Michigan State University researcher Shanelle Foster spends much of her time innovating 3D-printing techniques to make motors smaller and lighter.

These more sustainable machines are used in advanced manufacturing to increase efficiency and reduce their impact on the environment. She’s also a professor in the College of Engineering who invests just as much effort in the education of her students who will go out and build a better world.

“Our mission is to graduate the next leaders and inventors for the future,” says Foster, associate professor of electrical engineering and a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program award given to faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education. “Seeing their eyes open to how they can benefit society — and not just find their career — that’s rewarding.”

Foster and her colleagues are developing tomorrow’s leaders, and Spartan engineers are in demand. More than 500 employers hire MSU engineers, many of whom remain in Michigan to drive the state’s economy. One of those graduates is Will Jensen, Foster’s first doctoral student who is now an electric motor design engineer for General Motors.

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“Dr. Foster’s mentorship was everything. She always made time for me and her other students,” says Jensen. “What I got from working with her for so long was how to be a really effective engineer — how to break down a problem, make a plan from start to finish and make the best use of resources and time. I owe her a lot.”

Foster is the definition of a Spartan — she received all three of her degrees from Michigan State University. And she still remembers the feeling she had as a prospective student touring campus.

“Just walking around campus, there was a different feel here than at the other institutions I visited. MSU was the one that was built the best for me.”

She wants all Spartan engineers to have the opportunities she did. In addition to mentoring students who work in her lab, she and her colleagues are leading a project to help students from low-income backgrounds persist and complete their degrees. Because the world needs more Spartan engineers.

“We’re built different,” Foster says. “Spartan engineers work well together and with others, and I don’t think that the problems we face today can be solved by one individual. It will take a team of people that is able to not just think, but also communicate well, talk across disciplines, work hard, and see that the problems are significant and that their solutions are what society needs.”

This story was first published by MSUToday

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