Assistant professor earns Shuman Early Career Professorship

Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Catherine Berdanier plans to advance engineering education

Catherine Berdanier, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State, discusses a research project with a student remotely. Credit: Erin Cassidy Hendrick / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Catherine Berdanier, assistant professor and director of online programs in the Penn State Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME), has recently been named the Clyde W. Shuman Jr. and Nancy Shuman Early Career Professor. 

ME alumnus Clyde Shuman and his wife, Nancy, of Allentown, pledged to create the professorship in 2010 to support academic excellence in engineering education, an ambition Berdanier has centered her career on.

“I am honored to accept this professorship, which is only possible because of the Shumans and their generous support of our department,” Berdanier said.

The recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2019, Berdanier investigates how engineering knowledge can be translated to students most effectively, particularly at the graduate education level. By uncovering novel and impactful educational strategies and tactics, she explained there is potential to retain more students within their academic programs and poise them to thrive in a successful engineering career. 

“My research expertise in graduate-level attrition, persistence and career trajectories is important and impactful and can be immediately applied in the department,” Berdanier said. “My research being recognized with this professorship shows that others also appreciate the uniqueness.”

The three-year professorship, previously held by Stephen Lynch, associate professor of mechanical engineering, provides crucial support for a faculty member in the first 10 years of their academic careers by providing seed money for research and teaching projects.

Berdanier recognizes her graduate students as the “lifeblood” of her lab and plans to use the professorship to support their professional development through workshops, conferences and trainings.

“I intend to continue to innovate in the methods that we use in engineering education and the extra support that this professorship provides will continue to help my group become known as methodological pioneers in engineering education research,” she said. 


Last Updated September 28, 2020