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VU engineering educator earns top teaching award

A Victoria University engineering academic has received a $10,000 Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) award for his inspired teaching that reduces the gap between theory and practice.

Dr Srikanth Venkatesan, a senior lecturer in structural engineering and an expert in earthquake-resistant building designs, said he aims to offer his students authentic projects as soon as they start their studies to show them how theory works in real life.

"Engineers say that theory is like the foundation of a building and practical applications are like the superstructure; a foundation without a superstructure is useless, and a superstructure without a foundation is dangerous," he said.

Working in partnership with local government councils and organisations such as City West Water, Dr Venkatesan's students have examined whether recycled water causes long-term corrosion in concrete and inspected local bridges among their many projects.

His classes integrate two of the University's unique teaching traits: problem-based learning, and learning in the workplace and the community.

The Caroline Springs resident said he derived his teaching approach from his background as an engineer in India turned academic in Australia.

"When I was in industry, I realised the problems you face on the job are entirely different from the ones you learn about in the classroom," he said.

Dr Venkatesan, who began teaching at VU in 2007, was one of only a handful of early career lecturers in Australia to receive a 2011 citation for outstanding contributions to student learning from the ALTC.

"I was very surprised to hear I was successful because I thought this was only for people who had been teaching for many years," he said. "My colleagues  and managers in the Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science were very supportive of my application." 

Dr Venkatesan he said he planned to use part of the award money to develop a software program to check students' knowledge of concepts.

Dr Srikanth Venkatesan is available for interview. A photo is available on request.

Media Contact:
Ann Marie Angebrandt, Media Officer,
Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University
Ph: (03) 9919 5487 or 0403 556 001.

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