Melissa Moss

Mungo undergraduate teaching award winner: Melissa Moss

Professor combines engineering theory, hands-on learning in the classroom

Melissa Moss
Professor, chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, College of Engineering and Computing; South Carolina Honors College Pearce Faculty Fellow
Ph.D., chemical engineering, University of Kentucky, 2000
Postdoctoral associate, Mayo Clinic School of Medicine
2021 Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award
Joined UofSC faculty, 2004

One professor, in particular, I remember for his excitement in the classroom. It was infectious. There's a question on the student evaluation bubble sheets that says, ‘Was the professor enthusiastic about the subject?’ I always like to make a good score on that one, because it reminds me of him.

In an engineering class, you can teach students theory, but they need an example to understand how you approach the calculation. For many, many years I had students say, ‘We're not doing enough examples.’ So, I created an online platform for examples. On the first day of class, I put the students into groups; then each week I post a problem for them to work out on Blackboard. Groups rotate to post an answer, and then all the other groups have to comment on the solution. It gives the students a venue to learn from each other and me a venue to give more examples without using class time or piling on more homework. The students seem to really like it. A year or two ago, I stopped getting the ‘We need to do more examples,’ comment, so I feel like I took this student input and changed something about what I was doing to make the class better.

One student who had worked in my lab called me on his way home from work one day to thank me for making him present every week in our lab group meeting. He worked for Savannah River National Laboratory, and he had a communication skills workshop that day. He said they were using him as an example all day because he had such strong communication skills. He really felt it was a result of his many presentations to the lab group.

I went through an engineering program in the ‘90s and what I love to see now is there are so many more women in engineering. I taught an honors class three years ago that had 14 women and one man. When I was in school, there were about four girls in my class of 50. But now, the classes I'm teaching are at least 50 percent women. It's really satisfying to see that.

I think two things are important to be a teacher. First, you must be organized in how you present information to students. Students are more confident when they can see the material clearly laid out, both in an individual lecture and in the course as a whole. The second is to take the time to get to know the students. If the students have good rapport with you, they feel more comfortable asking questions. And that gives you a chance to get the information across to them. Plus, interacting with students on an individual basis is what makes my job fun.

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