Doctoral candidates Judd Mehr and Tysum Ruchti were recently awarded the Mechanical Engineering department Outstanding TA Award for their patient and diligent assistance of students last fall semester.
“It is very rewarding to be able to help a student, who comes in confused, leave with an understanding of how to solve problems by applying what they are learning,” Ruchti said.
After graduation, Ruchti intends to apply for a faculty position and continue researching and teaching. The post-graduation plan for Mehr will likely involve research and development in areas related to urban air mobility (flying cars) and/or similar technologies.
Despite these different trajectories, being a TA gave both Mehr and Ruchti experiences to help them on their career paths.
“Covering lectures has been a great experience in pushing me towards wanting to teach while also showing me how challenging presenting in front of a class can be,” Ruchti said.
In addition to the award and the valuable experiences they gain during their TA experience, the outstanding TA award recipients also have the opportunity to train the entire TA group the next semester.
Each of them emphasized the idea that it’s better to put in a few extra minutes to understand the material in the beginning to avoid having to relearn it from scratch in the future. Both Mehr and Ruchti were grateful and excited to be there to help students make these connections.
“The most important thing about being a TA is to be present both physically and mentally,” Mehr said. “You have to want to be there to help the students. All other aspects of successful TA'ing are most effective (or even possible in some cases) after that condition is met. If you're doing it right, being a TA is never ‘just a job.’"
Comments from professors and students of the classes that Mehr and Ruchti assisted included gratitude for their understanding of the material and helpful, patient attitudes.
“The best part of being a TA is the opportunity to see someone who comes in confused and frantic, gain an understanding of the one key piece they were missing and switch confusion to clarity,” Ruchti said. “I love the light that you can see when the pieces fall into place.”