Teaching as a Graduate of the Same Program

In this section, Professor Michael Short discusses what it’s like to teach this course after having taken it as a sophomore in 2002. He also shares how he’d like to change the course in future iterations.

I took 22.01 Introduction to Nuclear Engineering and Ionizing Radiation my sophomore year at MIT, back in 2002. I was fortunate to have Jacquelyn Yanch as my teacher because she gave, I'll say, a gentle yet rigorous introduction. So when I had to teach the course for the first time, despite not having done the problem sets since 2002, I still knew the material.

And I was also fortunate to have our current department head Dennis Whyte as the instructor right before me. He was able to show me what he did. That being said, I tend to look at what other people did and then just tear the course down and rebuild it from scratch because I have my own way of doing things.

[Students] may find that most of what you do feels difficult, but they can be challenged more than they think they can.

— Michael Short

I felt that there were aspects of the course when it was previously taught that were too easy for MIT students. They may find that most of what you do feels difficult, but they can be challenged more than they think they can. So we would work a lot more problems at the board. We had more derivations than I've used in previous years, not because I want them to do derivations that fill the board, but because I want them to understand. For example, we have this crazy expression for radiation stopping power and matter. You can figure out where it comes from by just breaking things down into differential force balance. It's just like many other problems here: break it down, integrate over whatever real system you have, and you tend to get the crazy formulas that are right. That's an example of what we do.

Even so, the students asked for a little more busy work so that they would feel more familiar with the basic calculations. And that's something I'm changing for next year. My problem sets are going to be 50% percent GIR-style calculations where it's like, “Solve for this using some equation,” and 50% totally open-ended noodle scratchers to help with the transition to the real way of thinking about science, which is very open-ended.