Welcome, Dr. Michael C. Loui

Dr. Michael Loui
A visiting scholar with ENE for Fall 2012 and Spring 2013, Dr. Loui is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and a University Distinguished Teacher-Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A former associate dean of the University of Illinois’s Graduate College, he teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses at Illinois, including “Introduction to Electrical and Computer Engineering,” “Professional Ethics,” and “Technology, Communication, and Contemporary Society.” His research interests include computational complexity theory, ethics in engineering and computing, and the scholarship of teaching and learning, his current emphasis. Dr. Loui became Editor of the Journal of Engineering Educatio (JEE) this summer. Here, a conversation with Dr. Loui about his sabbatical and his research, with a dash of Gilbert & Sullivan on the side.


How did this sabbatical come about? What led you to Purdue?

My last sabbatical was more than 10 years ago, so I was overdue for one. I had been named a Carnegie Scholar in 2003 to participate in the scholarship of teaching and learning movement. I’m at Purdue now because it is Mecca for engineering education research. I already knew many of the faculty, and one of my master’s students, Nick Fila, is currently in your PhD program. Geoffrey Herman, one of my doctoral students, was a post-doc with Ruth Streveler.


What are your specific goals for your sabbatical here?

One goal is to learn how to do education research properly—through formalized, systematic studies. I have never taken a course in qualitative research methods, and I took my last statistics course in 1973. I’ll be participating in a few courses throughout my stay here. I’d also like to get to know the faculty better—to meet with them individually and get to know what their projects are. In addition, I’ll work on revising and resubmitting three manuscripts that I’ve received reviews on.


How would you like to engage with the ENE community while you’re here?

I’ve already signed on for two presentations in David Radcliffe’s ENE 501 course and another one with Brent Jesiek in ECE. I’ll also be a familiar face at the Thursday research seminars.


What’s one big research question that you have—one you’d add to the cover of our research report if you could?

I have many interests, but one big question is, What pedagogies promote student confidence, motivation, and persistence? I’m interested in self-efficacy and the affective outcomes of instructional methods. A current project I’m working on is about increasing students’ intrinsic motivation in core engineering courses—thermo, circuits, statics. We think that by improving intrinsic motivation, students will learn more, have better retention, and develop a stronger sense of engineering identity. I’m also interested in assessing the outcomes of using role-playing as a teaching method.


How did the ethics videos you’ve been involved with—Incident at Morales and Henry’s Daughters—come about?

I’ve had an interest in engineering ethics since 1992, when I created a course on the subject. I later started publishing in that area. I became a member of the National Institute for Engineering Ethics’ executive board, and we created these instructional videos. Each is about 30 minutes long, depicting fictional cases chock-full of ethics issues that come up in the normal practice of engineering.


What are your interests outside academia?

I’m a pianist—I played a lot of piano as a doctoral student, during the time I was working on my dissertation—and I currently volunteer as the director of the children's choir at the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign. It’s my way of serving my community and making the world a more beautiful place.

[To listen to the choir singing an original anthem by Dr. Loui, click here.]
[To listen to “Lunde Sonata”—Dr. Loui accompanies his alto saxophonist son, Jeremy—click here.]

I’ve also done some acting and stage-managing in community theater. As a grad student at MIT, I played the part of the Boatswain in HMS Pinafore. That’s the character who sings “He Is an Englishman.” I don’t really look like an Englishman, so it was pretty funny.

[Dr. Loui also wrote and performed the parody “The Graduate Dean” to the tune of “The Pirate King” from The Pirates of Penzance. Two lines of the parody: "Professors consider me sinister/When I think of new things to administer."]