It takes a special type of instructor to connect with their students, and Mehran Shirazi is such as instructor. Shirazi teaches APSC 173 Engineering Analysis II, APSC 177 Engineering Computation and Instrumentation (C++), and is just wrapping up APSC 179 Linear Algebra for Engineers.
“It has been a busy couple of years since I arrived at the School of Engineering, but the experience thus far has been outstanding,” says Shirazi, a lecturer at the School of Engineering.
Shirazi arrived on the Okanagan campus of UBC from Simon Fraser University in May 2019 where he had completed his PhD in mechatronic systems engineering, and found his love for teaching.
“I enjoy connecting with students, and watching as they make connections between engineering and mathematical theory and practical applications,” explains Shirazi.
Making those connections remains a focus for Shirazi, but during the shift to online teaching, the process hasn’t been without its challenges. “Every teaching platform whether online or in the classroom takes some adjustment, but I have found it important to recognize that students are experiencing the same sorts of adjustments during the pandemic.”
During his teaching career, Shirazi continues to emphasize mental health with a focus on balance. It is a philosophy that continues to gain traction, but is challenging for both faculty and students who (under the current online teaching and learning) can easily slide into bad habits.
As the first term wraps up, Shirazi has been hearing from students about how appreciative they are of his teaching style. “Your positive, understanding, supportive approach has been a beacon of light during challenging times learning online.”
Shirazi has been hearing from his students throughout the term. One student wrote to say “from what I have heard from others, I am not alone in thinking that you truly do make a difference in our daily lives, by adding a bit of positive energy and encouragement to our routine.” Another wrote “You have been a breath of relief amongst the mass of material and stress that comes with being a university student.” Yet another student reached out to say “I admire your passion and your energy. You inspire me to be a great engineer and thanks to your course I am now closer to that goal.”
“Mehran is a special kind of teacher, and we are lucky to have him and other caring instructors at the School of Engineering,” says the School’s Executive Associate Dean Rehan Sadiq.
Every interaction and every year is special according to Shirazi but this past year, where he has taught 9.5 courses online, those interactions and the process of building online materials have been different.
“Nothing can compare to interacting with students in a classroom, but I have done everything I can to create safe, informative, and fun virtual spaces for my students,” says Shirazi.
It’s not like the courses he teaches are simple either. APSC 179 Linear Algebra for Engineers is a fundamental engineering course that lays the groundwork for all engineering theory.
Born and educated in Tehran where he completed his undergraduate and Masters degrees in electrical engineering with a specialization in control theory at Isfahan University of Technology. “I’ve been drawn to control theory since I was young because it truly is the basis of why things work the way they do.”
Shirazi’s passion for the subject matter is infectious, and his students have risen to the challenge. It didn’t hurt that a large number took his STEP (Summer Transition To Engineering Program) Introduction to Linear Algebra in August.
One first-year student recently emailed Shirazi to say “I can’t stress enough how much better this semester has been because of your class. I love this class so much, every week I look forward to sessions and it truly does not stress me like my other classes.” A fourth-year student reached out to say “you remind me and everyone else why we chose this field, and are a prime example of what we could hopefully become.”
In his office on the third floor of the Engineering, Management and Education Building, Shirazi takes it all in stride. “Engineering education is difficult regardless of whether students are in their first or final year, so I hope that my teaching style helps, in a small way, to get them settled and ready to succeed on their journey to become an engineer.”