Professor Margot Vigeant, chemical engineering, has long been a champion for the power of hands-on, student-directed learning. Whether she's introducing chemical engineering concepts by asking her students to cook tomato sauce or representing Bucknell at the inaugural White House Maker Faire, Vigeant asks her students to learn from the real world, and to examine what they're learning in light of their real-world experience. And in her own research, she studies the impact of these activities on students' understanding, to assess which practices are most effective in engineering education.
In September, Vigeant was recognized not only for her application of experimental and experiential learning in the classroom but also for her work in understanding the impact of new learning methods with the Award for Excellence in Engineering Education Research from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).
The award recognizes Vigeant, former associate dean of the College of Engineering, for her "outstanding research in education, with a focus on chemical engineering pedagogy, encompassing methods, applications and assessment." She was nominated for the prize by engineering colleagues at Bucknell.
Vigeant is currently immersed in a multiyear project funded by the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network to explore the role of curiosity and connection in nourishing the engineering entrepreneurial mindset. KEEN at Bucknell is supported by a $1 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation to spur entrepreneurship programming and projects that foster innovation.
"We're working on two related questions: what characteristics of an engineering class are most closely associated with cultivating curiosity in students, and how do we teach and assess students' ability to form new ideas by connecting apparently disparate ideas in an engineering context," Vigeant explained. "While these may not seem obviously related, both are foundational aspects of a mindset that looks for problems in the world, seeks novel solutions for those problems, and then takes action based on those solutions."
She is also involved in a National Science Foundation-sponsored project to promote broader adoption of effective teaching approaches by making them easier for instructors to use.
The award will be formally conferred to Vigeant at the AIChE Annual Meeting in late October and early November.