Jeffrey Evans named Cambridge fellow

Courtesy of
Jeffrey Evans, professor of civil and environmental engineering, was recently awarded a Cambridge Fellowship for fall 2012/spring 2013.

Dr. Jeffrey Evans, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University, has been awarded a Fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge University, for the fall 2012 and spring 2013 terms. He will be in residence there for six months during his sabbatical from the University.

What kind of process did you have to go through to get this fellowship?

“First, Professor Kenichi Soga of the University of Cambridge nominated me. He is a fellow in Churchill College. I then needed to secure letters of reference. Professor Soga suggested Professor Andrew Whittle, chair of civil engineering at MIT, and Professor Thomas O’Rourke, Thomas R. Briggs professor in engineering at Cornell University. Both are members of the National Academy of Engineering and both were previously Overseas Fellows at Churchill. The Fellowship Electors then considered the nomination and references letters and I was elected to an Overseas Fellowship.”

What are the terms of the fellowship? What are you required to do?

“As per my award letter, ‘It is expected Overseas Fellows will take part in the activities of the college and that they will have associations with appropriate [Cambridge] University departments.’ In this regard, I also have been invited by the Engineering Department of the University of Cambridge to join them as an official ‘academic visitor.’ Thus, there are no specific requirements for me to fulfill, but rather my participation in the enterprise of [Cambridge] University is expected. Mostly, I will be working on research and working with graduate students in engineering.

The Fellowship also provides me access to on-campus Fellows accommodations for which I would be otherwise ineligible. It also includes, free of charge, all of my meals including dining at the High Table.”

How is the British style of teaching different than the American style? Will you have to make modifications to your teaching style?

“Since I will not be in the classroom in what might be considered the normal ‘teaching’ environment, teaching at Cambridge will be similar to teaching at Bucknell. That is, I will be meeting one-on-one with students to discuss their work, guide their thinking and answer questions as appropriate.”

How do you think your teaching career at the University has prepared you for this fellowship?

“While teaching at Bucknell University, I generally have an open door policy and often meet with students one-on-one to discuss coursework as well as broader topics such as employment opportunities, research and professional issues. This will be similar to my role at the University of Cambridge.

It is worth noting that the scholar part of the teacher-scholar model at Bucknell University was an essential component to my election as an Overseas Fellow. I’ve been fortunate working with good students and faculty colleagues as well as in securing NSF grants during my time at Bucknell University. Without this scholarly productivity, an appointment at a university such as Cambridge would be highly unlikely.”

What do you think the biggest adjustment will be in terms of living in England?

“Having lived in England during two previous sabbaticals, I’m rather familiar with most aspects of life in Britain. Of course, everything is more expensive here so that is always a consideration. Also, I do not plan to have a car, so there will be considerably more walking and biking than in Lewisburg. I certainly won’t miss the many committee meetings and administrative duties I had at Bucknell, but I’m sure I’ll quickly adjust to their absences.”

What are you most excited about in regards to being at Cambridge?

“The city of Cambridge is one of the most beautiful cities in England and the walk from Churchill College to the engineering building is delightful. The University [of Cambridge] is consistently rated one of the top five in the world and the opportunity to work in such an environment is exciting. After work, the cultural opportunities for concerts, plays, music and the like are seemingly never-ending. As Bucknell’s Professor Howard Smith (originally from Wales) stated to me this summer, ‘Cambridge; it doesn’t get any better that that.'”

Do you think this experience will change how you approach engineering at the University?

“I certainly believe it will bring fresh ideas and approaches to the classroom and to the research I carry out with our students. There is a lot happening in civil engineering in the UK and Europe, and undoubtedly I’ll be sharing this with our students when I return.”

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