Dr. Yan Tang is an associate professor and internship/co-op advisor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach campus.
What motivated you to pursue a career in mechanical engineering and higher education?
I have strong interests in technologies and cognitive sciences. Being an engineering professor gives me the resources and opportunities to follow the developments in both fields and apply new discoveries to help engineering students learn better.
What motivated you to choose Embry-Riddle?
It was a coincidence. I asked my lab mate, who was an instructor at Embry-Riddle, for advice on finding a job in higher education. He encouraged me to apply for a faculty position at Embry-Riddle. He told me that Embry-Riddle would be a good fit for me because I love teaching. He was right! I was lucky in terms of job hunting. Embry-Riddle was the only academic job I applied for, and I found my dream job.
If you could go back to your college days, what would you do differently and why?
That’s an interesting question. Somehow I never wish I could go back and apply Ctrl+Z in my life. That we can only live once makes life challenging but also fascinating. I did make some mistakes back in college, but I think they are valuable ingredients in my life.
What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Applying cognitive sciences to teaching and helping students become better learners. Higher education educators usually assume that our students know how to learn. In fact, many studies and my experience show that students typically embrace and practice ineffective learning and study techniques. The rapid development in neuroscience and cognitive science in recent decades have provided effective strategies we could use in engineering curricula to improve learning efficiency. Currently, I mainly focus on developing practice strategies for learning Dynamics, one of the gauntlet courses for engineering students.
What are your hobbies/favorite activities?
Running, reading, watching movies, and TABLE TENNIS. I would like to share the story how I got into running. I used to play table tennis. Three years ago, I tried to apply strategies from the learning theories I was learning to test their effectiveness. So I chose something I did not like and had no foundation in. I started acrylic painting because I thought I had no talents in art. It turned out pretty well. I always show my first painting to my students as an artifact of effective practice strategies. Although I liked painting, driving to take lessons took too much time. I will probably pick it up again when I have more time. Then I tried running which was on my sports blacklist. Now I am a serious marathon runner. I completed my first marathon after two years of training and I am trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The photo was taken when I finished my first sub-2-hour half marathon at Space Coast Half-Marathon last year. Running has become an indispensable routine. It is not just because it keeps me active but also provides many cognitive benefits. I often come up with good ideas or solutions during my long runs.
What are your plans for the future?
My research mainly focuses on engineering education. Trained as an engineer, I need to learn more about conducting education research. It will take a couple of years to build the foundation in terms of methodologies and skills. The goal is to create teaching and learning strategies and education programs through which students become engineers.
Can you discuss your background?
I got my bachelor‘s and master’s degree on Control Systems in China. I joined the mechanical engineering in 2009 after I received my Ph.D. at UCF. Last year, I became the Internship/Co-Op Advisor in mechanical engineering. This new role provides me with more capacity and opportunities to help our students.
What skills/strengths make our graduates stand out in the workforce?
It is the hands-on skills and teamwork experiences that make our graduates gain a competitive edge in the job market. We have put a great emphasis on experiential learning, so our students obtain many opportunities to get involved in projects.