Industrial and systems engineering PhD student Chao Wang has earned a UW-Madison Teaching Assistant Award for Early Excellence in Teaching. The award, presented by the Graduate School, recognizes exceptional teaching by graduate students across campus and throughout various departments.
Wang, a third year PhD student from Changzhou, China, joined the department in 2015 after receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering with a focus on precision instruments and signal processing. However, he switched gears to industrial and systems engineering—specifically to manufacturing production systems—to get a systematic view of the entire manufacturing process from production improvement and quality control to material handling and decision making.
He is currently a member of the Laboratory for Manufacturing Process Analysis and Control with Professor Shiyu Zhou.
Wang is the teaching assistant for the lab sessions of ISyE 605, Computer Integrated Manufacturing. For Wang, assisting in the lab session provides a unique opportunity that isn’t always available in a typical classroom setting.
“In the lab session, students will propose questions and some of these questions result in novel ways to solve the problems,” says Wang. “Some students are also willing to share their feelings about the course and lab session. All of these make the course a knowledge and experience interaction among students, instructor and TA rather than just solving problems in a fixed pattern.”
While the lab session provides opportunities for free discussion, it also presents challenges that require in-depth preparation.
“Well-prepared means not only preparing good materials in class, but the preparation to course-related questions that students may raise,” says Wang. “Sometimes the homework may lead students to think about related questions and when they ask for answers, we TAs should be at least familiar with the material and give reasonable solutions or suggestions. This is not an easy task but can really stimulate students’ interest in the topic outside the course.”
Wang plans to defend his thesis in spring 2019 and hopes to translate his experience and knowledge, not only as a TA, but a TA in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, to future classrooms and students.
“My career plan is to be a faculty member who is capable of doing good research as well as providing engaging courses attractive courses,” says Wang. “This is a challenging task, but the academic training in our department and the chance of being a TA helps me move forward and closer to my plan.”