Dr. Mark Sidebottom receives HWCE disciplinary writing award

Although engineering is not typically recognized for its merits as a literary discipline, one College of Engineering and Computing professor recently received an award for just that - writing! 

Dr. Mark Sidebottom, an assistant professor in the department of mechanical and manufacturing engineering (MME), was awarded the Roger and Joyce Howe Award for Excellence in Disciplinary Writing Instruction for 2021. Dr. Mark Sidebottom, in a plaid shirt, posing/smiling in front of a white wall

The award, named after the founders of the Howe Writing Center for Excellence (HWCE), was first given out in spring 2020. Each year, individuals and/or teams of faculty who have made efforts to improve the instruction of writing within their disciplines are recognized.  

Dr. Sidebottom and Dr. Muhammad Jahan, a fellow MME professor, began this project back in fall 2019 and continued working on it in the spring of 2020. The project, a writing guide for students, breaks down the major sections of mechanical engineering writing. 

The guide also encourages students to think more critically about the purpose of their reports, the intended audience and the objective of the specific section. 

“The idea is to help students understand what they should write, but also why they’re writing in that way,” Dr. Sidebottom said.  

In a field like engineering, Dr. Sidebottom said it’s crucial to be able to write experiments and reports well for other academics to use in the future. 

“If it’s not recorded anywhere, it really is like it never happened,” Dr. Sidebottom said. 

Implementing the writing guide may take some time, but Dr. Sidebottom said he is confident in its ability to tangibly improve students’ writing. 

In an email, Dean Beena Sukumaran congratulated Dr. Sidebottom and echoed the importance of writing in engineering. 

“Our discipline is not known for its writing abilities nor its emphasis on writing but I have heard from employers how important it is,” Dean Sukumaran said. “That is what makes our Miami students stand out … So what [Dr. Sidebottom has] done within MME, which I hope will be emulated in all our other engineering and computing departments, is given our students a leg up when seeking out employment or when they go to graduate school.”

Though he’s grateful his work is being recognized, Dr. Sidebottom really just wants to enhance the skills of engineering students. 

“It really goes back to the nature of the department in terms of trying to continuously improve our [educational] offerings,” Dr. Sidebottom said, “and going forward, we hope that the writing guide can help with that mission.” 

By Maggie Peña, CEC Reporter