So the big questions I always get about BME are as follows: How hard is it? Does everybody fail out? Are the professors scary and mean? Well, I know in past blogs I have tried to disprove the first two (two years into the program…and I’m still here smiling!). Now here I am, answering question number three: are the professors scary and mean?
Well, you lovely prospective students, the answer is no. To prove this, I thought I’d do something super special for you and interview one of my favorite professors, Dr. Michael Miller. He taught the Signals & Systems half of my Systems & Controls class, which has been my favorite class since coming to Hopkins. It was extremely challenging, but both professors in the class cared so much about their students’ understanding that the class was extremely rewarding.
So here is a peek into the mysterious life of a real-life college professor! Ready, set , go!
The first thing I asked him was what he wanted to be in elementary school. He said he never knew and he still doesn’t know; the main thing was that he followed his passions. He never thought that he “wanted to be X or wanted to be Y,” but he was talented in math at high school, and had an uncle who was an engineer, so he was sort of pulled in that direction. When he first went to college, he started as a math major, but he was pulled towards physics, and then finally to engineering. He “love[d] equations, but hate[d] labs,” so he implemented that into his studies. How did he do that?
Well, he found a role model that helped him find his way, and this role model was actually the one who led him to Hopkins. He ended up coming here for his graduate studies, where he found even more role models, which eventually led him to engineering in the body. For instance, he never thought about doing neuroscience, but he found a role model at Hopkins doing neuroengineering, and he found his way. At that point, he describes himself as an “undifferentiated stem cell,” just following what he loved.
So then I asked him how following what he loved led to him becoming a professor. He said that he simply loves his students, who he affectionately refers to as his friends. He loves teaching undergraduates, and finds joy in explaining all the complicated processes and finding the light in his students. He loves being able to make a contribution, whether it is through research or through teaching.
Next question? I asked if he were a Hopkins student, what would he want to take to fulfill his distribution requirements. As you may have read in a previous blog, Hopkins has no core requirements; you just need to take classes outside your major in order to fulfill distribution. The first course he said he’d take is Great Books at Hopkins. Why, you ask? Well, his wife, Elizabeth Patton, actually teaches it! He even met his wife at Hopkins! So naturally, this is the first class he’d take to fulfill his distribution. He’d also like to take art history classes because of how it crosses over with his research, which is all about shape and form and how it meets engineering. “I’m very interested in art, but from the analytical point of view,” he said. “Like when Picasso went through an era and exploded the canvas and forced us to realize there was something called “deep” in the meaning… Picasso did that to force us to realize that when we understand each other visually, we are not just looking at the dots on the surface.”
Next was what his favorite place on campus was, which ended up with him bringing out a piece of the marble from Gilman that he kept in his office. He described Gilman as what the Brody Learning Commons is today to our student body. When he was a graduate student, he would spend his time at the café and studying in the Hut. The faculty club also made his list of favorite spots, along with the fish pond, which is actually where he met his wife!
Now, do you prospective BME students want advice from a BME professor? He says to be a biomedical engineer, you need to have that analytical state of mind. If you don’t like calculus and you don’t like computers, this may not be the major for you. “You need to follow your whims,” he said. They may not be the easiest choices, but they need to be great choices for you. Now if you decide to do engineering at Hopkins, the advice he gives to succeed in his class is to understand everything he does in class and understand what you write down on the blackboard. “Half the questions of the test will be directly from what we do in class, just not so obvious.” Still, he happily admitted that he is not so sure if it is the best advice ever… he admits, “I never had to learn it from myself!”
Lastly, I wanted to prove to you all that professors are people, too! So here are a few of his favorite things:
His favorite thing ever? His 13 –year-old daughter. He eagerly pulled up a picture right on his cell-phone, and couldn’t stop smiling. I actually met his daughter at the class BBQ last year!
His favorite way to relax? Skiing! His daughter actually is a great skier and snowboarder, though Dr. Miller just prefers to ski. He also likes to hike, and when he can’t do those things on normal days, he’ll run.
His favorite restaurant in Baltimore? Roy’s in Inner Harbor. The Hopkins business school actually looks right at it, and the sushi there is apparently a great appetizer.
Favorite movies? Raiders of the Lost Ark. (“These are all going to be movies you haven’t heard of.”) and Ghostbusters. And he also likes the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Favorite Sports team? Anything from New York, of course!
So here is your inside scoop about a really cool Hopkins professor. He’s awesome, he’s accessible, and he truly cares about his students. I guess college professors aren’t as scary as they seem.
Peace out til next time! :)