Course Introduction to MIT 1.061 by Professor Nepf

Uploaded by MIT on 22.06.2009


Can you tell us your name and what course you teach?
NEPF: I am Heidi Nepf. And I teach the course 1.061
which is Environmental Transport Processes.
INTERVIEWER: And what department is this in?
NEPF: And that is in Civil and Environmental Engineering.
INTERVIEWER: So can you tell me what the
goals are for this class? NEPF: Well, the goals of the
course are two-fold. Obviously, it is to expose the
students to the environmental transport processes which
include air, water exchange, advection, dispersion.
But there is also a secondary purpose of the course to
introduce the concept of scale analysis or, in particular time
scale analysis which is a methodology by which you can
compare processes using the unit of time.
And why do you teach this particular class?
NEPF: This is a core class for the environmental engineering
degree, although I do every year get a handful of students of
outside of what we call the 1E program.
And it sets the groundwork for looking at fate and transport of
chemical and biological components in the environment.
So I teach the physical components, how things move
around and how they move between different compartments,
water and air. And then, in the second
semester, students learn more about biological and chemical
reactions. At the end of their junior year
they have a field project which, largely to their own design,
they choose something they want to go out and observe and study.
And they have three weeks in which to design an experiment
and go out and conduct it, hopefully drawing upon some or
all of the things they have learned over the year.
So what happens in a typical class day?
Is it sort of a lecture type of setting?
NEPF: I have a lecture class and a laboratory class that are
actually linked. So twice a week we meet for
lecture. It is an hour and a half,
which is a long time to meet so I like to break up the class
with what I call sort of brain teasers or little problem sets
that the students will do in groups.
So they are usually five to ten minutes in length.
I will set up the problem, let them work it,
and then I force them to give me the answer.
I have learned not to give out the answer.
Otherwise, they won't do the work.
And then once a week we have a laboratory activity which ties
into what has been learned in lecture but gives them a chance
to really get hands-on. INTERVIEWER:
So the students work in small groups sometimes in the lecture
part of the class. Do they also do any projects in
teams or in groups or is the rest of the homework really done
on their own? NEPF: The homework they have
the option to do either on their own or in teams.
But sometimes they will work in teams if the homework is a
little bit more of a project base.
So some of the homework are things like estimate the
residence time of your dormitory room or estimate the flow in the
Charles River which is right nearby.
And I just don't give them anymore information.
And I let them work in groups to come up with how they are
going to do that estimation. And then they have to write it
in pros form. And I try to teach them a
little bit about scientific writing, equation numbers,
simple things like that. And, actually,
I really enjoy that part because they come up with very
creative solutions. INTERVIEWER:
OK. Any other pedagogical methods
or special things that you might do in class that might not be
evident from the OCW materials? NEPF: No.
It is mostly just the lecture and then the brain teasers in
the class that I use. And I occasionally will bring
in my laptop so that I can show the animations in class and talk
about them so that when the students use them in their
homework they are more familiar with them.
INTERVIEWER: Can you say a bit more about
the lab assignments, the laboratory work?
NEPF: Yeah. The laboratory work mostly
takes place in the Hydrodynamics Lab which is actually in this
building. And they include things we do
in experiment to measure air water exchange.
We do an experiment that measures dissolution from
Egyptian plate. We look at the turbulence.
We have them measure velocity profiles actually using
different kinds of technology, laser Doppler anemometry,
acoustic Doppler anemometry and also like just a digital camera
visualization. So they get a little exposure
to measurement techniques in the lab.
I am an experimentalist myself so, of course,
I like to emphasize that part of the course.
INTERVIEWER: And how do you assess the
students, both in the lecture or in the laboratory?
NEPF: The way assessment is done is that they have homework
assignments, but that is a relatively small amount of the
total grade. I like to give a quiz about
every two weeks. I find that that fits in nicely
because most of the other courses give major midterms and
major finals. I actually find I get a better
intellectual return. That they learn better if I
give a mini-quiz, like a half a time quiz every
two weeks. It forces them to keep up with
the material a little bit more. And that is the major
assessment. And then they have a final,
a cumulative final. INTERVIEWER:
And what do students go on to do?
Are most of them doing this as part of their major?
NEPF: Most of them are doing it as part of the Environmental
Engineering major, but I also get a lot of
students who are first year graduate students who are
attracted to environmental engineering but are coming from
backgrounds where they might not have been exposed to fluid
mechanics before. And so this serves as a first
year graduate course as well. INTERVIEWER:
OK. Do you have any other comments
or anything else you would like to share about the class?
NEPF: No. I really enjoy teaching it.
And I find that the more enthusiasm we bring to the class
that the students respond really well to that and it makes the
class overall really fun to teach.
Well, thank you very much for sharing your course materials
with MIT OpenCourseWare. We appreciate your input.
NEPF: OK. Thank you.