. She and her students are working with the robot so that it can visually recognize the activity of the human, determine whether the activity is correctly producing the required skill, and provide the appropriate feedback to the human.
Parker is also a faculty mentor with her department’s STARS (Students and Technology in Academia, Research, and Service) student mentoring program. The program matches student volunteers with introductory computing students to help them become more comfortable with computing capabilities.
C O N T A C T :
Whitney Heins (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)