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Rothstein Chosen to Receive 2015 COE Outstanding Teaching Award

Jonathan Rothstein

Professor Jonathan Rothstein of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department has been selected as the recipient of the 2015 College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award. As MIE Department Head Don Fisher wrote, “In my appraisal, he is by far and away one of the best teachers in the department year after year after year, as evidenced by students’ comments on his courses, students’ evaluation of his role in their professional lives, his ability to communicate complex, interdisciplinary material in science and engineering in ways that are clear and compelling, and his more general contributions to the teaching mission of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, the college, and the university.” 

Fisher added that “His passion for teaching extends beyond the classroom, including supervising on average three to four undergraduates each year in independent studies and honors theses, supervising the team participating in the SAE supermileage vehicle competition and traveling with them to the competition in Detroit, and teaching short courses and workshops as a means of both industrial and K12 outreach, just to name a few.”

Professor Rothstein joined the MIE department in the fall of 2000, was promoted to associate professor in 2007, and then promoted to full professor in 2013. Prior to arriving on campus he earned his M.S. from Harvard University in Engineering and Applied Sciences in 1998 and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2001.

Previously, Rothstein has received the Professor of the Year Award from the MIE department in 2004, 2011, and 2012. In 2006, he received the Advisor of the Year Award from the department. His student evaluations have remained consistently excellent through the years, including his course in Aerospace Fluid Mechanics in which he once earned a perfect SRTI instructor rating of 5.0.

Rothstein’s fellow MIE Professor James Rinderle wrote that his students, “routinely comment on his enthusiasm and his ability to engage them by connecting lecture topics to important and relevant topics with interesting asides and anecdotes. He is very highly regarded by all of his students and garners SRTI evaluations that are often the highest and always among the highest in the department.”

As one of Rothstein’s students noted, “Professor Rothstein is positively the best professor I have had at this university. He has a style which is very effective and makes the classroom an interesting and interactive learning environment. Professor Rothstein always seems to go out of his way to find fun, interesting, and practical examples of the material studied. UMass needs more professors like him.”  

Another undergraduate wrote that “My first interaction with Professor Rothstein was taking his thermodynamics class my sophomore year, after returning to school from an extended break. I consider that course one of the very best classes I have taken in my academic career.”

According to Professor Fisher, Rothstein has excelled in stressing a wide range of educational approaches, including interdisciplinary learning, the latest in new pedagogical techniques, independent studies, student theses, internships, and STEM outreach efforts.

And his teaching has a long-lasting impact on our graduates. “Although it has been six years since I received my undergraduate degree,” one alum stated, “Jonathan still stands out as one of the best teachers I have ever had among both undergraduate and graduate classes. I took three classes from him (MIE 230, MIE 440, and MIE 402), and he was always well prepared, his lectures were invariably clear and complete, and he was always willing to help outside of the classroom – far beyond the typical expectations of a course professor.”

Professor Rinderle also observed that during the last decade, “Jonathan has advised over 30 undergraduate researchers in his lab. These are often transformational experiences that allow students to discover not only things about fluid mechanics but things about themselves that influence careers chosen and decisions made about grad school, about research directions, and even about how to spend a life as an engineer.”

Professor Rothstein has also served as the advisor for a total of 21 graduate students.

In addition to his teaching-related awards, Rothstein has received the Barbara H. and Joseph I. Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award from the College of Engineering, an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award, and a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.

As Professor Rothstein says in his statement of teaching: “Developing my skills as an educator in order to achieve excellence in teaching has been one of my highest priorities. As an educator, I am motivated by my desire to share my excitement and knowledge of engineering with a broad range of students, to help foster within these students the scientific curiosity that has defined my career, and to ensure that these students have both the knowledge and skills needed to contribute both to the engineering profession and to society as a whole. I have challenged myself to go beyond traditional education activities and to implement innovative techniques and programs designed to improve both my skills as a teacher and the mechanical engineering education offered by the University of Massachusetts.” 

As the above makes abundantly clear, Professor Rothstein has succeed on all accounts and is a shining example of all that is good about the quality of education provided by faculty in the College of Engineering. (March 2015)