Brian Self, Ph.D.

Brian Self, Ph.D.

2020 Outstanding Faculty Teaching

Brian Self, Ph.D.

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Using active learning and engaging teaching methods allows us to better understand our students, to have more fun in the classroom, to promote a more inclusive classroom environment and to help our students take ownership of their own learning.'

Major Accomplishments:

  • Led a National Science Foundation project featuring collaboration between Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s departments of mechanical engineering, computer engineering and kinesiology that culminated in nearly 100 senior projects designed to help people with disabilities participate in sports
  • Co-author of the widely used textbook “Vector Mechanics for Engineers: Dynamics” and co-author, with undergraduate students, of more than 60 publications
  • Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education

Brian Self, Ph.D., has made a career of gathering inspiration and ideas for his teaching from anywhere he can find them. You have only to glance over the mechanical engineering professor’s CV to see an enviable and varied list of experiences that include teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy, two stints serving as an exchange professor in Germany and time as a biomedical research engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas.

Dr. Self arrived at Cal Poly in 2006 and over the past nearly 14 years has taught a range of courses, including dynamics, the study of forces and their effects on motion—for example, the forces acting on someone during a roller coaster ride—as well as senior design and biomechanics courses. Self also serves as chair of the campus’s Academic Senate Curriculum Committee, which makes recommendations on Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s requirements for graduation, course learning objectives and cultural pluralism, among other responsibilities.

Central to Self’s approach to teaching is active learning, or finding ways to continually engage his students in the learning process so they think deeply about what they’re doing—a philosophy that echoes the campus’s “learn by doing” ethos and ensures, says Self, a classroom that’s inclusive, fun and empowering for students.

Self received his bachelor’s degree in engineering science and mechanics and his master’s in engineering mechanics at Virginia Tech and his doctorate in bioengineering at the University of Utah.