Sheri Sheppard

Sheri Sheppard

Mechanical Engineering Professor
Stanford University
Sheri Sheppard
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I am a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford. The focus of my teaching is on engineering design for undergraduate and graduates students. Engineering design involves creating solutions to human needs. These may be needs such as cleaner automobiles, affordable assistive devices for the disabled, or re-useable solid rocket boosters for the space shuttle. This means that my students use their understanding of the world gained through their course work (e.g., physics, math, engineering drawing) and personal experience to work in teams to design and build solutions to important problems. I also work with students to research areas of engineering that are not fully understood. These two areas are: Welded structures under repeated loading. We are working to better understand how welded structures (e.g., your automobile, a bridge) perform and then fail under repeated loading. We are using this understanding to build software tools that enable engineers to better predict performance during design. Engineering Education. We are investigating and prototyping classroom experiences that reach a wider variety of students, and more fully engage students at an earlier stage of their engineering education, with authentic engineering experiences. I have a B.S. in engineering mechanics from the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison. When I first started my B.S. is was planning on going to law school afterwards (I enjoyed debate and public speaking in high school), but engineering got "under my skin". Initially I thought that engineering was just good training to go into law. It really teaches you to think systematically, use a large variety of tools, and solve problems. The more I got into engineering and engineering education, I began to see how much creativity and team work are involved. And engineering solutions do really impact people. I started seeing this in my coursework, and in several summer internships during my undergraduate studies. After I finished my B.S. I headed to Detroit to work for Chrysler Corporation as an engineer. I have always liked cars and I thought that is would be really neat to help design future vehicles. While working at Chrysler, I also pursued a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Univ. of Michigan-Dearborn (MS-ME 1980). After completing my MS, I continued working as an engineer by day, and started teaching engineering classes by night. After a few more years of working as an engineer, I started to realize that I liked to explore various longer-term problems and questions, and that many of these problems had never been solved before. This, along with a love of teaching, led me back to school to pursue a Ph.D. I completed my Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 1985. My father was my greatest influence in choosing engineering. My dad is a metallurgical engineer. Both he and my mom encouraged me to take math and physics in high school (I have always found these topics to be fun and challenging). Both of them also encouraged my pursuit of music (which I was very involved with all through high school). But when I began to doubt majoring in music in college, it was my dad who suggested that I at least start in engineering. I must admit that when I started my engineering education, I had not taken many things apart or built many things, or for that matter, thought of my self as being particularly creative! I will also add that I have been inspired by many women. My mother and grandmother, in particular. My mother has always worked outside of the home. Her energy and devotion to both her work and family have always inspired me. My grandmother was a medical doctor at the turn of the century. This was when very few women were doctors. But she persisted in the profession and she has always served as a model to me of not being stopped by conventional thinking. Of all the things that I like about engineering, I like the variety in my work the most, from working with design teams, building devices, teaching classes, running experiments, and analyzing systems. I am interested both in designing things, and the PEOPLE who do design. This latter interest is not very common among engineering faculty. So, the challenge, for me anyway, has been to pursue questions/topics that are not typical or are a little out of the ordinary. At this time, my short-term goals are to finish a freshmen engineering textbook and to finish the implementation of Fatigue Weld-life software program for G.M. In the long-term, I would like to establish and direct a "Center for the Study of Engineering Design Education" at Stanford. My dream is to build a center for researchers, teachers and students of engineering design to explore more effective methods for teaching and learning. These are a few of the accomplishments that have given me a great deal of pride: working with 800+ students over the last 10 years to show them how to stretch further than they thought they were capable of. having a faculty position at a major engineering school having developed a new fatigue life prediction method having developed a teaching method based on real hardware that has been adapted/adopted by numerous universities around the country. If you are thinking of a career in engineering, follow your heart. Sometimes it is hard to not be like those around you--to maybe see things from a different perspective. Ultimately it is you who you must be happy in your professional and personal pursuits. And, don't be afraid to work hard, take risks, and sometimes fail. I have always learned more from my failures than from any of my successes.

Answers by Sheri Sheppard

I would urge you to talk with admissions people in specific ME departments to see how much flexibility there is in applying for the MS without an undergraduate engineering/physics degree. It may be that you could identify key engineering undergraduate courses to take before applying that would not only show your seriousness for working in graduate-level engineering, but would also prepare you. Other key elements of an application would be your GRE's, your statement of purpose (that should highlight what has lead to your interest in engineering, that describes how you have been preparing yourself, and how your work experience finance/accounting education are assets), and letters of recommendation. sds