College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

A passion for teaching brings an aerospace lecturer back to Iowa State from industry

Jennifer Johannsen has spent a great deal of time applying her problem-solving and engineering skills in industry jobs. But after a year serving as a teaching assistant, she found herself inspired by the idea of shaping the minds of future engineers. This new-found interest led her down a new path and ultimately to her latest career: lecturer in aerospace engineering.Jennifer Johannsen

Johannsen graduated from Iowa State in 1996 with a degree in engineering science, an emphasis in acoustics, and a minor in mathematics. As she worked toward her undergraduate degree, she also conducted research on the smart material Terfenol-D and its various applications with a team of graduate students studying under Alison Flatau, former associate professor in aerospace engineering at Iowa State.

Upon graduating, Johannsen went to work for Delphi Automotive in Saginway, Michigan. She began in the company’s steering gear manufacturing facility and later went on to serve as a test engineer in halfshaft product engineering. She then took a one-year leave of absence to do a non-thesis master’s degree in engineering mechanics at Michigan State University (MSU) in 1999.

“While at MSU, I enjoyed teaching undergraduate engineering mechanics courses and labs, and when I returned to Delphi, I really missed that,” she explains. “So, I accepted a position as an adjunct faculty member in the Saginaw Valley State University’s engineering department, which allowed me to teach two evenings each week.”

Johannsen changed jobs in 2000 and began working for Eaton Automotive in Marshall, Michigan, as a noise, vibration, harshness (NVH) test engineer in the company’s supercharger division.

In the spring of 2012, she began considering doctorate programs and contacted Loren Zachary, aerospace engineering professor at Iowa State, to learn more about the university’s program. Because of her personal interests and experience, Zachary encouraged Johannsen to instead apply for an open position as lecturer.

When Johannsen was selected for the position, she began working at John Deere Des Moines Works in cotton picker production development until she started at Iowa State this fall.

Well into her first semester as an AerE lecturer, she is instructing a course called mechanics and materials, which enrolls engineering students from aerospace, agriculture, civil, construction, and materials science. She says she’s glad to get back into teaching and has enjoyed getting to know her fellow faculty members as well.

“My colleagues in the college are amazing,” raves Johannsen. “I am looking forward to getting to know them better, learning about their areas of interest, and having them serve as mentors as I pursue my own doctorate degree and research.”

While she is enthusiastic about returning to Ames and raising her three young daughters in a city she loves, Johannsen is most happy about working with students and the opportunity to again experience her passion for teaching.

“It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to have a positive influence on students,” she says. “I hope to add to the value of an engineering degree received from Iowa State and build on the reputation that these students are highly sought after by employers because of their technical knowledge and practical talents.”

Johannsen hopes to eventually enroll in a doctorate program within the college.