OEDK director wins national award

Maria Oden honored by American Society for Engineering Education

By PATRICK KURP
Special to the Rice News

The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) has honored Maria Oden, professor in the practice of engineering education and director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), with its prestigious 2012 Fred Merryfield Design Award.

Maria Oden

Maria Oden

“Dr. Oden has helped more than 1,665 students learn engineering design processes and the value of teamwork, communications and entrepreneurial skills,” said Rebecca-Richards Kortum, the Stanley C. Moore Professor and interim chair of bioengineering, who nominated Oden for the honor. “Last year, one-quarter of the 42 design teams participated in national/statewide competitions and won top prizes. Maria gets much of the credit for those accomplishments.”

Oden joined the Department of Bioengineering at Rice as a lecturer and laboratory coordinator in 2004; she guides the technical design efforts of undergraduates participating in Beyond Traditional Borders and the Rice 360˚: Institute for Global Health Technologies. Oden has mentored more than 160 students in 43 design teams in the two-semester bioengineering capstone design course sequence that she developed and taught.

Oden earned her Bachelor of Science in engineering and master’s and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Tulane University in 1989, 1991 and 1994, respectively, and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School from 1994 to 1997. She also worked in orthopedic biomechanics and computational modeling as a senior research associate at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

In 2008, Oden became the inaugural director of the OEDK, where she has inspired hundreds of students to work in teams of four or five to complete design challenge projects. More than 15 teams have won regional and national awards at design competitions. Several of their devices are being tested in the United States and abroad, and 15 students have graduated with patent applications on their resumes.

“Maria has an incredible flair for inspiring and guiding students to solve design challenges that are ‘real world,’” said Edwin “Ned” Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering at Rice University. “The teams often end up morphing the challenge and coming up with workable prototypes, some of which result in filing of intellectual property disclosures and even the occasional student-led startup that solves the original real-world problem.”

The Fred Merryfield Design Award is presented annually in recognition of “creativity and demonstrated excellence in the teaching of engineering design.” It comes with a $2,500 honorarium, a $500 stipend for travel to the ASEE annual conference and a commemorative plaque. Oden’s department will also be given an award of $500.

Oden will receive her award June 13 at the 2012 ASEE Conference and Exposition in San Antonio.

About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.