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Setareh Behroozi and Nathan Strachen
March 15, 2023

New instructors bring their passion for teaching to undergraduate education

Written By: Jason Daley

During the 2022-2023 academic year, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison added two new members to its teaching staff. Both bring new insights, experiences and a passion for education to their classes.

Nathan Strachen began as an assistant teaching professor in the spring 2023 semester. Strachen completed his PhD at UW-Madison in 2021 before heading to Sandia National Laboratories to work on experimental testing for determining the vulnerability of the U.S. electric grid to electromagnetic pulse attacks.

During his time as a student at UW-Madison, Strachen says he really enjoyed teaching and mentoring and even taught a full course on electromagnetic wave transmission on his own. While doing research at Sandia he realized how much he missed teaching.

Now, back in Madison, he will teach both undergraduate and graduate students. “I’ve always been a proponent of hands-on-learning,” he says. “I started tinkering on things in my parent’s garage and learned by doing. I think that’s important for students.”

For instance, in his electromagnetic wave transmission class, which was primarily seniors, the course called for the class to build a working antenna. Strachen says he’s also a fan of employing intuitive explanations and real-world examples. “Engineering can be so theoretical, you can lose contact with reality,” he says. “I like to start lessons off with these real-world connections to build interest, then go deeper into theory.”

Eventually, Strachen also hopes to help reimagine some of ECE’s capstone courses and introduce even more hands-on components. In the meantime, he’s pursuing funding from Sandia Labs for a new club in which students build and compete with full-scale underwater robots.

Setareh Behroozi, who completed her PhD at UW-Madison in 2022 studying embedded systems, wearable and implantable devices, joined ECE as teaching faculty in the fall of 2022. She focuses on teaching core undergraduate courses including intro to computer engineering and digital design fundamentals.

Behroozi says that she has been teaching since high school, running sections as an undergraduate and teaching classes as a graduate student. Her long-time dual role as both a teacher and a student has honed her teaching philosophy. In all that she does, she tries to look at things through a student’s perspective. “Having that student viewpoint is essential for setting course material and policies and being successful,” she says. “Their success is our success.”

Behroozi says it’s also important to update course materials and teaching styles. For instance, several years ago the introduction to computer engineering course she now teaches was turned into a “flipped” course, in which students watch a lecture before class and engage in more hands-on activities and problem-solving during class. She says she remembers taking a similar course at her alma mater when she was an undergraduate and being frustrated by its traditional format.

“I found those courses incomplete,” she says. “It’s not the type of material that you need to memorize. Students have to solve problems and learn how to use the tools for the information to stick. I think the flipped format is necessary for these courses and I don’t think they can be taught another way.”

She says over time she hopes to help ECE continue to evolve and update its courses as the worlds of technology and education change. But one thing that won’t change is her commitment to students. “I find teaching the most rewarding job,” she says. “Feeling you helped somebody learn something, earn a degree or win a competition is an awesome feeling. I can’t compare it to anything else. For me, it’s not just a job, it’s what I love to do.”

Featured image caption: Setareh Behroozi (left) and Nathan Strachen. Submitted image.