A product of Michigan Tech, Scott Miers gives back to the University and its students as an outstanding teacher.
Miers is the winner of the 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award in the professor/associate professor category.
Miers believes effective teaching means getting students excited about the material and making connections to experiences they’ve already had. Miers, an associate professor in Michigan Technological University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM), also believes students must be able to relate to their instructors and see that instructors sometimes make mistakes too.
Some of the best examples that Miers shares with his classes involve mistakes he’s made, how he learned from them and how they were corrected. He believes this dual focus keeps him humble, increases his effectiveness as a communicator and instills a similar humility in his students.
Not only is Miers a member of the Michigan Tech faculty, he is also an alumnus, earning a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in 1995, a master’s in engineering mechanics in 2001 and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 2004, all from Michigan Tech
After several years at Argonne National Laboratory in the Engines and Emissions Research section, studying internal combustion engine efficiency, emissions and performance, he returned to Michigan Tech in August 2008 as an assistant professor.
Mier’s teaching interests directly relate to his research in experimental internal combustion engines, which allows him to share real-world, experimental results in the classroom. In addition to teaching courses in thermodynamics, heat transfer, engines and a hands-on practice course, Scott guides undergraduate students in real-world situations through the Clean Snowmobile, Formula Car and Super Mileage Enterprises.
"... the more we train our brains to think, the more effective we become at it."
This mix of real-world applications with classroom teaching puts Miers’ passion on full display. He says he enjoys being part of the “ah-ha” moment for students as they find their way to a solution or develop skills for problem-solving. He views asking questions to guide students to solve a problem as essential to the learning process.
Miers resists the temptation to provide a final answer too quickly, even though that might seem to help students get past their frustration and confusion. He claims the struggle is an essential part of the process, saying “Thinking can be frustrating and confusing at times, but the more we train our brains to think, the more effective we become at it. We need to give students enough time to think about their solution, put the many pieces together and formulate a coherent response so that they retain knowledge over the long term.”
Miers’ students highlight these same themes in their comments, praising his Quotes of the Day and his enthusiasm. As one student said, “Lectures were fantastic, particularly working through problems instead of using prepared slides. Quote of the Day was a simple but effective way to segue into class. His attitude in general is very laid-back and approachable. This made the material feel less daunting and greatly increased my enjoyment in the course.”
Other students emphasize Miers’ willingness to engage individually and personally with students. One such student said, “… even though I am not an A student, you are one of the first professors to truly display interest in students as people, not numbers … I want to say thank you for being a great professor and working hard to meet the needs of each student.”
ME-EM Department Chair William Predebon sums it up nicely, saying “Scott is a very special teacher. He is passionate and enthusiastic in whatever he teaches, and he truly cares about student learning. That enthusiasm is contagious for his students. He is always there for his students, very caring and engaging. The result is he is very well respected and sought after by his students.”
Miers will receive a $2,500 monetary award and a plaque to be presented at an awards dinner sponsored by University President Glenn Mroz in the fall.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.