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Dr. Michael Anderson Retires after 30 Years at U of I

We asked Dr. Anderson to reflect on his time at U of I and to tell us a little about his plans during retirement.

How did you find yourself coming to the University of Idaho?

I am a Pacific Northwest person, and wanted to stay in the NW. Also, U of I gives the opportunity for a “big-city” job while living in a rural environment.

What do you consider your most significant teaching successes? Why?

Contributing to the development of talent in young adults. It gives me great pleasure to visit with alumni, and to see their success and positive contribution to society. Recently, given that technology has become ridiculously inexpensive, it was possible for me to integrate a microcontroller project into ME313. Each student completes the project with apparatus given to them in class.

What do you consider your most significant research successes? Why?

Development and fabrication of electrostatic ultrasonic transducers. Micromachined ultrasonic transducers were developed in 1995. A paper describing these transducers, entitled “Broadband Electrostatic Transducers: Modeling and Experiments”, appeared in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America in 1995. According to the Google Scholar, as of March 2019, other researchers have cited this article 258 times. A photograph of an assembled transducer, and an electron microscope picture of tiny ridge-features contained in the internal structure of the transducer are shown at the right. To my knowledge, this was the first published work in the area of MEMS at the University of Idaho. I would like the U of I administration to take concrete steps to encourage work in this area.

Otherwise, in performing research work, it is very satisfying to see the change in a student that happens in a short two-year period.

In retrospect, what do you consider the most significant attributes of our program? The university?

The most significant attribute of the U of I ME program is the design sequence. Hopefully, the ME department will acquire the resources to emphasize other aspects of ME at a similar level. Regarding the University, I believe there is a serious interest in student success. I also like the residential nature of campus, and the fact that campus is not near a large urban area. U of I is like a retreat center, focused around higher-education. How fun!

In your opinion, what the most significant ways engineering education has changed over the time that you have been here?

The adoption of the computer as a tool. I see a lot of headroom in this area, as software lags hardware capability by a large margin.

What is your advice to current and future students so that they get the most out of their education at the University of Idaho?

Attend class regularly and interact with faculty. Take time to visit faculty during their office hours. This is a good opportunity for students to get help on their homework, to interpret grading feedback from the instructor, and to get career advice. After all, we faculty are very expensive, and you have already paid for the office-hours!

What words of wisdom do you have for current and future faculty? For staff? For administrators?

I would encourage faculty to present research results at technical conferences, so that papers become influential. It is crucial for administration to support this type of travel. Otherwise, a tree falling in the woods won’t make a sound.

In my personal experience, staff have always been helpful, and willing to grow in their positions. However, I worry about wages for staff.

I believe administrators are in a tough spot. The Idaho legislature and State Board of Education apply high pressure to increase enrollments. I don’t think that this is always a positive. For example, if a student is unsuccessful, he/she is still responsible for paying back student loans without the advantage of a higher education. It could also be the case that the focus on enrollments may not provide the level of support for successful students to reach their potential.

What activities/relationships/experiences are you most looking forward to in retirement?

One goal that I have is to drive on every dirt road in Idaho. I think it will take about 5 years. I would also like to learn more about programming and software, so that I can assemble gadgets around the house and outdoors. I look forward to visiting with my grandchildren, family and friends. Finally, my lazy carcass needs to spend a significant amount of time laying on the beach!

We asked current and former students to say a little about Dr. Anderson.

Unfortunately, space prohibits publication of all the thoughtful testimonials we received, however all comments will be shared with Mike in a memory book.

“Mike Anderson was my lead professor as I pursued my master’s degree at U of I. I was fortunate to have been chosen for a competitive research position studying acoustics and vibration. The unique experiences he provided were a benefit in more ways than I can mention; they shaped who I am today. I appreciate his confidence when choosing me for the position, as well as the enthusiasm, patience, encouragement, and education he provided me so many years ago. I share the memories I have of Mike often, and I’m thankful for the many achievements I have because of him. Mike, Congratulations on your retirement! Enjoy it!” JONATHAN RICHARDS, MS 2007, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories
“Dr. Anderson was a big part of my experience in engineering school at the U of I--one of the most rewarding and enriching periods in my life. Combined with his commanding grasp of applied math and science, Dr. Anderson’s passion and enthusiasm for teaching left me with my own love of engineering that continues to pay dividends even now twenty years later. A couple memorable quotes from Dr. Anderson that have stuck with me: “In the future you won’t have to memorize anything other than a bunch of passwords.” “Engineers are nerds and geeks that tend to let the financial guys make all the money. You are creating the value they are selling--so stand up for yourself and claim your share of the pie!” (Paraphrased from memory.)” JOE FRANKEL, BS 2001, FormFactor Inc.
“Dr. Anderson was a not only a great professor, but also a fabulous mentor. I took multiple classes from Dr. Anderson, including ME313 and ME413, where my interest in engineering exploded into a passion for wanting to understand what made complex systems tick. Although, the classroom is not where I truly got to know Dr. Anderson. This occurred my senior year, when my senior design group reached out to Dr. Anderson for his technical knowledge with acoustics. He decided to not only give us a few tips but work alongside us through the whole project as a peer. Dr. Anderson was one of the best professors at U of I because of his care for student success and always having the time for anyone that came to his door. Dr. Anderson you will be missed, and I hope you enjoy your well-deserved retirement.” MARK WOODLAND, BS 2017, Currently completing a MS degree at Michigan Technological University
“Dr. Anderson’s relaxed style was empowering and made engaging with him and the lesson easy. His clean and clear way of presenting the material made the content feel intuitive. It was always a pleasure to take one of his classes. I’m grateful to have had him as a professor.” JOHN FEUSI, BS 2013, Jabil
Michael Anderson
Michael Anderson
Assembled Transducer
Assembled Transducer"
5μm tall by 10μm wide ridges micromachined in transducer
5μm tall by 10μm wide ridges micromachined in transducer

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