New directors of College of Engineering's engineering design program named

Samantha Chavanic
February 24, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Scarlett Miller, associate professor of engineering design and industrial engineering at Penn State, has been named the new director of the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs’ (SEDTAPP) engineering design (DESIGN) program; and Sarah Ritter, associate teaching professor of engineering design at the University, was recently appointed associate director of the engineering design program. 

Miller began her duties on Feb. 1, assuming the role previously held by Matthew Parkinson, director of the Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory and professor of engineering design and mechanical engineering. Parkinson will continue to serve as the director of the Learning Factory and as a faculty member in the DESIGN program and mechanical engineering department.

White woman with blonde hair smiles.

Scarlett Miller, associate professor of engineering design and industrial engineering, was named the new director of SEDTAPP's engineering design program. In this role, Miller oversees the DESIGN program and its graduate offerings: master of engineering in engineering design and master of science in engineering design.

IMAGE: Penn State

As director, Miller oversees the DESIGN program and its graduate offerings: master of engineering in engineering design and master of science in engineering design. 

Sarah Ritter, associate teaching professor of engineering design at the University, was recently appointed associate director of the engineering design program. Ritter works with Miller to determine the strategic direction of DESIGN’s undergraduate programs and oversees the undergraduate offerings, including EDSGN 100: Introduction to Engineering Design, the cornerstone engineering course taken by first-year engineering students; the undergraduate engineering design certificate; and the engineering and community engagement certificate. Additional offerings at both the undergraduate and graduate levels are currently being developed.

“We are very fortunate to have two extremely visible leaders in Miller and Ritter, who will ensure our DESIGN program grows and has even greater impact,” said Sven Bilén, head of SEDTAPP and professor of engineering design, electrical engineering and aerospace engineering. “I look forward to working with them in their new roles as we enhance current offerings and develop even more programs that help students design their future.”

Miller has served as a SEDTAPP faculty member since 2011 after receiving her doctoral degree in industrial engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Our engineering design program is super unique,” Miller said. “It is the reason I came to Penn State to begin with. I remember when I saw the job announcement for a tenure-track position in DESIGN at Penn State — I truly felt it was asking me to apply because it was the pure description of what I research and what I am passionate about. There are not very many places in the country that have a program like ours. Over the last eight years, I’ve seen the program grow into having a master’s program and having connections with faculty across the University.”

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Sarah Ritter, associate teaching professor, was named the associate director of SEDTAPP's engineering design program. Ritter works with Miller to determine the strategic direction of DESIGN’s undergraduate programs

IMAGE: Penn State

Ritter joined SEDTAPP in 2014 as an assistant professor of engineering design after completing her doctoral degree in biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University. 

“I am passionate about undergraduate engineering education, and, in this role, I will have the opportunity to help define the vision for the undergraduate engineering design education at Penn State,” Ritter said. “As part of this, I look forward to leading the design and implementation of new courses and programs at the undergraduate level.”

Since coming to Penn State, Miller has directly contributed to the growth of the program as a member of multiple DESIGN faculty search committees and in the development of the master’s in engineering design program, but is looking for the next way to make an impact.

“At this point in my career, I’m looking for the next thing,” she said. “I’ve started a company, I’ve done all this great design research, I’ve had all of these leadership positions at different places — so now it’s what’s next? Where can I have the largest impact at Penn State? I think directing this program is an opportunity to make that lasting impact.”

Miller’s research areas focus on engineering design; design cognition and human-computer interaction; highlighting the exploration of new methods to support creativity in the engineering design process; and the development of new technologies that enable these methods to be adopted by educators and practitioners.

To date, Miller has received nearly $5 million in funding as a principal investigator or co-principal investigator from national agencies. Based on the intellectual property supported by this funding, Miller has co-authored two design patents and co-founded the start-up company Medulate, which received the TechCelerator @ State College top prize in 2018.

Miller has also been heavily involved with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), serving as an associate editor for the Journal of Mechanical Design since August 2018. She has served as chair and vice-chair of the ASME Design Theory and Methodology group and served the ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conference (IDETC) as conference chair for the International Design Theory and Methodology Conference.  

Since joining Penn State, Ritter has worked to enhance undergraduate engineering education through research projects, journal articles and conference papers. She has served as the course chair of EDSGN 100 since 2018, facilitating course curriculum updates. In addition, she is actively engaged in design thinking training and coaching through workshops hosted by the Hasso-Plattner Institute’s School of Design Thinking. She has mentored numerous student teams through SEDTAPP’s Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship program and has helped to facilitate BUILD Nights at the Learning Factory.

“The engineering design courses and programs offered through SEDTAPP provide students the opportunity to develop and practice critical skills that will help them to be successful engineers,” she said. “DESIGN provides the students with unique and real-world experiences, such as interacting with and designing solutions for corporate clients during seven-week-long design projects. These courses also help the students to explore how design impacts and is impacted by society, and the role of engineering, along with other disciplines, in helping to solve society's complex problems.”

Due to Miller’s extensive experience in leadership and collaborative projects, she aims to find additional opportunities for DESIGN faculty and students to engage and connect across the University and beyond. She plans to increase focus on the impact DESIGN faculty and students have on Penn State, the engineering industry and the global community. Her upcoming goals for the program include growing the graduate program to capacity and working with Ritter to finalize new undergraduate offerings. Miller believes these goals will be enhanced through the College of Engineering’s facilities master plan, which has SEDTAPP and DESIGN moving to a West Campus building focused on ideating, making, prototyping, creating and improving engineering solutions.

“Seeking out opportunities that allow us to better engage design (with others) is extremely important because design is so interdisciplinary and has these cross-disciplinary opportunities from our first-year through our graduate program,” Miller said. “It’s really important and exciting to me. I’ve had success fostering research collaborations, and I’m excited to bring that back to our students and engage with students in different design disciplines.”

 

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Last Updated February 24, 2020