As a college professor, my main objective is to help aspiring students achieve the best knowledge and become professionals and leaders in the science and industry fields.
I have to admit that the first time (more than 10 years ago) when I walked into a classroom as a teacher I thought teaching consisted mostly of delivering content. I concentrated more on my teaching style rather than my students’ learning styles, and it never crossed my mind to look for more effective methods of instruction – let alone develop new instructional techniques. After years spent in class I believe a good professor never stops searching for new instructional methods and technology that could improve student understanding of the concepts. Currently I am involved in a General Education seminar held at NYCCT. I am continuously brainstorming on what new technology should be used in class such that students get the most of class. As a matter of fact I was just thinking recently about the opportunity of using a hologram system in the class. This system could be very successfully used in Engineering, Physics, Nursing and many other programs to show 3D exploded images of engines, 3D images of electric and magnetic fields, of a tooth or any organ in the body, and many more.
An important method for students to become aware of their learning is the interaction with their teacher and effective team work with his/her own colleagues. I always have had an open door policy allowing my students to come and ask questions anytime. As a matter of fact I have students writing me email messages at 11pm on Saturday night and by 1am or 8am next day they get an answer. I encourage my students to ask questions and have a dialog with me without the fear one might have of a superior authority. By asking the students to call me by my first name Viviana (even thou many of them still refer to me as Prof Vladutescu) I believe I help them cross many barriers between them and me. I remember one semester I failed a student in my Circuit Analysis class for not submitting his work and not passing the exams. The following semester when I saw he registered again in my class I couldn’t resist asking him if he was not afraid of fail again. Here was his answer: “Unfortunately I took too many classes at once and was under pressure from other courses and also had to withdraw from two courses in order to succeed in the others. I am currently registered in Circuit Analysis 2 once again with you, due to your motivation, dedication and knowledge of the subject area.” This gave me a very strong feeling of accomplishment as a professor.
I believe my capability to capture students attention with the inquisitive nature of science and engineering and to share with them my passion for the discipline is very important for me to become the best teacher I can be. Beyond nurturing an environment of interest, I do my best to provide a structured and organized classroom that stands as an example for each student. I provide students with clear notes posted on the Blackboard, I use both power point presentation and the white or blackboard, I explain my students in detail what is expected from them and make sure they understand that my office is always open for them (as mentioned earlier I never work with my doors closed and I am very glad when students show interest in what was covered in the class asking me to help them anytime during or outside my office hours). I work with my students both one on one and within group settings. As a method to gauge progress, I incorporate assignments that test the boundaries of students’ knowledge. I also integrate projects that further students understanding of science as a profession. I teach my students to become independent and learn how to teach themselves outside the classroom as students and as professionals in their future careers. My students learn how to become continuous learners and question their surroundings on continuous basis.
Over the years I have been teaching many courses at several CUNY campuses like NYCCT, CCNY, LAGCC. Teaching these courses involved lecturing and preparing the material for class, as well as guiding the students through advanced complex vectors, Maxwell’s equations, boundary conditions, wave equation, uniform plane waves, polarization, propagation in lossless and lossy media, Poynting vector, reflection and transmission of waves at normal and oblique incidence, transmission lines (propagation, Smith Chart, transients) and topics in waves. Students in my classes were also introduced into the physical principles behind materials and the interactions with each other, the construction of electronic components and systems along with their applications, building and understanding electric circuits and apply their knowledge in laboratory settings. Teaching the different laboratories involved the supervision of experiments performed by the students, test instruments, virtual instruments and computer instrumentation, electric and electronic circuits. The topics covered were transient and frequency response, logic circuits, discrete circuits, operational amplifiers etc. In these labs students developed an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice; competence in computational and simulation too. As a laboratory instructor, I had the chance to work in an environment that can provide the perfect opportunity for “hands on”, inquiry-based learning. Labs can incorporate student involvement in every aspect, provide the opportunity for team work and group learning. By working in teams, students are no longer isolated in the learning process; they interact with each other as both mentor and mentee in a smaller, more personal setting in which fears of mistakes or failure can be minimized. I encourage the students to actively participate in learning, inquiry-based approaches to new concepts, and teaching others. These are all critical components of the learning process and apply knowledge in a way that stimulates critical thinking.
Since good scientists must also be good communicators, I stress the importance of writing in any laboratory courses I teach. I favor the use of research reports as a way of monitoring student progress in lab, and believe that students learn writing skills best when they are given the opportunity to correct mistakes and address criticisms before being assigned a final grade. Therefore I always allow students to submit their papers to me for review before turning them in for a final grade (if they do not resubmit they get their initial grade). I also divide my students into small groups in the middle of the semester. I challenge the groups with in-class assignments in the form of questions or problems that require them to share and apply knowledge or skills recently acquired or stimulate them to consider critically topics that I am about to introduce in lecture. In addition I make assignments at the individual level to enable me to effectively monitor each student’s progress. I include as well short in-class assignments for each major topic, some of which are graded. In all of my classes students have to submit end of term projects in both oral and written form. The students deliver their presentations as teams in front of their classmates and others if interested to attend.
The world of science is ever changing as new discoveries expose unforeseen facets of the world or alter existing concepts (see the discovery of photons at the beginning of the last century) and this is the reason why I am a true believer in continuing education. I take advantage off all opportunities to enlarge my knowledge in my field by participating in as many conferences, conventions, workshops and seminars as my time and budget allow. At the different national and international conferences I attend I present my research and attend courses related to my research interests. For example during the SPIE Defense and Security Systems I attended the Sensor and Data Fusion course delivered by Lawrence A. Klein. I also keep up with the new discoveries in my field by reviewing journal and grant applications. I myself submit my work for review to peer reviewed journals. However, this investigative dimension of science is rarely exposed to the undergraduate student. I believe this discrepancy prevents students from developing into scientists. Since I believe college is a place to challenge students and force them to achieve their potential, while providing all of the tools necessary to do so, I am putting in all my efforts to make sure that my students are not only involved in course work but also in research. I encourage them to try to understand the concepts taught in the course as applications in the real world by involving them in research. Considering this, my ambition was to engage my students in the research process with me or other professors at NYCCT, CCNY or outside institutions and encourage my students to present their findings to conferences within and outside the college. I also do my best to introduce the students to various internship opportunities. My mentored students have been accepted in internships programs at Brookhaven National Lab, Fermi Lab, Mid Infrared Technology Program at Princeton University, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Studies at CU, Boulder, Colorado and not only. I am very serious when saying that I always get very excited when my students write and tell me: “Hi Professor, I also have got accepted in this one (internship)!” THEIR SUCCESS IS MY SUCCESS! As I wanted to set up an example I myself started getting involved in research at Brookhaven National Laboratories within the Environmental Science Department where I have been already working for 2 summers (2010 and 2011) on optical instruments for measurements of physical, chemical and optical properties of aerosols. I believe that by showing students how to answer their own questions about science through experimentation, they are shown how to continue a lifetime of learning like I do too. For students to be able to join me in this adventure and be up to date with the latest technologies in electrical engineering and in particular sensors and their applications in remote sensing, knowledge in the field of Remote Sensing is required. Guided by this I developed 3 new courses: Sensors and Instruments, Remote Sensing and Remote Sensing (Special Topics).
In conclusion I can say I feel a strong conviction about myself as a teacher making a difference in the life of a student each and every day. I have worked with students at all levels and from various ethnic groups during the past years. It was and continues to be a rewarding experience and that is why I consider an academic career is most fulfilling.