June 7, 2021

Inspiring Teacher: Kalpana Katti, University Distinguished Professor of civil and environmental engineering


Kalpana Katti, University Distinguished Professor of civil and environmental engineering, describes her teaching philosophy this way: "A push for excellence is not effective without empathy."

Kalpana Katti is a highly respected instructor, who believes in making strong connections with her students. Her students learn from one of the best, as she is a renowned, award-winning researcher in the areas of bone tissue engineering and biological nanocomposites.

Katti teaches a variety of civil and environmental engineering courses, such as Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials, Biomaterials, Preparing Future Researchers and the graduate seminar.

She is always on the lookout for danger signs among her students, considering herself the first person in a line of defense for her advisees who may be having difficulties.

“If a student feels that you are genuinely concerned about them as human beings and engaged in their learning, they are likely to learn more. Without the sense of this concern, teaching is simply a mundane activity that does not bring the necessary outcome of learning and retention of knowledge,” Katti said. “I believe anything worth learning is self-taught. It is for us as teachers to inspire that self-teaching for the students. A push for excellence is not effective without empathy.”

Her classes are filled with activities and group projects that are aimed at keeping students actively involved in the learning process.

“There are enormous issues facing the world today. Engaged and educated young people are essential for creating solutions to the world's important problems,” Katti said. “Engineers and scientists need to be relevant, and one way to do that is to be cognizant of the state-of-the-art. Therefore, I always bring conversations on discoveries and scientific breakthroughs in my lab or from the news into the classroom. I also try to bring some humor; it makes students feel more comfortable.”

Katti joined NDSU in 1997 as a post-doctoral researcher, and quickly rose through the faculty ranks to being named a University Distinguished Professor in 2007. Among her many honors are the NDSU Faculty Lectureship, Peltier Award for Innovation, College of Engineering Researcher of the Year, National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the Roon Award from the Federation of Societies of Coatings Technology.

“I enjoy the collegiality of my NDSU colleagues and the interactions with students through conversations before and after class,” she said. “I feel that the more engaged they are and the more connections they have with the instructor, the more learning happens.”

Katti earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Delhi, New Delhi, India; master’s degree in solid state physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India; and doctorate in materials science and engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle.

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