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Focus on Faculty: Michael Moore

Publication date

May 15, 2019 8:15 PM
 | 

Author

Tess Martin

“Meet students where they’re at.” This philosophy has guided Michael Moore to excel in his many roles within the university: teaching upper-level classes as Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, introducing first-year students across the disciplines to research in “The Quest for Answers” Honors Colloquium, and developing programs for sophomores in Weatherhead Residence Hall as the Faculty-in-Residence for the past five years.

When Michael Moore became Weatherhead’s Faculty-in-Residence five years ago, he did not quite know what to expect. He knew that he was expected to interface with students and be a presence in the residence hall, but how he was supposed to go about that was largely up to him. From the beginning, Professor Moore carried on the longstanding tradition of hosting roundtables, at which Tulane faculty members give a talk, typically related to their research, that is less formal and more engaging than a research seminar. Outside of that traditional program, he had room to experiment with new programs with “fits and starts, crashes and burns, and trial and errors.”

Professor Moore’s first programming idea was to have groups of students come to his apartment with “an agenda” of things he thought might be interesting to talk about. Yet only a few students attended. This made him realize two things: the “shroud of mystery” around his home makes it somewhat intimidating for students to come to his house, and meeting the students where they are would make them feel much more comfortable. For Professor Moore, this meant both literally meeting them “on their turf” over in the Weatherhead lobby, as well as structuring the talks around topics relevant to the sophomores’ interests. This led him to develop his series of talks, “Navigating Academic Life,” which he structured with students’ wants and needs in mind. This series involved panel discussions on how healthy habits can affect grades, approaching professors to do research, demystifying the thesis process, “finding your jam” in college classes, and more. He also hosted “seriously low-key” social events such as Superbowl parties and ice cream socials to offer unintimidating, inviting opportunities to connect with him and his family.

Beyond his experience as faculty-in-residence for Weatherhead, Professor Moore has taught Colloquium courses through the Honors Program over the past several years. In these classes, he has put himself in the students’ shoes to meet them where they are across the disciplines and at different points in their college experiences. Professor Moore strives to design a class that is relevant for first and second year Honors students by putting together a course that he would have appreciated as a student. “A lot of students are interested in research but don’t know the first thing about it,” Moore says, so he tries to introduce them to scholarly research by giving them “experiences they need to get a taste for research.” As an engineer, he gravitates toward these hands-on experiences rather than focusing on reading about research.

As a faculty member who typically teaches upper-level Biomedical Engineering courses, Professor Moore finds that his engagement with the Honors students from these courses and Weatherhead looks very different than it does with the traditional student he teaches. He finds it “fun and challenging” to work with these students who come from so many different intellectual backgrounds. Professor Moore says this experience “interacting with people outside of your niche… forces you to have a slightly different perspective” and “to use empathy in ways that you don’t usually have to.” Moore says that these challenges “keep [him] honest” and “help [him] to stay human,” which is important as a professor in an environment where you are engaging in your own research, teaching the same classes again and again, and sometimes “forgetting that not everyone has a PhD in Biomedical Engineering.” By meeting the students at their unique locations within their own intellectual and personal development, Professor Moore “remember[s] that not everyone thinks the same way, has the same background or same experiences.”

By working outside of the traditional professorial role as a faculty-in-residence and as a Colloquium instructor for younger students, Professor Moore has added a great deal to the Honors Program. His approach of meeting students where they are has aptly informed his creation of a welcoming, inclusive environment both in the classroom and in the residence halls. Though this marks the end of his five years in Weatherhead, we look forward to seeing how he continues to cultivate connections with students and how the next faculty-in-residence builds on Moore’s history of relevant and engaging programs.

All faculty interviewed recommend a book they find compelling and important.

Professor Moore’s reading recommendation for the general Honors student population is Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which many students read in Colloquium courses their first year. Moore recommends this because Kuhn was a “philosopher that had a science background” and “could see what a lot of other scientists never saw by studying the history of science.” Kuhn deconstructs the idea that science is an infallible force, supposing instead that it is “a social construct at the end of the day… a process and a function of human beings.” Moore thinks students need to be exposed to those ideas, despite the “dated and lofty” language.

Professor Moore also had two bonus book recommendations: Richard Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! and The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. He enjoys Feynman’s autobiography for the funny stories told by a quirky man, and he was fascinated by Keller’s book on “belief in an age of skepticism” as a person of faith who cares about rationalism and science.