Teaching/Educational Philosophy of Professor J.N. Reddy

(Composed by his nominators for various institutional teaching awards)

Professor Reddy believes that learning is a self-driven process, and a teacher’s role involves more than just facilitating learning and imparting knowledge to the students. A teacher should provide motivation to the students to learn and help in organizing their thought process to understand and develop skills necessary to be successful in professional and personal life. He firmly believes that the hallmark of a successful engineer is to have a strong grasp of fundamental concepts and a creative-thinking capability to apply the fundamental concepts of the profession or discipline to solve real-life problems (both technical and professional). A close look at the textbooks written by Dr. Reddy show that his teaching philosophy is based on: (1) motivate students to fully understand fundamental concepts and mathematical tools necessary to formulate the problems of engineering, and (2) develop creative and critical thinking in students so as to build solutions to real-life engineering problems. He reminds his students time and again that engineering is a “problem-solving discipline” that requires an understanding of the basic principles/axioms of nature and their role in formulating the underlying mathematical models. He does not compromise, as judged from his books, on mathematical rigor and physical insights required to address the problem to be solved. This is the part that most students, even though initially a bit scared of the mathematical tools he uses to explain the physics, appreciate the most.

Professor Reddy has taught variety of courses that are of interest to many departments of engineering as well as to applied mathematics, geology and geophysics, and agricultural engineering. An especially strong point of Dr. Reddy’s classroom teaching is the clarity and physical insight of explanations of even the most difficult topics through relevant engineering examples, but without compromising on the mathematical rigor. Dr. Reddy personally prepares his assignments and illustrations for all of his undergraduate and graduate courses. He maintains his own course web sites where his meticulously prepared illustrations and learning aids have helped countless students and visitors to his educational website grasp fundamental and advanced principles of mechanics and computational methods for which he is internationally known. Another strong point of Professor Reddy’s class room teaching is that he introduces fresh ideas from his personal research into the course contents and keeps the students up-to-date on current developments related to the course contents.

Professor Reddy developed teaching tools in the form text books that are adopted worldwide. In fact, he is a celebrity when it comes to textbooks in engineering. Over the past three decades he has consistently written highly substantive graduate level textbooks (and his books have been used for 3 generations of students). He is the author of 20 books, some of them in their third and fourth editions from well-known publishing houses of engineering books (e.g., Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, McGraw-Hill, John Wiley, Springer-Verlag, Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, and CRC Press), which amply demonstrates that they are well-received text books and that he is a superior engineering textbook author. Dr. Reddy personally typed, prepared illustrations, and developed solution manuals himself for many of his books, especially those for which he is the sole author.

Professor Reddy has won the departmental Outstanding Graduate Teaching award, and College as well as University level Association of Former Students’ (AFS) awards for Distinguished Achievement in Teaching. He also received the national level Archie Higdon Distinguished Educator Award from the American Society of Engineering Education and a Technical Achievement Award from the National Academy of Engineering for “outstanding contributions to engineering education and research.”

Many of Dr. Reddy’s students hold faculty positions at U.S. universities as well as in institutions in other countries; others are research engineers in U.S. industries (US Air Force, General Electric, Lockheed, Ford, General Motors, and so on, and they include technical fellows, managers, and even a president of a company). Most of his postdoctoral fellows are faculty members in European and Asian universities. The mentorship and first-hand research collaborations with his graduate students have to be the most significant and lasting contributions of Dr. Reddy’s professional life, which cannot be measured by any award but only by the appreciation shown by his students.

Comments made on Teaching Evaluation Forms

  • “He is very helpful and an excellent teacher.”
  • “Dr. Reddy is one of the best professors I have ever had. I would take any classes he taught.”
  • “Dr. Reddy is an amazing professor. He made the course really very interesting.”
  • “He is very good. I learned a lot from this.”
  • “This is my second course with Dr. Reddy, and I have no doubt that he is the best teacher I had so far.”
  • “Clear organized lecturer, open to review sessions, flexible schedule, website communication, prompt grading. Very difficult course but good professor.”
  • “He is one of the most knowledgeable professors in the university. But most important is (that) he has a perfect way of teaching. He makes students to understand the subject properly.”
  • “Ready to help in every aspect.”
  • “Everything about Dr. Reddy is great. He is too good to be true. Probably the best instructor in my whole life.”
  • “He is always open to questions and he really cares if you learn the subject.”
  • “The way he teaches … explains clearly. Dr. Reddy is my role model. That summarizes everything.”
  • “Best teacher I have got in my life. I am big fan of him.”
  • “Should receive an award in patience. Very helpful for even the slowest of students. Even though grades may not show it, I learned a lot.”
  • “Very knowledgeable. Always available during the day to answer questions. One f the best professors I have had.”
  • “He knows the subject quite well. He is always willing to help students and he really cares that we learn the material. Excellent course. Overall he is an excellent teacher.”
  • “Dr. Reddy is one of the best professor I ever had in my graduate studies.”
  • “Explains very well. Answers questions clearly. Enjoys teaching. Dr. Reddy is a great professor and the material is interesting.”
  • “Thorough, precise, clear, easy to understand. Cares about students. He is great.”
  • “Excellent explaining skills. Nice course and great instructor.”
  • “Really cares that I learn the material. Really accessible outside of class.”
  • “He is so freaking smart. Good course, super hard.”
  • “He loves the subject and he is passionate in helping us understand it.”
  • “Hands on course, meticulously planned, very good teaching.”
  • “Inspired me to think and continue studying. Qualities I like are patience and inspiration.”
  • “Knowledge and passion for teaching.”
  • “Very knowledgeable. Wants students to learn. After class sessions were very, very, helpful. Wonderful course. Proud to be a student of Dr. Reddy.”

Representative Comments through e-mail and other Communication

  • “…the most important thing I learned from this class was the effectiveness of being thoughtful. Dr. Reddy has shown his ability as an exceptional teacher and has earned my utmost respect.” Philip Kokel (former undergraduate student)
  • “He combines crystal clear diction with extremely well organized and precise lectures. He is a stellar teacher of teachers.” (Professor Paul Heyliger, former PhD student of Dr. Reddy, who is a full professor at Colorado State)
  • “…I was deeply impressed by his selfless efforts to make his own hard-earned expertise accessible to motivated students. He seemed to derive his personal reward, not from demonstrating to students that he is expert, but from being able to explain complex ideas to students in a way that they can comprehend and ultimately master these ideas.” (Dr. Don Robbins, Jr., a former PhD student of Dr. Reddy, who is a senior engineer at Autodesk)
  • “Dr. Reddy’s enthusiasm and strong commitment to teaching have certainly been the hallmark of his professorial career. His ability to explain difficult and challenging concepts in a very simple way, illustrating them with concrete examples still amazes me. …. I could continue to write long pages listing the teaching skills and research highlights and reputation that Dr. Reddy is well known for among the students, faculty, and researchers around world. But this list would be incomplete if I did not talk about Dr. Reddy’s kindness and quality as human being. He has always been willing to support his students, both academically and personally. He has inspired us to have faith in ourselves and our abilities. He has shown by his own example what a responsible and competent engineer should be. This is what a great teacher does.” (Dr. Yetzirah Urthaler, a former PhD student of Dr. Reddy who is now at British Petroleum, Houston)
  • “I wish to tell you that since when I completed the course conducted by your good-self at BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Center) on FEM, I took a lot of interest in the subject. Your great way of teaching the principles and the complicated mathematics inspired me a lot. Now for last 2-3 years I am trying to teach this subject at BE and ME level (Mechanical Engineering) In VJTI, Matunga, Mumbai. I am using your approach i.e. unified approach to solve various field problems. (I think students are happy and satisfied from what they are getting). At present yours is the only book which is preferred by all the students of Mumbai University as a text book. All the teachers and students like your book out of all because of its exceptionally different and fundamentally clear nature. Its like a Bible or Geeta (a holy book of Hindus) for all of us. These students, many of them at USA for their MS, PhD, are benefited by the knowledge in this subject, using the same in their jobs, projects or further studies. … Sir I am really grateful to you for motivating me to explore into this subject for past few years. Those two weeks in BARC were really miraculous and never-forgettable days.” (Dr. S N Nakhare, VJTI, Bombay, India)
  • “I am a graduate student at Princeton University. I am also an ardent reader of your books and papers. Thank you for your great work, from where I begin to understand composite plate theories.” (Zhanke Liu, a student from Princeton University)
  • “I have finished my thesis and I have got an excellent degree. This degree is due to your help to me and, I thank you and my God for this assistance. Thank you Dr. Reddy.” (Azad Mohammad Ali, Iraq)
  • “It was indeed a good learning experience to attend your lectures at RDSE2007, Manipal. Your talk on finite element modelling and analysis of cells really clicked something to me. Prof N.S. Your presentations made the conference meaningful and inspiring. It was memorable for me since I referred your book in my PG (postgraduate) Course. I have learnt a new term, i.e., Passion that would be inspiring for me in time to come. Thanks and with respectful regards. (A. K. Gupta, Manipal, India).
  • “I was honored to be among the few members who listened to your lecture on FEA at RMK Engineering College. I am working as an Asst. Professor in SS College of Engineering, Chennai, which is one of the fastest growing colleges in South India with tremendous visions for Research activities. I was enlightened by your words and it rekindled a renewed passion to work and learn FEM in a more meaningful way. I wish and hope you will be the Dronacharya this eklavya is searching for. With Humble regards for a GREAT TEACHER.” (K. S. Vijay Sekar, Chennai, India).
  • “It was almost five years ago when I found your text book on FEM, ‘An Introduction to the Finite Element Method’ and your Computer Program FEM2DV2 via e-mail system. It was my first study on FEM at the age of 70, and it gave me chances to learn new engineering problems. My main interest had been thermal engineering, then your text led me to construction problems and fluid flow problems, too. Just now I am learning strength of materials again, and it was a pleasure to find your ‘Energy and Variational Methods in Applied Mechanics’ at the library of Institute of Industrial Science of Tokyo University. It was 53 years ago when I learnt strength of materials at a mechanical engineering course of a college, and Energy and Variational Methods are quite new for me, to tell the truth. Finding text books by well-known author gives good incentives to learn.” (Naoshi Aoki, Tokyo, Japan).
  • “It is a coincidence that I am writing this e-mail on ‘Teachers’ Day’. Kindly accept my Greetings on account of Teachers’ Day! Probably, you may not remember me as your student. But, I have learnt Finite Element Method directly from you (when you gave a week long course at IISc, Bangalore). I am always proud of the fact that I have learnt ABCs of FEM from an effective teacher like you!.” (Professor R.P. Shimpi, IIT Bombay).
  • “This is an excellent book. I saw it at IMECE 2007 and ordered an examination copy. I may teach this course in the near future and will use it. Like all your books, this one is clearly written and gives an excellent description of the subject. You told me many years ago at a meeting in Albuquerque that you often write the books in front of TV in the evening. I tried this method but it did not work for me. The citation from Newton in front of Preface is very good and suitable: many your colleagues saw the science better because of your shoulders. Anyway, congratulations with the job well done! Best regards.” (Professor Victor Birman, University of Missouri, Rolla).
  • “Thank you very much for the reply. My doubt is clear now. Really speaking I was not expecting this. I thought you must be very busy in work. I just thank you again and pray to God for your long and healthy life so that we students will get more of such wonderful books on various subjects. Thank you again sir.” (Shyam Sunder, Mech. Engg., IISc Bangalore).
  • “Dear Prof. Reddy, Blessed be the day of your birthday, either real or official. In this day I am able to express myself in two noble feelings: praise and gratitude. In this day I concentrate what I feel throughout the year, every year, since 1986. From our last meeting in Sao Paulo, I was very pleased to learn that you appreciate my ways. When we do something good to someone else, as you did to me, there is no way of paying in the same token, in the same magnitude. The beneficiary carries the benefit for the rest of his life, and maybe beyond, so that I perceive only one possible tentative way of deserving it: to be thankful every single moment for the rest of my life and do the same for someone in need. This establishes the goodness chain, that I suppose is the main purpose of our lives. In this way, you introduced me in it and you woke me up with respect to it. This is my birthday present to you: the repetition of the same subject matter every year. For some, it might be boring, but for you it is the sheer confirmation of your goodness, of your achievement as a human being, in much higher levels than your professional achievements. Blessed be you and your kin!.” (Professor Felix Palmerio, Brazilian Air Force Institute of Technology).
  • “On Teachers’ Day, I want to say thanks for all the knowledge you gave me. The four years I spent with you were instrumental in my professional and personal growth. I have learned so many valuable things from you, not just in the field of our endeavor, but on all aspects of life. Thank You Prof. Reddy.” (Dr. Vivek Prabhakar, former student).
  • “My dear friend, a living legend in the mechanics. It is my sincere wish to congratulate your new year. I wish you and your family happiness and good health in the New Year. In addition, I wish to God to protect the role of the leader in the scientific arena.” (Prof. AH Sofiev, Chairman of Branch of Mechanics, Suleyman Demirel University, Turkey).
  • “With this email I would like to introduce you myself once more. Back in 2003, while I was starting my PhD I contacted you asking for some help regarding your book/source code in the ‘Introduction to the Finite Element Method’ and you were more than kind to offer it. I have to say that this moment is imprinted in my memory because then and also afterwards many people ignored my calls or even denied their help, mainly because I was not ‘coming’ from a known group in that field. Today, I’m a new assistant professor in Texas A&M University at Qatar in the Chemical Engineering Department working mainly on local scale atmospheric fluid dynamics. It would be my honor and pleasure to meet you next time you visit Qatar.” (Dr. Konstantinos E. Kakosimos, Texas A&M University at Qatar).