SUMMARY OF TEACHING ACTIVITIES
FAMU-FSU College of Engineering
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Tarek Abichou, Ph.D., P.E.
Teaching Philosophy: I always start my semester by asking how much a student or a parent is paying for my class. That is, I make sure that I give my students their money’s worth. My teaching philosophy is based on my belief that the ability of a student to understand a subject matter is contingent upon cultivating a student's interest in the subject. Therefore, I try to make the course material interesting to students by clearly defining the practical use of class lectures. Specifically, I try to relate the course content to real world experience before covering the analytical part of the course. Bringing the outside world to the classroom is essential in our profession. I try very hard to energize my classroom and communicate to the students how much passion I have for the field I chose as a career.Industry interaction has also been achieved through several field trips by the students, use of experts as guest lecturers, assignment of challenging real life term projects, and showing real life project videos.
There is a tendency in engineering education to focus only on the technical details and de-emphasize professional issues. In addition to teaching fundamentalengineering and scientific principles, I always seek to incorporate economic, societal, and environmental feasibility concepts in all my courses. I always try to give the student a feel of where the subject matter falls in the “Big Picture” scheme of our profession.As a teacher I am still growing. I am always open to new ideas and willing to test some of the new ideas that I find reasonable given the available resources. I attend teaching workshops offered by Florida State University to learn more about effective teaching techniques. I have developed an appreciation of how much research is being done in the educational field to fine tune and assess the effectiveness of teaching. I am also a good ambassador of the field, and use my teaching to encourage students to consider a career in engineering. For example, I always make it a point to encourage undergraduate students to think of pursuing graduate studies. I have several undergraduate students involved in my ongoing research activities. In other words, I consider research and teaching as complementary activities.
Other Teaching Activities:
On the national level, I have been involved with a traveling workshop entitled “Alternative Covers for Landfills and Waste Repositories: Design, Modeling, and Construction”. This 1-2 day workshop is intended to teach consultants and engineers how to design and submit quality proposals for ET covers, and to teach regulators how to evaluate those proposals. As well, I have I taught a section at an NSF sponsored workshops on sustainable solid waste management, and participated in workshops on LFG management, and landfill design to regulators and practicing engineers.
The students performing research on my projects are all learning to conduct field work, conduct laboratory analyses, data analyses, geo-statistics, and are obtaining writing skills. I participated in the FSU Young Scholars Program which placed high school students in my lab for three summers, allowing them to work with undergraduate and graduate students. I have developed a monthly workshop for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Geosynthetics in landfill design. I teach the workshop to their Bureau of Solid and Hazardous permit review staff.
Combining Research and Service with Teaching:
I sponsored a service learning course with the Department of Mechanical Engineering to team-up with the County of Leon and design Methane Oxidizing Bio-Filters. Also, I am working with two undergraduate students who are participating in NSF REU Site Program at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. The focus of the research under the program is sustainable management and beneficial reuse of residual wastes and byproducts. Furthermore, I have collaborated with a local high school science teacher to involve her and her students in research activities, and I have participated with a group of students in Film School to produce a documentary movie on our research activities at the Leon County Landfill. My skills were also used to sponsor a Senior Design Project with FSU Art Department and the City of Tallahassee to transform a city alley into an Eco-Art Alley.
Outreach and Teaching: I have made overtures to the local community of people who live in the neighborhood surrounding the landfill, and the Leon County Science Advisory Board. Our project has received coverage in the local newspaper and local nightly news. I explained in the newspaper story how our work can reduce the impact of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere and develop alternative ways to cover landfills. Presentations have been given to the Florida Center for solid and hazardous waste advisory board and the Florida DEP.