A tour of the Valpo Solar Energy Research Facility

Engineering Your Own Path

When Theresa Green ’16, Ph.D., transferred to Valparaiso University to complete her bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, she never predicted the connections and future she would discover pursuing engineering education.

Currently a postdoctoral fellow in engineering education at Utah State University, Theresa participated in a remote internship with the Smithsonian Science Education Center this past spring. Working alongside science curriculum experts and specialists, she worked specifically to help revise the engineering modules for grades one and two.

“As I’ve been going through my graduate studies, I’ve been very interested in curriculum development specifically,” Theresa says. “I was curious about what it looks like in the K–12 setting.”

Theresa’s interest in engineering education developed during college, and she had the chance to explore her curiosity at Valpo. Theresa connected with Ruth Wertz, Ph.D., P.E., assistant professor of general engineering, and pursued an opportunity to do research about the concept assessment tool for statics education with her. That undergraduate research motivated Theresa to realize this was the path she wanted to follow.

“We wrote a paper that came out of the research, which won multiple awards and provided the chance for me to present research,” Theresa says. “Presenting research at Valpo’s undergraduate research symposiums gave me practice making and presenting a poster of engineering education research.”

Participating in undergraduate research with Professor Wertz showed Theresa that she didn’t need an industry internship to succeed and that research was an opportunity that better suited her.

At Utah State University, Theresa developed her dissertation on mental habits of practicing engineers. She collected research by observing engineer volunteers from engineering companies, then combined her field notes with in-depth interviews.

“My bachelor’s degree from Valpo taught me a lot about being a good problem solver, being critical about answers, and asking if an answer actually makes sense,” Theresa says. “That critical thinking translated really well to graduate school. Having my technical background is essential because to best understand how people learn engineering, it is valuable to know about the topic and recognize when it could be better suited to be taught in a different way.”

As Theresa discovered, there is no single path that will fit every person’s plan, but Valpo helps prepare students to discern their future and find success in fields and careers that are fulfilling and passion driven.