Amoco Undergraduate Teaching
Noel C. Perkins
Since joining the Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty
in 1987, Noel C. Perkins has taught more than 1,500 students. Many
of them rank his classes among the best of their undergraduate careers.
As one former student attests, “Armed with a piece of chalk
and an eraser, Prof. Perkins transformed the normal classroom environment
into a world of virtual learning and exciting adventures in mechanical
Graduate student instructors cite Perkins’ lecturing style
as one they want to emulate—dynamic, knowledgeable and accessible,
never forgetting what it is like to be an undergraduate confronting
the material for the first time. And through his tireless advising
and mentoring, Perkins’ devotion to undergraduate education
benefits even those students who never sit in his classroom.
One example of Perkins’ creativity involves the construction
of mechanical “frogs” by first-year engineering students
who are learning basic principles of engineering mechanics. This
innovative project was the subject of a Chicago Tribune article,
and the completed frogs were donated to local middle schools to
support science education. An accomplished researcher in dynamics
and vibrations, Perkins illustrates concepts with examples from
his real-world experience. His students feel confident that the
skills they learn in his classrooms will be relevant in future internships
In 1995–96, Perkins helped develop the Mechanical Engineering
Learning Center, a 1,000-square-foot space where undergraduates
can go for one-on-one tutoring and advising. Similar centers are
now being planned in the departments of aerospace and chemical engineering
to support their own tutoring efforts.
Since 1999, Perkins has directed Mechanical Engineering’s
Undergraduate Program, and in this capacity oversees advising for
about 750 mechanical engineering students. His passion for teaching
has garnered him wide recognition, such as the Arthur F. Thurnau
Professorship, Ruth and Joe Spira Outstanding Teaching Award, Faculty
Recognition Award and the Tau Beta Pi Professor of the Year Award.
He is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and
an associate editor of the Journal of Applied Mechanics.