College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

MSE distinguished professor honored for advancements in ceramics education

Steve W. Martin is selected as Ceramic Education Council’s Outstanding Educator

For more than 29 years, Steve W. Martin has been teaching at Iowa State, making advancements in research and passing on his knowledge through glass and ceramics courses. The distinguished professor of materials science and engineering was honored for his educational work on Monday, October 5, 2015, as the Ceramic Education Council’s Outstanding Educator. The award honors outstanding work and creativity in teaching, leading student research, and the educational process in general.

“He’s an excellent professor,” said William Lindemann, a graduate of materials engineering and mathematics and one of Martin’s former students. “He always works to explain concepts clearly and make sure his students understand the practical implications of the science he teaches.”

Martin has been innovative through his teaching in several areas, particularly in creating an “advanced glass class” with an International Materials Institute research grant from the National Science Foundation. While ceramics engineering has had a separate department in schools across the country in the past, the area is now typically part of a materials science and engineering department. Because of this, it is difficult for any one department to get enough students in glass materials to teach a class dedicated to the subject of glass science and engineering.

This led Martin to create an online course available at several universities. Students take the course through their own university, where there is a faculty member on staff tailoring the class to his or her program’s needs. The faculty member also grades assignments and teaches a lab. Recently, four students studied with Martin in the online course.

Encouraging students to get into research is another one of Martin’s passions. “He does an excellent job of presenting research opportunities to students,” said Lindemann. One way Martin accomplishes this is by nominating students for graduate and undergraduate awards. In the past, only graduate students could be honored for their hard work with the Norbert J. Kreidl Graduate Award.

However, Martin wanted to honor and encourage undergraduates to get involved in glass research, leading him to work with others to create the Alfred R. Cooper Young Scholars Award. The award’s namesake was a faculty member at Case Western Reserve University. Cooper was a prominent contributor to glass research and someone who was passionate about getting undergraduates involved in research. Since the award’s inception, Martin’s undergraduate students have been selected three times in eight years. He has also had four students selected for the graduate-level Kreidl award.

Martin also enjoys helping students succeed after graduation. “I work hard to find positions in graduate school for students that focus on what they are interested in. I also enjoy reaching out to leaders in industry to support students pursuing full-time employment,” commented Martin. His past students have gone on to study at Penn State, the University of California, Davis, and the University of Colorado, Boulder, among others.

Though Martin did not expect to be chosen as the Ceramic Education Council’s Outstanding Educator, he appreciates the recognition from his peers and looks forward to continuing his successful approach to educating students. “Learning takes more than what we study in the classroom. That’s why I encourage undergraduates in my lab – they help us with important research while they are preparing themselves for wherever their future may take them.”