Schmidt wins ASEE Merryfield Design Award

news story image

Professor Linda Schmidt

"... it’s a recognition of the academic pursuit of excellence of design and engineering. It shows the research I have done has had a broad appeal to the entire engineering community."

Professor Linda Schmidt

When the American Society for Engineering Education gave its 2008 ASEE Fred Merryfield Design Award to Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Linda Schmidt, the announcement did not surprise ME Professor Emeritus George Dieter, former Dean of the Clark School.

“She’s a great teacher and a great person,” said Dieter, who nominated Schmidt for the award. “I’ve taught several classes with her. She inspires enthusiasm and gets good responses from her students.” There is no one more committed to excellence in design education than Prof. Linda Schmidt, added Prof. Bar-Cohen, chair of the mechanical engineering department.

“What I think is amazing about it is that it’s a recognition of the academic pursuit of excellence of design and engineering,” Schmidt said. “It shows the research I have done has had a broad appeal to the entire engineering community.”

In addition to a rationale on why the candidate should receive the honor, the nomination requires several letters of recommendation. The letters, from peers and former students of Schmidt, speak glowingly of her qualifications for the award.

“People are drawn to her and her warm leadership style helps give those around her the confidence to teach and design better products in more effective ways,” one letter from a colleague in the field reads. “Her commitment to ethics, values, and a societal good is not just something she integrates into her teaching – it is part of who she is.” Another, from a former student, includes a glowing account of her teaching style. “She developed examples of ethical and professional dilemmas to present to the students in an open forum to discuss the proper courses of action,” the former student writes. “She takes great pride in bringing in other professors to co-teach the course so that the information and projects always stay fresh.”

Schmidt said she tries to share her enthusiasm for design and push her students to look at the openness and enormity of the field, which she described as the “science of the artificial.”

The other letters include similar commendations of Schmidt’s work, and helping her take home the award. Schmidt called the honor a “rejuvenating accolade.” “It’s very rewarding when you get recognized by your peers,” Schmidt said. “You never know when what you’re doing gets beyond the classroom to your peers. You realize that every little drop of work you do has a broader effect.”

Schmidt currently teaches the capstone course in design, as she has for the past several semesters. In the fall, she will teach a graduate course on design methodology, ENME 600: Engineering Design Methods, which she said looks at the processes and best practices for mechanical design. In 2003, Schmidt was given the Clark School Service Award and she is a former DReAM division leader.

The international consulting firm CH2M Hill founded the award in 1981 in memory of Fred Merryfield, a former professor at Oregon State University. It “recognizes an engineering educator for excellence in teaching of engineering design and acknowledges other significant contributions related to engineering design teaching,” according to the ASEE. The award includes a $2,500 honorarium, a $500 travel stipend to attend the ASEE conference and a commemorative plaque for Schmidt. The mechanical engineering department also receives $500.

Published May 13, 2008