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2014 Dean’s Award: Titilayo Shodiya

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Calm. Collected. Lighthearted confidence. Those are some of the words used to describe Titi Shodiya by the people who nominated her for a 2014 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring.

However, one of her faculty nominator says, “Beneath this appearance is a determined and steely young lady who is going to make things happen.”

Shodiya’s determination and ability to get things done have been apparent in her mentoring efforts. Her colleagues in the lab of Assistant Professor Nico Hotz in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science say she is a resource for them both for her scientific expertise and for her ability to advise, teach, and encourage others, including undergraduates and new doctoral students.

“Although I am the older of the two of us, I have learned so much from Titi,” one of her colleagues says. “Her work ethic is unmatched and inspiring. When she comes to me with ideas, whether experimentally or about science education, I always walk away motivated and more energized than before we talked. She works tirelessly, thinking of innovative approaches to make science and engineering accessible.”

A faculty member who has seen Shodiya in action says she has established herself as a group leader in the lab. “I know through my daily interactions with her that she is very able to guide, support, and motivate all of these students at very different levels of scientific development,” the faculty member says. “She is actively communicating with her fellow lab members, as well as with me, and she does not shy away from difficult questions and conversations, while being patient and compassionate.”

Shodiya’s influence on her department doesn’t stop with mentoring. She has actively supported the department’s efforts to attract underrepresented minority students. A member of the National Society of Black Engineers, Shodiya has helped with recruitment efforts and tutored and mentored high school students who are interested in engineering. She has also worked with The Graduate School in its recruitment efforts at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as with the Office of Biomedical Graduate Diversity, meeting with underrepresented students on recruitment weekends.

Comments From Faculty and Mentees

“Titi was friendly and happy to answer any questions or concerns I had regarding the project. My understanding of the operating principles of solar cells grew very quickly with her there to answer any questions or give me useful reading material. With Titi’s feedback, I grew and became more confident in performing research. Her positive comments and her constructive feedback helped my performance improve. Titi always treated me as a professional.

“Titi and I both participated in the Pratt Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science retreat that was held at the end of the summer 2012. That experience with her taught me about what it means to be on an effective team. Titi worked tirelessly to prove her theory but still found time to assist with any of the other projects in the lab. Characterization models that would have taken me an entire afternoon on my own, we were able to do in one hour in parallel. She showed me the value of thinking in terms of the group, and not just about myself.”

“I spent a large chunk of my senior year worrying about graduate school applications, and Titi became a frequent sounding board for my anxieties. With her uniquely cool and calm tone, she would patiently analyze each problem I would bring to her and explain why they were not issues after all. One consistent topic was how horribly anxious and bad I was at contacting professors from other schools. I feared their rejection greatly, but Titi has a fearless attitude that can make any difficult task seem more tractable. When I heard from MIT that I had been admitted, she was the first person that I told. She always made herself available to help me, and I cannot thank her more.”

“I am excited to see where she takes things next. The Titi story is just beginning.”

About Titilayo Shodiya

Titilayo “Titi” Shodiya, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering and materials science, received an MS in electrical and computer engineering from Duke University and a BS from Penn State University Park with a major in materials science and engineering and a minor in mathematics. Her research is on the utilization of nanocatalysts for renewable and sustainable electric power production.