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Teaching is No Stretch for Glen Livesay

March 28, 2014

Livesay Cropped

Caring Educator: Glen Livesay is an award-winning applied biology and biomedical engineering professor, is a proponent of collaborative learning and his teaching style is more of an exploration than performance. (Photo by Shawn Spence)

     In a way, it’s a bit surprising to find Glen Livesay, PhD, at the front of a classroom. “I’m a total introvert. I don’t even call for pizza,” he says. “When I step into a classroom, I become ‘Professor Man’.”

     Livesay, a professor of applied biology and biomedical engineering, may be a different person when he’s teaching, but that person is genuine. “It’s like acting, but I’m not an actor—I really care,” he says.

     It probably helps that his teaching style is more of an exploration than a performance. “When I first started teaching, I taught the way I was taught: lecture, lecture, lecture. And, I was stunned when the students didn’t learn anything,” he recalls.

     Now, Livesay is a big proponent of active and collaborative learning. “Students work together, which is how engineers work,” he explains. He would rather that students cooperate to learn, rather than compete. “It’s not (student) against me or (students) against each other. It’s us against the material.”

     Livesay’s interest in human structure goes back as far as the third grade, when for about a year and a half his arm was paralyzed. “I fell off the monkey bars,” he says. Flash forward to his undergraduate studies at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), where his engineering major was biostructural mechanics. “Initially, I was interested in making prosthetic limbs,” he says.

     By the time he finished his doctorate in civil engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, he could really appreciate the contrast between the engineering of solid things—such as buildings and bridges—and that of the human body, where many of the components are not solid at all.

     “These days I study stretchy stuff,” he says, soft tissues such as skin and ligaments. “Anything that is not bone in the body is something that I like to study and analyze. All the rules that apply to steel, brick, and concrete don’t apply to soft tissue.”

     Livesay became interested in biomechanics and tissue engineering in the late 1980s. “People were starting to figure out the basics of what made up tissues. Once we learn what they’re made of, we can replace them,” he states.

     Fascinating as research into the subject is for him, Livesay has a true passion for teaching biomechanics. That’s why he came to Rose-Hulman in 2004, along with his wife and fellow biomedical engineering professor Kay C Dee, another award-winning educator.

     “At a big research enterprise, faculty members may not interact with undergraduates, ever. Here, I know all of their names, and get to know them not just once but multiple times,” he says.

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GLEN LIVESAY, PhD
Professor of Applied Biology and Biomedical Engineering
Years at Rose-Hulman: 9
Teaches: Biomedical engineering design, biomechanics, mechanics of collagen, statics and mechanics of materials
Areas of Specialization: Orthopaedic biomechanics, continuum mechanics, and engineering education
Research Activities: Experimental and theoretical soft tissue mechanics (ligaments & tendons), joint mechanics (focus on the knee), and morphometrics/mechanics interaction
Awards: Samuel F. Hulbert Faculty Chair of Biomedical Engineering, 2010-12; fellow, American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) National Effective Teaching Institute