What directed you to a career as an engineering educator?

Being an engineering educator is a very interesting and highly rewarding career path. Through the years, I developed a passion for various areas of electromagnetics, including antennas and microwaves, as well as circuits and image processing. I enjoy explaining challenging concepts in ways that will be comprehended by students with various backgrounds. I also want to motivate students to be interested in “why” things happen and “how” things work, versus memorizing and taking things for granted without getting down to the fundamentals. As an educator, I have the opportunity to live and work in a dynamic environment full of young driven people who help me become a better teacher year after year. I have always acknowledged the fact that knowledge cannot be static and the importance of knowledge transfer. Knowledge is dynamic, continuously evolving, and should be transferred from generation to generation to help improve our world, our quality of living. I also had many good and motivating teachers throughout my education (starting from the very early years), and there were other factors too, like my fascination for math and physics as a child and maybe the fact that I came from a family of engineers that transmitted to me a passion for this field of work. Everything and everyone played their role, until I eventually saw myself as the kind of person who could transfer to the students, not only the technical knowledge but also the excitement and fascination I felt for engineering subjects.  

What qualities do your students and colleagues most admire about you as an educator?

Most of my students find me energetic, engaging, and effective in explaining complicated concepts and engineering topics. I teach utilizing equally the blackboard and the projector, as I have found this to be the very effective and it adheres to both auditory and visual types of students, note takers and observers. Students prefer to see what they hear and often find informative a related graph or plot. My door is always open and students who come to ask questions don’t leave until they have fully comprehended the matter in question. When it comes to research, I also tend to be passionate and persistent, especially when I know that what we are trying to achieve, can be accomplished. I hope that my colleagues see in me a pleasant collaborator who is hard working, rational, ethical, and a positive thinker. I believe my colleagues find me easy to work with, and eager to exchange ideas and technical knowledge on issues relating not only to my field but also to multidisciplinary projects.

Engineering is a notoriously rigorous field of study. What do you do to encourage talented students to persist through graduation?

In engineering there are concepts that need longer amounts of time to be fully absorbed by our brains and this can be discouraging for many. I try to show students the beauty of putting knowledge into practical use, and of making a difference with the results of their work. Often students find a problem difficult. I usually tell them there are no difficult or easy problems. ‘Difficult’ problems are the ones we do not know how to solve while easy are the ones we do. The university curriculum is designed so that they can have an idea of how to address almost any problem they will meet in their career, even the ones they have never seen before, because they will have been taught the fundamental mechanism that governs these problems and they will know how to think. The benefits of persisting through education and being able to solve these ‘difficult’ problems are numerous: (a) Most importantly, a job that is interesting and challenging where one not only does not get bored but also feels the joy of creativity by accomplishing given tasks and producing meaningful products, (b) a secure job where the engineers’ know-how makes them critical and irreplaceable members of a company or team, (c) a good salary, depending on how far they continue in their education (and approximately one to three million dollars more in lifetime income than an average high-school graduate), and (d) the possibility of opening their own tech company one day, are some of the things that most students find appealing.

What are the most important engineering habits of mind you feel it is your responsibility to pass on to your students? In general, how do you mentor and guide students?

I find the ability to learn how to think, one of the most important engineering habit. Breaking down a problem into subtasks and tackling each one individually, while keeping in mind the overarching goal, is a major engineering habit and I feel responsible for passing it on to my students.  I also try to pass on the mentality of an inquisitive mind and a love for life-long learning.  Do not rely on a computer for everything. Use logic and scientific evidence to evaluate the correctness of the obtained results. We might need to think in one dimension, two dimensions or even three dimensions. For example, in circuits we learn to look at a two-dimensional problem such as a circuit schematic, and then solve it in one dimension such as time-domain or frequency-domain. In our research field that relates to antennas and radiation, we must think in three dimensions, and look at antennas as radiating elements in space. This is not always easy and requires learning how to think in different ways and a lot of patience, persistence and a clear mind.
I respect every question and encourage students to ask questions in general. I also try to explain to them that ‘black boxes’ (like computer software and calculators) can give answers to many problems, but can also give erroneous results either due to human error, modeling error, or even coding bugs, because they do not have a mechanism to evaluate the correctness and the physical interpretation of a numerical result. We need to be able to understand if these results are correct or not, if the parameters of the problems were setup correctly and the program was used as the instructions say. I always want students to assume that their software or their calculators give them the wrong answer, and to try to validate the correctness of the results by understanding the physical principles behind their particular design or problem. I feel an engineer should have also the mentality of triple-checking for errors. A wrong decimal can burn a circuit, as it can make a bridge fall down.
Of course I work a lot with graduate students too, and I try to provide guidance in improving their oral and written communication skills, research tasks and career mentoring. Students know they can come to me for anything they need, and that I will respond to their need with the proper attention and care they deserve. It may not sound like much, but it can make a difference for someone. 

How do you keep up with the changing demands of the employers of your students? 

I have embraced and fully enjoy the lifestyle of continuous education and lifelong learning. I have no choice but to remain involved with research and stay abreast with the latest developments by continuously reading scientific magazines, published articles, new textbooks, newsletters (including the ASEE newsletter every day), and attending conferences. Research helps me keep up with the latest developments, since most research projects are funded by the government or private organizations that are potential employers for our students. I transfer relevant developments to students in my lectures and discussions. This also enables students to conduct state-of-the-art research and become more competitive and marketable upon graduation.

Engineering faculty members are often described as being either good teachers or good researchers. What are the challenges of being good in both, and how do you manage those challenges? Where are your particular strengths in this regard?

Many argue that maintaining an active research program takes away from good teaching. I believe that in engineering the best teachers also prove to be some of the best researchers. Besides, as an advisor for MSc and PhDs students, it is vital to remain involved and stay informed of the latest developments.
Time constrain is of course a challenge when trying to be excellent in both teaching and researching. Another challenge is our ability to focus. There are just too many distractions in the modern work environment, and continuous slots for uninterrupted focus can be hard to find. I try to follow the best time management practices, by setting specific goals and time frames to achieve them, but am also careful and try to reach the desired depth for each objective. I often incorporate the latest research findings into my teaching, while research educates me how to teach a concept better. Both teaching and research are important, and overall I find them to be complementary of each other.

What resources does ASEE provide to help you do your job better?

I find very useful and interesting the daily ASEE newsletter. I also read various articles from the Prism magazine, and occasionally from the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE). A great opportunity was also the ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship program through which I was able to work on an interesting research project during one Summer. This project has sparked several ideas in the area of antennas that we will explore in the future.

What is the best benefit of being an ASEE member?

I believe access to the above resources is a great benefit for ASEE members and for all engineering educators in general. I have not had the time to explore other opportunities through ASEE, unfortunately, because in the past 3 years my research and teaching activities have taken up most of my time.

How can ASEE better serve you (and the larger engineering education community)?

It would be nice to have a way to connect with other members and working engineers from the same subject and/or the same geographic area, and to stay in touch with the latest state of the art. Also, another idea would be to offer more SFFP opportunities. I believe ASEE could help the community by providing example videos of different lecturing styles, and by posting more job openings. This would also increase the number of visitors to the ASEE website.

What are a few things you enjoy outside of work - things that make you, you?

Outside of work, I love spending time and having a good discussion with my family and friends, and I enjoy playing non-competitive soccer with friends, and outdoor activities like hiking and cycling. I also enjoy listening to music and mixing songs, and am a proud owner of a large vinyl record collection dating back to the ‘80s and of an old (vintage) computer, my first PC which was a 1984 Sinclair ZX Spectrum+ (still fully functioning) that gave me thrills and excitements that I did not find in the many PCs that followed. 

What directed you to a career as an engineering educator?

Being an engineering educator is a very interesting and highly rewarding career path. Through the years, I developed a passion for various areas of electromagnetics, including antennas and microwaves, as well as circuits and image processing. I enjoy explaining challenging concepts in ways that will be comprehended by students with various backgrounds. I also want to motivate students to be interested in “why” things happen and “how” things work, versus memorizing and taking things for granted without getting down to the fundamentals. As an educator, I have the opportunity to live and work in a dynamic environment full of young driven people who help me become a better teacher year after year. I have always acknowledged the fact that knowledge cannot be static and the importance of knowledge transfer. Knowledge is dynamic, continuously evolving, and should be transferred from generation to generation to help improve our world, our quality of living. I also had many good and motivating teachers throughout my education (starting from the very early years), and there were other factors too, like my fascination for math and physics as a child and maybe the fact that I came from a family of engineers that transmitted to me a passion for this field of work. Everything and everyone played their role, until I eventually saw myself as the kind of person who could transfer to the students, not only the technical knowledge but also the excitement and fascination I felt for engineering subjects.  

What qualities do your students and colleagues most admire about you as an educator?

Most of my students find me energetic, engaging, and effective in explaining complicated concepts and engineering topics. I teach utilizing equally the blackboard and the projector, as I have found this to be the very effective and it adheres to both auditory and visual types of students, note takers and observers. Students prefer to see what they hear and often find informative a related graph or plot. My door is always open and students who come to ask questions don’t leave until they have fully comprehended the matter in question. When it comes to research, I also tend to be passionate and persistent, especially when I know that what we are trying to achieve, can be accomplished. I hope that my colleagues see in me a pleasant collaborator who is hard working, rational, ethical, and a positive thinker. I believe my colleagues find me easy to work with, and eager to exchange ideas and technical knowledge on issues relating not only to my field but also to multidisciplinary projects.

Engineering is a notoriously rigorous field of study. What do you do to encourage talented students to persist through graduation?

In engineering there are concepts that need longer amounts of time to be fully absorbed by our brains and this can be discouraging for many. I try to show students the beauty of putting knowledge into practical use, and of making a difference with the results of their work. Often students find a problem difficult. I usually tell them there are no difficult or easy problems. ‘Difficult’ problems are the ones we do not know how to solve while easy are the ones we do. The university curriculum is designed so that they can have an idea of how to address almost any problem they will meet in their career, even the ones they have never seen before, because they will have been taught the fundamental mechanism that governs these problems and they will know how to think. The benefits of persisting through education and being able to solve these ‘difficult’ problems are numerous: (a) Most importantly, a job that is interesting and challenging where one not only does not get bored but also feels the joy of creativity by accomplishing given tasks and producing meaningful products, (b) a secure job where the engineers’ know-how makes them critical and irreplaceable members of a company or team, (c) a good salary, depending on how far they continue in their education (and approximately one to three million dollars more in lifetime income than an average high-school graduate), and (d) the possibility of opening their own tech company one day, are some of the things that most students find appealing.

What are the most important engineering habits of mind you feel it is your responsibility to pass on to your students? In general, how do you mentor and guide students?

I find the ability to learn how to think, one of the most important engineering habit. Breaking down a problem into subtasks and tackling each one individually, while keeping in mind the overarching goal, is a major engineering habit and I feel responsible for passing it on to my students.  I also try to pass on the mentality of an inquisitive mind and a love for life-long learning.  Do not rely on a computer for everything. Use logic and scientific evidence to evaluate the correctness of the obtained results. We might need to think in one dimension, two dimensions or even three dimensions. For example, in circuits we learn to look at a two-dimensional problem such as a circuit schematic, and then solve it in one dimension such as time-domain or frequency-domain. In our research field that relates to antennas and radiation, we must think in three dimensions, and look at antennas as radiating elements in space. This is not always easy and requires learning how to think in different ways and a lot of patience, persistence and a clear mind.
I respect every question and encourage students to ask questions in general. I also try to explain to them that ‘black boxes’ (like computer software and calculators) can give answers to many problems, but can also give erroneous results either due to human error, modeling error, or even coding bugs, because they do not have a mechanism to evaluate the correctness and the physical interpretation of a numerical result. We need to be able to understand if these results are correct or not, if the parameters of the problems were setup correctly and the program was used as the instructions say. I always want students to assume that their software or their calculators give them the wrong answer, and to try to validate the correctness of the results by understanding the physical principles behind their particular design or problem. I feel an engineer should have also the mentality of triple-checking for errors. A wrong decimal can burn a circuit, as it can make a bridge fall down.
Of course I work a lot with graduate students too, and I try to provide guidance in improving their oral and written communication skills, research tasks and career mentoring. Students know they can come to me for anything they need, and that I will respond to their need with the proper attention and care they deserve. It may not sound like much, but it can make a difference for someone. 

How do you keep up with the changing demands of the employers of your students? 

I have embraced and fully enjoy the lifestyle of continuous education and lifelong learning. I have no choice but to remain involved with research and stay abreast with the latest developments by continuously reading scientific magazines, published articles, new textbooks, newsletters (including the ASEE newsletter every day), and attending conferences. Research helps me keep up with the latest developments, since most research projects are funded by the government or private organizations that are potential employers for our students. I transfer relevant developments to students in my lectures and discussions. This also enables students to conduct state-of-the-art research and become more competitive and marketable upon graduation.

Engineering faculty members are often described as being either good teachers or good researchers. What are the challenges of being good in both, and how do you manage those challenges? Where are your particular strengths in this regard?

Many argue that maintaining an active research program takes away from good teaching. I believe that in engineering the best teachers also prove to be some of the best researchers. Besides, as an advisor for MSc and PhDs students, it is vital to remain involved and stay informed of the latest developments.
Time constrain is of course a challenge when trying to be excellent in both teaching and researching. Another challenge is our ability to focus. There are just too many distractions in the modern work environment, and continuous slots for uninterrupted focus can be hard to find. I try to follow the best time management practices, by setting specific goals and time frames to achieve them, but am also careful and try to reach the desired depth for each objective. I often incorporate the latest research findings into my teaching, while research educates me how to teach a concept better. Both teaching and research are important, and overall I find them to be complementary of each other.

What resources does ASEE provide to help you do your job better?

I find very useful and interesting the daily ASEE newsletter. I also read various articles from the Prism magazine, and occasionally from the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE). A great opportunity was also the ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship program through which I was able to work on an interesting research project during one Summer. This project has sparked several ideas in the area of antennas that we will explore in the future.

What is the best benefit of being an ASEE member?

I believe access to the above resources is a great benefit for ASEE members and for all engineering educators in general. I have not had the time to explore other opportunities through ASEE, unfortunately, because in the past 3 years my research and teaching activities have taken up most of my time.

How can ASEE better serve you (and the larger engineering education community)?

It would be nice to have a way to connect with other members and working engineers from the same subject and/or the same geographic area, and to stay in touch with the latest state of the art. Also, another idea would be to offer more SFFP opportunities. I believe ASEE could help the community by providing example videos of different lecturing styles, and by posting more job openings. This would also increase the number of visitors to the ASEE website.

What are a few things you enjoy outside of work - things that make you, you?

Outside of work, I love spending time and having a good discussion with my family and friends, and I enjoy playing non-competitive soccer with friends, and outdoor activities like hiking and cycling. I also enjoy listening to music and mixing songs, and am a proud owner of a large vinyl record collection dating back to the ‘80s and of an old (vintage) computer, my first PC which was a 1984 Sinclair ZX Spectrum+ (still fully functioning) that gave me thrills and excitements that I did not find in the many PCs that followed.