Virginia Tech Teacher of the Week
The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Cristopher Moen, associate professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, for encouraging his students to think critically about civil engineering design and actions from multiple perspectives and to be creative, passionate, and opinionated throughout the process.
Cristopher Moen is a passionate researcher and educator, and he draws this passion from those who have mentored him. As an undergraduate materials researcher at the Virginia Transportation Research Council, Dr. Celik Ozyildirim motivated Cristopher, always with the same question, “Cris, do you love concrete?!” At his first consulting job in New York City, Cris’s boss, Dr. Paul Gauvreau, guided him through a challenging curved box-girder viaduct design. During his graduate work at Johns Hopkins, Cris’s PhD advisor Dr. Ben Schafer exposed him to concepts and tools that radically transformed his engineering personality. Cris could not wait to put these experiences and knowledge to good use as a professor.
Dr. Moen’s research focus on thin-walled structures translates well to his classes, especially CEE 5434 Design of Cold-Formed Steel Structures and CEE 4444 Stability of Structures, where thin-walled buckling behavior is a key focus because it influences strength and deflections of many everyday structural forms. In all of his classes, Cris encourages students to learn about the history of engineering and to study structures from other perspectives, for example, by reading Structure in Architecture by Salvadori and Heller (the students like it that Heller was a VT professor). In his Theory of Structures (CEE 3404) and Computer Analysis of Structures I (CEE 4404) classes, every week they have "Structures Thursday" where a student picks a favorite structure or structural engineer and gives a five min presentation at the beginning of class. Dr. Moen noted “the students really enjoy this and it makes the imminent lecture a little less painful.”
Dr. Moen is currently teaching CEE 2804, Introduction to Civil Engineering, to all of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) sophomores. This course of about 200 students provides a civil engineering overview with lectures on historical events (e.g., Eiffel Tower construction for the 1889 World’s Fair) and modern challenges like air pollution and acidification of the world’s oceans. The course encourages students to form opinions and think critically about civil engineering design and actions from scientific, social, and symbolic perspectives. The class breaks into small discussion sections where students write and present on civil engineering projects and topics while experiencing their new profession first-hand through faculty-led field trips.
Cris’s goals as a researcher, educator and structural engineer are to encourage economy and creativity through improving design methods, computational tools, and engineering materials. So far in his academic career, Dr. Moen has “observed that meaningful improvements often lie right below the surface, you just need to know where to look. Even in a mature field like structural engineering, there are opportunities for innovation.” Please visit www.moen.cee.vt.edu to see what Dr. Moen’s research group is contributing.
Dr. Moen has previously been awarded the following CEE teaching awards: the Virginia Tech CEE Alumni Teaching Excellence Award (2012) and the G.V. Loganathan Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Civil Engineering Education (2010).