The weight of touch: Professor Susan Mantell creates innovation through hands-on experiences

Susan Mantell's undergraduate students might have calluses on their hands…but not from note-taking. The mechanical engineering professor creates an environment where tinkering, constructing, and dissecting are at the core of learning.

In fact, she has become a pioneer in designing hands-on curriculum for her students. She does it in a manner that "masterfully strikes a balance between inspiring the students’ creativity and innovation while reinforcing the rigor of engineering design," according to a colleague.

Despite the complex nature of engineering concepts, she is able to distill theory and ideas into challenging but digestible coursework. She has a "very clear, understandable, and easy to follow method of teaching," says one student, adding, "…she seemed to really enjoy teaching and helping her students learn."

“I feel compelled to ensure that students have opportunities to touch things, take them apart, to make something work and to analyze failure. It is through these types of experiences that we can train our students as lifelong learners.”

Outside the classroom, she has an intense personal dedication to mentoring and advising. One colleague remarks that Mantell sometimes meets with so many students, the line outside her office blocks department hallways! A former student, now a medical device engineer, recalls that she always strove to find "ways to forge strong connections with her students and to provide the best learning experiences."

Without a doubt, Mantell has strengthened student education in her department. From redesigning the teaching assistant program, to advocating for student lab space and equipment, and to being a role model for female engineers, her pioneering methods are building tomorrow’s innovators.