Mani Mina is an educator and researcher, as well as a practitioner of martial arts. He believes the three are intricately related, helping him meet the demands of teaching larger classes as well as performing research that adds value in both educational and technical fields.
The key, says Mina, who is a senior lecturer in electrical engineering, is finding a balance that keeps you focused and interested without losing sight of the bigger picture.
How does this apply in his daily work? Take the freshman course EE 185: Introduction to Electrical Engineering and Problem Solving I, which is just one of several courses he is teaching this semester. Currently, the class has around 120 students, one of its largest enrollments in history.
Seating problems notwithstanding, Mina’s primary concern is being actively engaged with students.
“These students in particular are going to be going out into a very interesting, dynamic future. We want to make sure our course has an impact on them, to help them prepare,” he says.
Mina adds that the course involves lots of activities, debates, and small group discussions that can make a large class more personal and engaging.
“We want to make a playing ground for them,” Mina says. “Make all the mistakes you can and learn from every one of them.”
Another way Mina helps give a large class a more personal touch is to introduce students to activities and organizations that go on outside the classroom.
He says many of the freshman he works with get involved in groups like Critical Tinkers, which gives them an opportunity to play with technology and create interesting and challenging projects. One of the group’s current projects is in collaboration with the College of Design on future designs of a high-speed lab.
Mina is also a dynamic representative of Iowa State’s strong presence in education research on a national level. His National Science Foundation-funded research deals with technological literacy, and focuses on determining proper standards and tests to measure it among a general populace.
His technical research currently focuses on magneto optic switches for fiber optic communication networks.
And he practices Hapkido, a Korean martial art that emphasizes joint locking, striking dynamic pressure points, and a circular motion that maintains control of an opponent.
“Many people [who practice martial arts] are in sciences,” Mina says. “It’s an exercise in physical and mental focus.”
Mina’s martial arts practice, research in networks and education, and teaching, all work as one to demonstrate his strong ideology.
“I believe in connectivity,” Mina says. “Creativity, excitement, teamwork, it’s all connected.”