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Mechanical engineering faculty member, alumnus named University Professor

Colleen Carow | Apr 22, 2019

Mechanical engineering faculty member, alumnus named University Professor

Colleen Carow | Apr 22, 2019

Ohio University alumnus Timothy “T.J.” Cyders, BSME ’06, MS ‘08, PHD ’12, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, has received one of four prestigious University Professor awards.

Cyders was honored at a banquet Thurs., April 11 for his outstanding teaching. Recognizing more than 250 professors since its 1970 inception, the University Professor program provides a monetary stipend and reduces recipients’ teaching responsibilities during their award year in order for them to teach a course of their own design.

Robe Professor and Department of Mechanical Engineering Chair Greg Kremer said it’s wonderful to see Cyders’s intense focus on students and their learning recognized and awarded by the students themselves.

“Dr. Cyders cares deeply and puts in tremendous effort to help students not just learn, but more importantly, develop the ability to think like an engineer and behave as a professional,” he said. “He’s making a difference in the lives of our students, and that’s something worth celebrating.”

Cyders, who joined OHIO’s faculty in 2012, said he was thankful to work at an institution that has such a focus on the value and importance of teaching – and that he doesn’t go easy on students.

“I’m not known for being an easy professor,” Cyders said. “My colleagues and I strive to make sure our undergraduate students’ experience is edifying and truly preparing them students for industry, which often means presenting difficult, muddy problems that give students opportunities to struggle and fail early and often in order to eventually succeed,” he said.

Mechanical engineering senior Jelena Mavros, who has taken machine design and senior design courses with Cyders, said any mechanical engineering student would mention him if asked about his or her most influential professor.

“Dr. Cyders expects the world out of every student, because he knows he or she can deliver. He pushes us to think in ways that other classes haven’t, all the while making us produce quality work under a time crunch,” said Mavros, who also performs research on 3D printed metals in Cyders’s lab. “He knows how to get the best out of each student, individualizing his teaching style to our needs. Beyond the classroom, he’ll always make time for his students and would give us one-on-one help 25 hours a day if he could.”

Cyders’s proposed course is titled “How to Ace Failure.” Students will identify a personal, professional or academic area in which they’d like to improve, then actively integrate each week’s lessons into that personal goal. They also will review an organization/company’s failure and how that organization responded in order to succeed.

Originally from the small northern Ohio town of Ashland, Cyders has worked for large multinational companies such as General Electric and Dana Corporation, as well as small businesses around the state. During graduate school, he formed a startup with former Russ College faculty member William Beale during graduate school. He sold his startup upon graduation to pursue a faculty position, in order to develop his newfound passion for teaching. Today, his technical research is focused on mechanical performance of metals and advanced manufacturing techniques; and his pedagogical research is focused on teaching approaches related to approximations of practice, emulating apprenticeship in the classroom.

Bringing industrial thinking and practice is what fuels Cyders.

“My colleague Greg Kremer and I have been working to develop these ‘approximations of practice’ into a holistic experience that can help transition students from their typical classroom experience to one that more closely resembles what they’ll be walking into on the first day of their job, and more importantly, what will reinforce their careers as lifelong learners,” he said.

Mrvos, who is staying on at the Russ College for graduate study with Cyders after she receives her bachelor’s degree next month, can attest to the results.

“Dr. Cyders teaches his classes in a way that transforms every student into becoming an engineer, and I couldn’t imagine my college career without having learned from him,” Mavros said.

University Professors are chosen annually from student nominations, and a student selection committee manages an interview and observation process. The award is made possible by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) in the Office of Instructional Innovation (OII). For more info about the award or to view past recipients, visit the OII website.