Excellence in Teaching

New Mexico Tech instructors take pride in developing and maintaining a difficult curriculum. Tech professors have a long list of publications. In many cases, Tech professors have literally written their own text books. Our professors are recognized nationally for research, but they also take pride in teaching classes at all levels, from introductory classes to doctoral-level instruction.

An interesting study by the National Science Foundation showed that the research university in Socorro makes the grade for awarding the highest percentage of doctoral degrees among all the nation’s public universities.

New Mexico Tech is 15th in the nation and No. 1 among public universities for the percentage of bachelor’s students who later complete a Ph.D.

The National Science Foundation examined doctoral degrees awarded at all U.S. universities from 1997-2006. During that period, 118 students who earned bachelor’s degrees at New Mexico Tech were awarded Ph.Ds. In other words, 8.7 percent of Tech graduates went on to complete a doctoral degree during that decade.

“People who end up getting a doctoral degree – where did they get their bachelor’s?” said Dr. Van Romero, Vice President of Research. “The idea is that students need a good foundation to get a Ph.D. What schools do that? By this measure, our students get the best undergraduate education of any public school.”

New Mexico Tech is ranked by every major magazine as a top university in the nation – Newsweek, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Washington Monthly and The Princeton Review. However, the NSF study mentioned above speaks volumes about the preparation Tech students get during their undergraduate years.

Every student at New Mexico Tech is required to take six basic science courses: Math 131 and 132 (Calc I and Calc II), Physics 121 and 122 and Chemistry 121 and 122. Even the psychology and management majors must take these classes. Tech is a science and engineering school, after all. 

A crucial part of completing a degree is the “capstone project.” In engineering disciplines, students must successfully complete the Senior Design. These classes are team-based, real-world projects that often pair students with private companies, government agencies or branches of the military. 

Most of the Senior Design classes last two semesters and mimic the life cycle of an industrial engineering project. Students are given a real challenge and asked to find a solution. They work with a budget, deadlines, planning and teamwork.

In addition, Tech students have the opportunity to participate in clubs sponsored by professional societies and advised by professors.
The line between research and instruction is often blurred at New Mexico Tech. In many cases, research is instruction and instruction is research. Many Tech students are cited as authors of technical or scientific papers before they earn a bachelor’s degree.

Here are a few examples of some student and faculty successes that highlight the excellent teaching available at New Mexico Tech:

Every year, the mechanical engineering Senior Design Clinic teams competed in the National Mini-Baja competition and the SAE Aero Competition. The Mini-Baja team of eight students finished in the top 10 out of more than 150 schools in 2008. Team Canary placed in the top 20 nationally in 2010.

The Magdalena Ridge Observatory’s 2.4-meter telescope is a key research instrument at New Mexico Tech, but the installation is also used for instruction. An introductory class in physics gives freshmen the opportunity to observe and characterize asteroids. The telescope also hosts a class for students in the Master’s of Science Teaching program.

The Computer Science and Engineering Department has been recognized as a top program in the nation. Allen Paller, director of the SANS Institute in Washington, D.C., praised New Mexico Tech for educating top-notch computer scientists in the March 2009 edition of Government Computer News. Paller said Tech is among a handful of schools that trains students in the two vital sides of computer security – policy and programming.

Not only does New Mexico Tech represent an exemplary leader in the computer science instruction, but Tech offers unique opportunities through the Scholarship For Service program. Computer Science students can get two-year fellowships in exchange for two years of government service after graduation. In other words, students get free tuition and are guaranteed a job after graduation.

These achievements are largely due to the fact that New Mexico Tech attracts brilliant students. However, those student are carefully cultivated by top-notch professors who stay involved with their students’ academic work and research activities.

In addition to publications, New Mexico Tech professors are routinely recognized as the top scholars in their fields.

Geophysics professor Dr. Jeffrey Johnson leads an international mini-course in volcanology every summer. Johnson’s next summer field trip will be in Ecuador and will include a dozen vulcanology students from Tech and from around the world. The 2010 course involved intensive field work and research at Kilaeua, an active volcano in Hawaii.

Geophysics professor Dr. Rick Aster is currently a serving a three-year term on the board of the American Geophysical Union. He is also serving as the president of the Seismological Society of America for 2011.

Dr. Aster, along with Tech math professor Dr. Brian Borchers wrote a text book on called “Inverse Theory.” This text is used widely at universities around the world.

Geophysics assistant professor Dr. Glenn Spinelli
was selected by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership to be host a series of national lecture series.

Dr. Nadir Yilmaz of the Mechanical Engineering Department was honored by the SAE with the annual Ralph Teetor Educational Award in 2010. He was recognized for his dedication to students, volunteer work with SAE and his research projects.

Geophysics professor Dr. Kent Condie first published his text book, “Plate Tectonics and Crustal Evolution,” in 1976. The text is now in its fourth edition and continues to be a popular text book at universities across the nation.

Geomicrobiology professor Dr. Penny Boston was featured at the TED conference in 2006, where she was asked to give “the talk of her life.” Boston studies the biology and geology of caves – and how it might relate to life on Mars. She was one of the main scientists featured in the National Geographic Channel special “Into the Lost Crystal Caves,” which aired in 2010.

Professor of electrical engineering Dr. Scott Teare recently published a text book tutorial, “Introduction to Image Stabilization.” Also, Teare received a career honor by being named a Senior Member of SPIE, the professional organization devoted to the study of optics. Not only does Dr. Teare teach classes in optics; Tech students can also take his karate class.

These are just a few examples of the excellent professors at New Mexico Tech. In every department, professors are at the top of their field and provide personalized instruction for students at every level.