by Jack Adgate
Tufts appointed Milo Koretsky as the first McDonnell Family Bridge Professor this past December. Koretsky will act as a bridge between the Tufts School of Engineering and School of Arts and Sciences, and will assume the position this month.
The appointee to the McDonnell Family Bridge Professorship, which was founded in 2017, must hold a distinguished faculty position in the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics as well as in discipline-based education research. Koretsky will teach in both the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the Department of Education.
James Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, explained that the professorship is a tool for the university to adapt and grow the way it teaches and learns, with a focus on STEM and related academic areas.
“The Professorship is the result of a generous gift from the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation to support the creation of the Institute for Research on Learning and Instruction (IRLI), which is one of the first research centers dedicated to understanding how students learn at the university level,” Glaser wrote in an email to the Daily. “IRLI is dedicated to discipline-based education research, currently in the STEM field.”
Before his appointment as bridge professor, Koretsky taught for nearly 30 years in Oregon State University’s Department of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. There he led the Engineering Education Research Group, and is a fellow of the Center for Lifelong STEM Education Research at Oregon State University and a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education. Koretsky earned his Ph.D at the University of California, Berkeley, and his B.S. and M.S. from the University of California, San Diego. All of his degrees are in chemical engineering.
Koretsky said he sees the shift to Tufts as building upon what he has been doing at Oregon State University. He was also complimentary of the Institute for Research on Learning and Instruction, and how the institute can facilitate his work to revolutionize learning in STEM fields.
“This is an extension of the work I have done in the past 15 years,” Koretsky said. “[The IRLI] makes sense to the scholarship on how people learn, and there are remarkable people in that institute.”
The School of Engineering’s announcement in December of Koretsky’s appointment to the professorship touched on that work.
“Koretsky studies and develops technological innovations that promote knowledge integration and higher order cognition,” the announcement said. “He has a particular interest in helping faculty effectively use research-based instructional practices to enable more equitable learning, and in understanding what prevents students from connecting the knowledge learned in class to the demands of professional practice.”
Professor Koretsky has experience as an engineer, researcher and educator that Glaser and Jianmin Qu, dean of the School of Engineering, believe will be a positive addition to the university.
“Professor Koretsky’s experience is all the more notable for its breadth,” Qu wrote in an email to the Daily. “He combines a deep technical background in chemical engineering with an equally impressive history in the study of innovative engineering curricular design, where he has taken a leading role in developing technology-based instructional tools.”
Glaser spoke similarly of Koretsky.
“Koretsky was chosen because he is a brilliant and accomplished national leader in engineering education research,” he said. “We know he brings outstanding bona fides to the role and we will benefit from his research and scholarship.”
Koretsky was attracted to the Tufts faculty and the collaborative work environment at the university. The STEM community at Tufts is something of which he is happy to be a part.
“The really exciting thing about Tufts is that there is just that amazing nucleus of learning scientists across [all of the STEM fields],” Koretsky said. “Interacting in it, in a collaborative way, in an intimate way with these folks … is really exciting.”
Fellow Tufts faculty will be able to look to Koretsky not only as a colleague, but as a mentor as well. His experience and expertise across the field of education will provide fellow professors a useful resource to aid in the learning process for students, according to Glaser.
“We also are confident that he will be a leader at Tufts, someone who will help drive forward the very exciting IRLI project, along with Prof. David Hammer, the current director of the Institute, and some of our other exceptional faculty in this area,” Glaser said.
Koretsky will also be innovating the way students learn. A crucial aspect of Koretsky’s role as bridge professor will be to help enhance the way Tufts professors teach their students, in both the School of Engineering and the School of Arts and Sciences.
“He brings tremendous experience in the fundamental study of education to Tufts and to our research and outreach hubs like the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach and the Institute for Research on Learning and Instruction,” Qu said. “He will work with colleagues across departments to help support transformations happening in education at Tufts to benefit how we teach our students and how others beyond Tufts teach their students, and I look forward to his voice joining our school.”
Photo of Milo Koretsky with students. (Courtesy Milo Koretsky)