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Furniss, Jon (ed.) / Wisconsin engineer
Volume 101, Number 2 (February 1997)

Nelson, Rob
Faculty profile: Professor S. R. Seshadri,   pp. 14-15


Page 14


Faculty Profile:
Professor S.R.
Seshadri
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Professor S.i. Sesnadri
After finishing missionary school
in India, where he was indoctri-
nated into religion at an early age, Dr.
S.R. Seshadri was the pride of his
school because, unlike most of his
classmates, he was not from the up-
per class. With strong support from his
family, he ventured forth to Madras
University, also in India, to obtain BS
and MA degrees in physics. His fam-
ily further supported him as he started
his engineering education at the In-
dian Institute of Science, one of the
premier institutes in India. From there
he came to the United States, at
Harvard University, where he got his
Ph.D. in 1959. " I had pretty happy
times... .When I came to Harvard I was
fortunate to be associated with some
of the best people in the world.",
Seshadri says.
Seshadri still keeps in touch with the
professor that guided him at Harvard.
That professor, who had a strong in-
fluence on Seshadri, originally gradu-
ated from the University of Wis-
consin and is now ninety years
old. Even to this day, Seshadri
still keeps in close contact with
this professor. This caused him to
have great respect for the UW and
made his decision to come to the
UW to teach easy. To further ce-
ment his decision, that professor
was a friend of the late Dean Kurt
Wendt, who our library was
named for. This not withstanding,
the dean at Harvard also had
strong Wisconsin ties and his fa-
ther was the well known math-
ematician in Wisconsin, Van
Vleck, that another one of our
buildings was named in honor of.
Teaching for Seshadri has been "like
a life's mission". He actively pursues
the study and research of education in
engineering. "Basically I am interested
in creating and propagating knowl-
edge and teaching provides me the
necessary intellectual stimulation"
says Seshadri. In his present research,
he is focusing on how to effectively
teach students with various academic
disadvantages in his ECE classes, in-
terjecting that strengthening the
"weaker links" improves the class as
a whole significantly. He also believes
in providing a good role model to his
students. Working long hours, center-
ing his life around his research and
teaching is a given in Seshadri's job.
In one quote, he told me with strong
conviction, "Knowledge can not be
generated by working from 9 to 5."
Seshadri has many concerns about
education and one is the length of time
for an engineering student to get an
undergraduate education. The desire
of the engineering community and
society in general, is for engineering
students to acquire the necessary tools
they need to become an successful
engineer in four years ( 10% of their
professional lifetime ). However, this
is unrealistic to students for several
reasons. Despite these reasons,
Seshadri believes an education can be
attained in four years by not teaching
engineering students everything they
need to know, but by a focus on teach-
ing "the tools to learn everything they
need to know in the next forty years."
One concrete example he gives of how
to make an engineering education
shorter is to take ECE220 (Electrody-
namics-I, 3 credits) and ECE320 (Elec-
trodynamics-Il, 3 credits) and combine
them into one 5 credit course. The
average amount of time required for
the student for one 3 credit engineer-
ing course is 10 hours including the
time spent in class. However, a student
cannot be expected to work more than
50 hours per week, and the course
objectives must still be met. He also
believes the typical Junior or Senior
can handle no more than 14-15 credits
per semester.
In addition, other problems to a four
year education are found by those stu-
dents just starting out. "In a high
school education there are many omis-
WISC ONSIN
VVENGINEER
Knowledge can not be generated by working
from 9 to 5- Professor Seshadri
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