Siddharth Pratap - Doctorate: Electrical Engineering, 1982
I graduated with my Masters in EE in 1982 and then worked for 10 years and then came back for my PhD in 1991. Three professors influenced my education the most and they are Professor H. H. Woodson, Professor F. X. Bostick both from EE and Professor Guy from Mathematics. I labeled them as The Challenger, The Nurturer and The Genius respectively.
The Challenger: Dr. Woodson had this ability to challenge the students in every educational activity, whether it was tests, finals, or homework. If it was the ordinary then it was not worthy of asking, the question had to extend your understanding or challenge it. As a graduate student I had several opportunities to work with him and whenever I went to him with what I thought was significant he would look through my work carefully and then say “good now that you have done this it will be easy for you to extend this to….”. In this way he continued to challenge the students to excel and expand their horizons and not be satisfied with the ordinary and easy. I tried to impress him with what I knew but I don’t think I ever did. He was hard to impress and that translated into a driving force in his students.
The Nurturer: Dr. Bostick was one of the most organized and methodical professors I have come across. He had a clear picture of what would be difficult for the students to grasp and what would be easy. He then apportioned his time appropriately for these areas. I learned Electromagnetics under him and it is considered as one of the more conceptual topics that is quite mathematical and I am glad that I learned it under Dr. Bostick. He was on my dissertation committee and he did spend a lot of time with me guiding the direction of my research. As every PhD student knows there is a time in your dissertation when it appears that you have come across a dead end and cannot see a path forward. That period is unnerving because it implies a significant amount of wasted time. Dr. Bostick listened to my woes calmly, sympathized with my situation and then worked with me to find the correct path with the least impact but still keeping the overall effort meaningful. He cared for his students.
The Genius: I learned Operational Mathematics under Dr. Guy. I never spent very little face-to-face time with him except in the classroom. He taught mathematics in a way that you could actually visualize the meanings of the mathematical processes that you performed. Of course that also meant that if you weren’t able to visualize then you’d not do well in the exams. The exams tested your understanding rather than simple repetitions of steps you had learned. It was an awesome experience.
These three professors and others like them made my educational experience most enlightening, pleasant and meaningful.