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Engineering honors faculty member Pohlman

September 19, 2013
Nick Pohlman

Nick Pohlman

Most people can thank a teacher for making them who they are today. Many teachers inspire and encourage students to do the best they can and can help create dreams and make them a reality.

NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology has one of those teachers.

For Nicholas Pohlman, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, the joy of teaching came with the added bonus of being recognized for the Faculty of the Year award.

The competition begins by members from each of the four departments sending nominations for someone they feel exemplifies the characteristics of a faculty of the year award.

Dean Promod Vohra then evaluates the nominations in three categories: teacher ratings and performance reviews; service to the college; and service to organizations.

“After the dean weighs all the nominees and looks at all the categories, he picks the one he thinks is the best. He has full say over who gets picked,” said Omar Ghrayeb, associate dean. “Dr. Pohlman had all the categories covered, and that’s why he got nominated.”

Nominees for the award also need to actively pursue and engage research projects in addition to volunteer work and the education aspects.

“As corny as it sounds, I really am doing it for the kids,” Pohlman said. “It is nice that they give out awards and appreciation for these kinds of things, but it’s not why I am in the field. Being able to help the students and see them learn is what is really fulfilling for me.”

For service to the college, Pohlman, as a young faculty member, is in charge of recording the minutes of all the meetings between faculty members. He also teaches the Introduction to Engineering class (UEET 101) for all incoming freshman, which is essential for laying the groundwork for new engineers by exposing them to the culture and brand of the college.

Faculty of the Year winner Nicholas Pohlman teaches bridge program students about research and math.

Pohlman teaches bridge program students about research and math.

He also helps the incoming students understand how to be successful in a difficult field and all the hard work that it takes to be an engineer.

“Nick is one of those teachers who mentors, guides, and molds students,” Ghrayeb said. “He is an integral member of our family.”

“Every class I have had with him has been one of the best classes. He actually cares about what he is teaching,” said Joshua Ott, a senior mechanical engineering major. “He is a fun and engaging person and easy to talk to and approach. His office is always open, except when he is getting ready for class.”

Pohlman also is in charge of the Bridge Program, which helps students increase their math skills to place better once they become freshman and potentially shorten their path to graduation.

Lastly, he helps coordinate the CEET Honors Program.

“There are so many engineers that are high achieving but have no way to get honors recognition,” Pohlman said, “but we are hoping to help fix that.”

When it comes to research, Pohlman has that covered as well.

“One of my major research projects that I am still working on right now is the study of fundamental granular flows through different types of systems such as pneumatic driven systems,” he said. “I am also working developing new ways of creating cook stoves for decreasing emissions and increasing efficiency for developing nations. This is important because it can help teach these nations how to have more effective heating and cooking methods where other techniques are not able to be used.”

Despite the accolade, he remains humble.

“I just want to do my job and if awards come, then that’s great,” he said. “What I really want to do is just elevate the status of NIU and become a place that people choose based on our research projects. I look at it like, ‘Upgrade and elevate CEET, and NIU will take a step forward as well.’ ”