Jill Nelson: The John Toups Medal for Excellence in Teaching

Jill Nelson uses a special two-prong approach when teaching engineering to students.

“It’s a combination of innovation in classroom teaching and education research,” said Nelson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering.

She strives to teach her students how the things they are learning can be applied not only in electrical engineering but also in other disciplines such as finance and social networking.

“I want them to have a strong foundation that they can build on later,” Nelson said. “I want them to build enthusiasm for the subject.”

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She’s also focused on engineering education research, specifically how students apply mathematical knowledge in their engineering courses and how faculty can be supported in implementing innovative teaching strategies.

It’s this dedication to education that earned her the John Toups Medal for Excellence in Teaching. She’ll return from her sabbatical at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island, to accept the award at Commencement on May 20.

Her work with the Navy serves as an example for students of where an engineering and mathematical education can take you, Nelson said.

During her sabbatical, Nelson is working to develop ways for sonar operators to better find what they are looking for in the ocean.

It can be challenging for operators to tell the difference between objects of interest and other things in the ocean, she said. She is developing intelligent processing techniques that will improve the sonar system’s ability to identify objects of interest.

May 18, 2017 / Adapted from a story by Jamie Rogers