Article Society of Women Engineers

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1 CAREER TOOLBOX Your Distractions Also Distract Me The allure of technology is difficult to resist, as many of us are constantly alerted to new text messages or Facebook or Twitter posts. When students pay more attention to their mobile devices or laptops than to what’s going on in the classroom, however, everyone misses out. By Mary Verstraete, Ph.D., SWE Editorial Board t’s 8:15 a.m., and I’m midway through I my senior class lecture. Most of the students have finally arrived to this 7:45 class, about half of them walking in late - (they will have excuses of traffic ac cidents and oversleeping). I try to put my frustration aside — after all, I have been on campus since 6:30 a.m. preparing for this lecture and my day ahead. I am somewhat distracted by the constant flow of students entering the room, and I find it disruptive to the informative lecture I am attempting to give. Then, as I look around the room, I become aware that at least a third of the students are either staring at their cellphones, texting and smiling, or they have their laptops open, likely logged into Facebook or Twitter. While the material I am presenting may not be overly stimulating, my students need this information, and I do expect them to pay attention. Their lack of focus sud - denly breaks that proverbial straw and I snap, firmly insisting that everyone put away their phones, but wanting to yell it at the top of my lungs. Several students look a bit sheepish, but the rest just begrudgingly stuff their phones in a pocket. What they don’t seem to under - indicated that they texted in class, 73 stand is that I also get distracted when - wrong or rude to check their text mes percent indicated that they considered sages or email while in class. it becomes clear that they aren’t paying it unprofessional and that it interfered attention; I lose my train of thought with learning. Science weighs in and, ultimately, they get a lecture that is disjointed and incomplete. Curious, I started my sophomore Being a modern academic, I decided I truly understand the constant draw class the other day by asking how many to run a quick search to see if anyone students had their cellphones sitting out of today’s technology; it is all I can do to had completed a study looking into - not dive into my pocket when I feel that (I first stated that I was looking for hon this quandary. I came upon an article familiar buzz of my phone indicating I by Joan Williams et al. (2011) with est answers and would only be counting the perfect title: “I Get Distracted By - hands) and, indeed, more than 60 per have a text message or a Facebook post. 1 However, I wouldn’t consider checking cent responded positively. When I asked Their Being Distracted” — my point it during a meeting or if a student were how many had texted during class in exactly! The main focus of this scientific the past two days, more than 80 percent study was to determine how students giving a presentation in class. I would responded positively. When I asked them perceived the use of cellphones in the - regard it as rude and highly unprofes classroom. The results found that while if they thought it was OK to text during sional. I wondered, then, whether it class if not an emergency, however, fewer 79 percent of the 805 students surveyed just didn’t occur to students that it was SWE 49 WINTER 2014 •

2 CAREER TOOLBOX than 20 percent answered affirmatively. professional etiquette, and we must point when they discussed how this topic relates to professional behavior. What, then, is the answer? Tougher change this viewpoint if we wish to not classroom policies that require students get distracted by this behavior. When I I would not answer a text or phone call - keep their cellphones in their back think about this topic, I am reminded during a meeting or in class unless it was of Dug, the easily distracted dog in the an emergency because I feel it is rude packs? Faculty adjusting their lectures to stimulate the new multitasking, Disney movie “Up”— “Squirrel!” n and unprofessional. Students in general 1 “I Get Distracted By Their Being What they don’t seem to understand is that I also Distracted: The Etiquette of In-Class Texting,” Joan A. Williams et al., get distracted when I realize they aren’t paying Eastern Educational Journal, Vol 40(1) attention; I lose my train of thought and, ultimately, Spring 2011 pp. 48–56. they get a lecture that is disjointed and incomplete. Mary C. Verstraete, Ph.D., is associate profes - sor and associate chair of the undergraduate - program in biomedical engineering at The Uni technology-demanding student? If the versity of Akron. She earned her B.S., M.S., and also think it is unprofessional to do so. Ph.D. in engineering mechanics/biomechanics students realize it is unprofessional, However, they continue to text, and from Michigan State University. A member of the view Twitter feeds and Facebook posts why do they continue to engage in this editorial board, Dr. Verstraete SWE Magazine in their classes. Perhaps the actual issue classroom behavior? was named SWE’s Distinguished Engineering Educator in 2007 and received the Society’s then is that students do not feel their Personally, I think the authors of the Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award in 2011. college classrooms require they exhibit study mentioned above made a good Focus on the Moment Mindlessly missing what is happening in the present drains one’s sense of well-being and happiness, undermines effectiveness, and increases the risk of accidents. Fortunately, there is an antidote within our reach. By Catherine Rocky, SWE Editorial Board University of California, Irvine (UC was engaged in both the task of walking s engineers, we often live fast-paced A lives with considerable personal and trying to find the correct entrance. Irvine) has implemented a program to and work-related tasks and information Staying close to the building, I crossed incorporate mindfulness practices into a safety-training program to increase a one-way street away from the signaled competing for our attention. Often our crosswalk. I glanced but didn’t realize minds are so full that we lose focus on attentiveness and reduce injuries. the oncoming traffic was quickly headed the task at hand, and find ourselves my way and just missed the bus that driving to work or school on “automatic The distracted mind Much has been written about the pilot” with no recall of getting there, sped behind me — and I wasn’t even on my cellphone! My mind was focused on failing to understand what we just read, lack of focus, attention, and awareness, especially related to the use of social or having no idea what someone just said conference registration and not on the to us. We are mindlessly missing what is media. In the recent NPR tribute to the immediate task of crossing the street. happening at a given moment. This example illustrates a distracted late Clifford Nass, Ph.D., sociologist and mind, the opposite of a “mindful” one. Research on being present in the Stanford University professor, it was moment and its effects has increased Mindfulness is about being engaged in said that he noticed how many hours the present moment, without evaluating significantly since the late 1970s when in a day we overlay media experiences, the term “mindfulness” was used to trying to do two or more things at once. or reacting emotionally. describe the mode of being attentive We have become more inattentive and and aware. An article by Amishi P. Jha, Mindful health and happiness distracted, with our minds pulled to Meditation is a means to mindfulness Scientific American Mind, Ph.D., in past or future events, when in reality we can experience and live only in the March/April 2013, describes the many and has been practiced in one form or ways mindfulness can be beneficial to current moment. another in the East for centuries, with increasing focus in the West since the - your health and happiness, and how While walking to the Baltimore Con she believes it works. In addition, the 1970s. I first learned about mindfulness vention Center to register for WE13, I 50 SWE • WINTER 2014

3 CAREER TOOLBOX pertinent to the demands engineers face next can be a result of understanding the training after reading about pioneer - in work and school every day. ing biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., moment. Paying attention to the moment Wherever You Go, There author of cultivates mindfulness. You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Mindful safety at work and school According to Dr. Jha, over the past de - Repetitive tasks performed day after Everyday Life. He created the popular cade MBSR has been proven via research day can become routine and result in a to treat many illnesses, social stressors, “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)” program, and opened a stress loss of focus, increasing the possibility and psychological issues, including of accidents. Recognizing the workplace depression, chronic pain, loneliness, and management clinic at the University of Massachusetts, figuring no one would job-related burnout. As late as 2007, - hazards present on its campus, the Uni she and others in the field of cognitive come if he used the term “meditation.” versity of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) collaborated with the Susan Samueli neuroscience hadn’t commented about Dr. Kabat-Zinn stated meditation is - Center for Integrative Medicine, which the practice of mindfulness and the ef simplicity itself, about stopping and being present, and shifting into “being Scientific fect on the brain. As stated in was already utilizing mindfulness as mode.” It is a way to get more in touch Dr. Jha reveals through part of stress reduction work. The result American Mind, with your self through a systematic her research and the work of others, they has been the development of the Mindful process of self-observation, self-inquiry, Health & Safety program, with the goal understand the surprising mechanism for how mindfulness training works: and mindful action, something most - of addressing work-related illnesses, in juries, errors, and costs that are caused “strengthening the brain’s ability to pay engineers may not find comes easily. Can attention, at least in part.” you stop, even for a moment? He states by being inattentive or distracted. Additional benefits of mindfulness Understanding that inattention was a the best way to capture the moment is - training that have been identified to pay attention and accept the present top reason for safety accidents, and real moment, which doesn’t mean resigning include sharpening of focus, improved izing “staying in the moment” was not to what is happening. The goal is ac - mood, and better working memory addressed in their safety training, they sought to explore this area of training. capacity (think of a giant whiteboard). knowledgment that “what is happening I believe those benefits are especially is happening.” What you choose to do As a result, “Safety Management and UC Irvine: “Mindful Health & Safety” Update more consistent attentional focus and enhanced sensory processing he Mindful Health & Safety initiative at the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) is making progress on training (Kilpatrick et al., 2011). T In collaboration with UC Irvine’s Susan Samueli Center for research utilizing mindfulness techniques as a means to improve Integrative Medicine, Dr. Drew de Paz recently completed a pre- safety. Jessica Drew de Paz, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist who pilot of the Mindful Health & Safety training program with her staff joined the UC Irvine Environmental Health & Safety program to of 20 and received positive feedback. One participant commented: bring new ideas to training staff, typically handled by technical “You’re in the middle of a project, things aren’t going great, and professionals. At a staff meeting in 2010, data was presented on why your mind starts racing with all of the ‘what ifs.’ I used to think injuries occur, indicating that 70 percent of the time they were due that was helpful to plan for the future and have contingencies in to inattention or distraction. While contemplating this, Dr. Drew de place. But sometimes it’s unproductive. Be aware that you’re too Paz thought of all 60 safety programs she had reviewed, how only far out, and get under control.” Another participant commented: a few tell people to “pay attention,” and even these do not include instruction on how to do so. At that moment, she realized that the “This helps make you more productive, and it also helps us in our personal lives, to enjoy some of those good moments, be healthier, field of safety could benefit from advancements in health care. be good to yourself.” Mindfulness programs, which have gained significant momentum in medicine and psychology as evidence has mounted over the past The next stage of the program, starting January 2014, involves recruiting nursing staff with a goal of 100 to 200 participants. 30 years, are essentially attention training that teach people how to be in the moment. Participants will be randomly assigned to either the Mindful Health Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress & Safety program or the active control, health education program. Reduction (MBSR) program, developed in 1979 at the University The research measures include before and after computerized attention tests, as well as measures of stress, injuries, errors, and of Massachusetts Medical School, propelled mindfulness into costs. The growing body of mindfulness research already supports mainstream society. Using MBSR as her foundation, Dr. Drew de the likelihood that participants in the mindfulness program will Paz adapted the curriculum to address safety. She noted that as a improve their attention, health, and well-being. UC Irvine is the first society, many of us operate in fight or flight mode. The “present” moment gets squeezed out as our minds are filled with ruminations to study whether mindfulness will also improve employee safety records and associated costs. about the past or anxiety about the future. She asked, if you compare one person with a stressed, wandering mind to another Kilpatrick, LA, Suyenobu, BY, Smith SR, Bueller JA, Goodman who is focused on the moment, which one is more likely to suffer an T, Creswell JD, Tillisch K, Mayer EA, Naliboff BD (2011). Impact of injury? Recent neuroimaging studies suggest that participation in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training on intrinsic brain MBSR significantly alters intrinsic functional connectivity through a connectivity. Neuroimage . 56(1):290-8. SWE 51 WINTER 2014 •

4 CAREER TOOLBOX When you feel the need to share your hands resting on your thighs. Close or Metrics, Including Mindfulness” is one experiences, you are thinking too much - - of many initiatives University of Cali lower your eyes. Simply breathe, but fol and need to meditate more. As engineers low how it impacts your body, and focus fornia Environmental Health and Safety has created as a “Center of Excellence.” on one area. When your mind starts we are trained to think, so this activity Many companies implementing or re - can be a challenge. to wander, which it will, as you have a thousand other things going on, go back visiting their safety programs can build There are two types of attention to focusing on your breath. After about that benefit from mindfulness exercise more employee safety awareness and according to Dr. Jha: concentrative five to 10 minutes, change to monitoring involvement using nontraditional safety and notice your surroundings — sounds, education. It serves both the person and focus, which narrows your attention (tied to breathing); and receptive or temperature, airflow — and let your the organization, resulting in increased thoughts float through the sky that is open-monitoring practices, a broader sense of well-being, productivity, job awareness of your surroundings and as - your mind. After another five minutes, satisfaction, and retention, along with open your eyes, refreshed. the economic implications for an ill or sociated sensations (such as the sound of injured employee. a train as it gets closer, then pulls away). Set aside some time each day to focus on the moment, and you may live a hap - Learning to focus your attention should pier, healthier, and safer life. Finding focus: mindfulness be an important part of your career exercises toolbox. It does not require any special Catherine Rocky is a national account manager location, posture, or equipment, and can Dr. Kabat-Zinn holds that you have to with Terracon Consultants Inc. She has a B.S. be utilized anywhere you can close your be ready and at the right time in your life in geological engineering from South Dakota to realize meditation will help you listen eyes safely. Following is one example of a School of Mines and Technology. Rocky is past president of the Wichita Council of Engineering mindfulness technique. to your own voice, get unstuck, and find Societies. A member of the SWE Wichita Section, Set aside some much-needed calm. He says it is Resetting your focus: she recently joined the SWE Magazine editorial best to meditate without advertising it. board. 10 to 15 minutes. Sit upright, with your Vanderbilt_Layout 1 12/17/13 8:12 AM Page 1 USC_Layout 1 10/17/13 4:59 PM Page 1 University of Southern California SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING Viterbi FACULTY POSITION School of Engineering Mechanical Engineering Department The Department of Mechanical Engineering at Vanderbilt University invites he Viterbi School of Engi- applications for a faculty position to begin in the fall of 2014. Applications will be T neering at the University of considered for positions at all ranks commensurate with qualifications. Applicants Southern California seeks out- must possess a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering or related field. We are particularly seeking candidates with research interests in rehabilitation engineering . The standing individuals to fill antic- School of Engineering and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation ipated openings for postdoctoral (within the School of Medicine) at Vanderbilt are in the process of establishing an scholar positions and tenured and interdisciplinary research program with the mission of collaboratively pursuing the development of innovative methodologies, interventions, and assistive devices to tenure-track faculty positions at improve the quality of care and quality of life for persons with physical disabilities. all levels in the following academic areas: Aerospace The collaborative program will occupy dedicated space that will physically integrate and Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, resources and personnel from engineering and medicine such that technological Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Civil and innovation will be thoroughly informed by clinical expertise. We are seeking candidates who will work within this collaborative center, and in particular will Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical pursue innovative and impactful research toward the development of assistive or Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering. therapeutic devices or methods that improve functional or health outcomes of individuals with physical disabilities, including but not limited to individuals with Qualified candidates must have a PhD or equivalent and stroke, spinal cord injury, MS, CP, or limb loss. Successful candidates will be expected to build a strong, externally-funded research program and make significant should have a strong record of scholarly achievement in contributions to the Department’s research activities. The Department of research, teaching, and service. Interested applicants should Mechanical Engineering has a student body of approximately 300 undergraduates visit the specific department websites of their interest for and 50 Ph.D. students, and candidates should have a marked interest in teaching further information on the faculty search and application both undergraduate and graduate students. Applications consisting of a cover letter, a complete curriculum vitae, statements of teaching and research interests, and process at http://viterbi.usc.edu/academics/departments. the addresses of four references (include email address) should be submitted https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/2927 on-line at USC values diversity and is committed to equal opportunity in employment. Women and men, and members of all racial and ethnic Vanderbilt University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. groups, are encouraged to apply. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply. • WINTER 2014 52 SWE

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