Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Leading by Example
ChemE Professor Taryn Bayles Receives ASEE Lifetime Achievement Award

PITTSBURGH (July 21, 2020) — Taryn Bayles, vice chair for undergraduate education and professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, has dedicated her career to sharing the joy of engineering with others. In recognition of her myriad contributions to the field of engineering education, she was honored with the ASEE 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award during the organization’s virtual conference on June 23, 2020.

The award is presented to a Pre-College Engineering Education Division member who has “provided a high standard of service in alignment with the Division Vision, Mission and Core Beliefs and in support of pre-college engineering education efforts within the American Society of Engineering Education), and who has made significant and sustained contributions to the field of pre-college engineering.”

Bayles’ research primarily focuses on engineering pedagogy, with the aim of making science and engineering more engaging and accessible for students from kindergarten through college. She has taught 7,200 instructors through more than 150 workshops how to introduce students to engineering principles. As part of her chemical engineering classes, her undergraduates share their knowledge with the local community through hands-on outreach activities. These efforts of Bayles’ 1000+ engineering students have benefitted more than 10,000 participating K-12 students. 

Bayles knows that early encounters can be an important first step toward a career in engineering. Her own first encounter with engineering was in high school when she received a scholarship to work at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque, N.M. This experience and several more internships during college cemented her interest in chemical engineering. But her industry job after graduation revealed a passion for teaching.

“When I worked in industry, I led activities for young students during Engineers’ Week and through Junior Achievement, and it became addictive.” she said. “Every time I’ve gotten to teach, it has been so rewarding.”

For more than two decades, Bayles has taught chemical engineering at institutions including Pitt, the University of Nevada Reno, the University of Maryland College Park and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. In the classroom, she regularly draws on her own industrial engineering experience, which has included process engineering, computer modeling and control, process design and testing, and engineering management at Exxon, Westinghouse and Phillips Petroleum. 

In between her career in industry and her career in academia, Bayles formatively stayed at home with her two children. When her daughter came home from school in the second grade with a note about cuts to the science curriculum, she wanted to make sure the students wouldn’t miss out on opportunities to learn about science and engineering. She started an after-school program with hands-on STEM activities; even when her daughter was no longer in elementary school, she continued the program while her son was still in elementary school — and her daughter would help to co-lead the activities. 

“Those experiences made me realize how few resources there are for getting kids into engineering,” she said. “It drove me to create opportunities to encourage STEM learning. It sparked a passion and desire, and from there I set a course.”

In addition to teaching students directly about STEM, Bayles’ research and workshops have also taught teachers ways to make STEM accessible to their students. She has led middle school and high school teacher professional development for Project Lead the Way, and co-authored the INSPIRES (INcreasing Student Participation, Interest and Recruitment in Engineering & Science) curriculum, which introduces high school students to engineering design through hands-on experiences and inquiry-based learning with real world engineering design challenges.

In her courses she incorporates her industrial experience by bringing practical examples and active learning to help students grasp fundamental engineering principles. Last year, Bayles was awarded the Department’s James Pommersheim Award for Excellence in Teaching Chemical Engineering, and she has served as the Chair of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Education Division. In addition to her impressive teaching record and education research, Bayles has been a supportive advisor for Pitt’s AIChE Chem-E-Car team, which has excelled in recent years.

“Taryn Bayles is quite simply a juggernaut in Engineering Education. She is a national leader and pioneer that is admired by the most distinguished engineering educators in our field,” said Steven Little, William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. “She is highly deserving of this award and the Department could not be more proud of her.”

Maggie Pavlick, 7/21/2020

Contact: Maggie Pavlick