Mechanical engineering professor Pierre Mertiny is being honoured with a major worldwide teaching award by SAE International in recognition of his dedicated teaching efforts.
“Considering the number of excellent instructors in North America alone, I feel honored receiving an international teaching award,” said Mertiny, who will receive the prestigious Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award next June at the 2013 SAE AeroTech Congress and Exhibition in Montreal.
SAE International is a large global organization for engineers in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial vehicle industries.
“This award shows me my work is appreciated not only by the students but also by the engineering community,” Mertiny said. “It serves as motivation to stay the course in my efforts to provide excellent teaching.”
A dedicated educator who came to the U of A from Germany and started as a faculty member in January 2006, Mertiny said he values the opportunity to make a difference in the lives and education of students.
“I enjoy teaching because in my line of work it probably gives the greatest value to society. Research is certainly an important part of being a professor, and it is an exciting activity as well, but arguably the biggest impact can be made by preparing young people for their future lives and careers,” he said.
“I enjoy seeing and helping students grow academically, intellectually, and professionally.”
Mertiny teaches courses in mechanical engineering design and solid mechanics including the popular Mec E 260 design course which concludes each semester with an action packed student design competition in the mechanical engineering machine shop.
Mertiny said he incorporates into his teaching both Active Learning and Experienced Based Learning strategies to help maximize and enhance student learning.
The Active Learning teaching approach, he explained, focuses on engaging students in the classroom to place the responsibility of learning on them. “This is done primarily through collaborative and supportive in-class activities such as group work and one-to-one interactions, with the professor remaining the driver of the learning process by structuring and providing the study material,” he said.
“Experienced Based Learning goes a step further by making the students the driver of their own learning experience,” Mertiny explained, adding in his design courses student groups are put in charge of their decision making, work progress, and ultimately their own success.
“I take the role of an advisor who the students consult regularly for guidance,” he said. “It is quite stunning how much the students become motivated and excited about their work.”
Mertiny is also a successful researcher in advanced polymer composite and nanocomposite material manufacturing, design and analysis. In particular, he focuses on structures and technical solutions for the energy sector pertaining to applications ranging from pressure vessels and piping to energy storage flywheel systems.
“Professors are often perceived as researchers with inevitable teaching duties,” he mused. “However, this is not true, as myself and many of my colleagues share a passion for student education,” said Mertiny, who previously received the Faculty of Engineering Teaching Award in Mechanical Engineering for both the 2008-2009 and 2010-2011 academic years. In 2010, he was additionally awarded the Annual Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Mechanical Engineering Club.
“It is the aspect of working with people and the multitude of personalities that makes teaching an activity that is invigorating for me every time,” he said.
“Then, when the dust has settled, the exams and reports are marked, and the grades are reported, it is nice to look back at the students’ accomplishments and know they have moved one step closer to a great future career.”