An Interview with Dr. Jide Williams, a New Ritchie School Teaching Professor
Dr. Jide Williams recently joined the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science as a member of the teaching faculty for this academic year, but he is not new to the University of Denver. Just five months ago, Dr. Williams received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the Ritchie School.
“I started as a materials science Ph.D. student,” said Dr. Williams. “But later the nature of my research evolved into mechanical engineering.”
Before coming to DU, Dr. Williams studied chemical and polymer engineering at the University of Lagos in Nigeria. He later earned a master’s in process engineering. “After my master's, I went into business administration because I got a job in a consulting firm as a training facilitator did a lot of training. We would go into organizations, check for holes in their processes, and then design a learning solution to the host that we find… Then when I got to the US, I went back into engineering since engineering had been my core area of study.”
Dr. Williams found out about DU through a video by Michael Caston, a Professor of the Practice, Executive Director of the Innovation Floor, and Faculty Director at the Ritchie School. “(The video) was advertising a Shark Tank event and he was trying to find the nexus between management and engineering.” The synergy between business and engineering intrigued Dr. Williams, since he was trying to find that mix in his next steps.
“When I got into DU, as a master’s student, I spoke to Dr. Matt Gordon, who happened to be the chair (of the department of Mechanicals and Materials Engineering) at the time. Dr. Gordon said, ‘Well, just walk down the hallways, see if we can get a supervisor who will supervise your work, and then we'll transition you into Ph.D.’” After knocking on doors, he met Dr. Yun-Bo Yi, a Professor in Mechanicals and Materials, and started the Ph.D. program under his supervision. After completing a year of mentorship under Dr. Yi, Dr. Williams transitioned to the supervision of Dr. Maciej Kumosa, who supervised his research until his successful defense of his dissertation.
After getting his Ph.D., Dr. Williams started teaching at the Ritchie School, now a visiting assistant teaching professor of Material Science I and Intro to Engineering Design, which is co-taught with Dr. Breigh Roszelle, teaching professor, associate dean for undergraduate studies, and interim chair of the Mechanical and Materials Engineering department.
“One of the major things that drives my passion as a teacher is providing all the resources that could help students succeed. And one of the ways to do that is through compassionate teaching. When students struggle to learn a concept, they require empathetic instruction. When I teach them and they say, ‘Oh, wow. Now I get it,’ that brings deep fulfilment and joy to me.”
The previous two quarters, Dr. Williams taught a couple classes as an adjunct, and he used the feedback he received to strengthen the structure of his classes this year as well as taking a class in course design at the Office of Teaching and Learning.
Now as a member of the teaching faculty, Dr. Williams has started incorporating the concept of Culturally Responsive Teaching into his curriculum. “It’s where you involve different cultures or cultural content into the mix of what you are instructing, to carry people who are from different cultures along.”
As a part of DU and for his own personal growth, Dr. Williams is always looking for opportunities to teach, and help students grow. One thing that excites him about the future of engineering is the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI). “I would say we are in an era of AI, where artificial intelligence is driving most of the things happening in the world. What I'm looking forward to in the future of data engineering is to see between those two disciplines, between AI and engineering, and also be at the forefront of those creating these frontiers in terms of research and teaching.”
If you’d like to learn more about the engineering programs offered at the Ritchie School, please check out our page of academics.