Loui, Revelo recognized by NAE for engineering ethics research

4/13/2016 Daniel Dexter, ECE ILLINOIS

Professor Emeritus Michael Loui's and Renata Revelo's (BSEE '07, MSEE '09) work on the Ethics Sessions in a Summer Undergraduate Research Program was recognized as exemplary by the National Academy of Engineers (NAE).

Written by Daniel Dexter, ECE ILLINOIS

While the data and results are typically sought after in engineering research, Professor Emeritus Michael Loui would argue that the ethics of the engineers is often just as important in achieving the goal.

Michael Loui
Michael Loui

Professor Emeritus Michael Loui’s and Renata Revelo’s (BSEE ’07, MSEE ’09) work on the Ethics Sessions in a Summer Undergraduate Research Program was recognized as exemplary by the National Academy of Engineers (NAE).

“It is nice to know that the work that we have been doing has been recognized by a very distinguished committee of the National Academy of Engineering,” Loui said. “Lots of people are integrating ethics into their courses now, but I think our program was recognized for the quality of instruction and quality of assessment that we used to evaluate how effective our program was.”

Loui and Revelo hosted the six weekly ethics sessions during the summers of 2009-2012 as a part of the of the research program. The sessions were interactive and focused on a variety of subjects like plagiarism, privacy of personal data and conflicts of interest.

Loui said that he wanted to assess the students in a more thorough manner than he has seen done in the past. Students were given a test on an ethical dilemma at the start of the program and then a second one at the end. The results were then compared between the two tests to determine the effectiveness of the program.

“Many times when we think of an assessment, there will be questions about whether the students enjoyed the presentations,” Loui said. “We created a very careful and rigorous and used a scoring rubric that was very much aligned with the assessment goals.”

The NSF started to strongly encourage professional responsibility education in the mid-2000s and created a requirement starting in 2010 that all students who receive funding through a NSF research grant need to receive education in engineering ethics. This requirement presented Loui the opportunity to continue his own research of engineering integrity.

Loui has a long history of involvement with engineering ethics that date back to his time with the NSF in the early 1990s. When he returned to Illinois in the fall of 1991, he wrote a grant proposal for an engineering ethics course at ECE ILLINOIS, which was developed in 1992 and first taught in 1993. The course is now known as ECE 316.

“Ethics is central to being a professional,” Loui said. “It is really a part of what it means to be an engineer – having that commitment to being professionally responsible for your work. There are a host of issues that students don’t learn in their technical courses about what it means to be a professional and what it means to be an ethical professional, which really should be the same thing.”

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This story was published April 13, 2016.