Brian Gilchrist receives Neil Van Eenam Memorial Undergraduate Teaching Award
Prof. Brian Gilchrist received the 2022-23 Neil Van Eenam Memorial Undergraduate Teaching Award from the College of Engineering for his sustained and impactful contributions to undergraduate education at Michigan.
“Brian Gilchrist has changed the face of undergraduate education in the College of Engineering,” said colleague Mark Kushner, George I. Haddad Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Gilchrist’s passion for engaging with undergraduate students through team projects with real-world goals has been demonstrated throughout his Michigan career. For example, as Director of the Icarus Student Satellite Project, he invited UG students to participate in the development of a small spacecraft for NASA. He served as faculty advisor to the U-M Solar Car Team for several years – at the request of the students. And at the same time, he was faculty advisor for the Student Space Systems Fabrication Laboratory (1999-2015), a student-managed group that promoted hands-on experience with space-related projects. Each of these activities involved more than 100 undergraduate students.
But Gilchrist wanted to do more. So he led a successful proposal for a special Provost initiative that resulted in the Multidisciplinary Design Program (MDP). Gilchrist was the Founding Director in 2009, and Co-Director from 2010-2017. This program, which now serves more than 1,500 students each year throughout the university, provides students with the opportunity to participate in real-world projects that are sponsored by industry, government, and faculty.
One of the several programs that spun out of the MDP was Faculty Research Student Teams (FRST). As part of this initiative, Gilchrist engaged undergraduate and master’s degree students in a project called Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment (MiTEE). Over the course of nine years, more than 250 students helped develop a CubeSat that ultimately flew into space on a NASA rocket.
“I really like how I get to learn things from all kinds of engineers including aerospace and mechanical,” said UG EE student Maya Pandya, who worked on the MiTEE project. “And Professor Gilchrist is so supportive and teaches us so much, which I really appreciate.”
Gilchrist was also instrumental in developing a new junior-level course in ECE called Electrical Engineering System Design 2, required for EE students. He and Prof. Shai Revzen were the first faculty members to teach this course, which focuses on systems-level design, teamwork, and societal impact.
Gilchrist’s own research focuses on plasma electrodynamics, principally for in-space applications with a focus on electric propulsion and plasma sensors. He has directed a variety of NASA projects throughout his career, including the Shuttle Electrodynamic Tether System (SETS) experiment that flew on the STS-75 shuttle mission.
He became Director of the Space Physics Research Laboratory/XTRM Labs in 2015, and he has also served as Associate Chair and Interim Chair for the EECS Department. He received two Service Excellence Awards, a Certificate of Special Recognition, and Outstanding Student Group Advisor award from the College of Engineering.
In addition to his primary appointment in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Gilchrist is affiliated with the Department of Climate and Space Sciences & Engineering.