Alejandro Salado, an assistant professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the College of Engineering, has been named the 2020 Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award winner by Virginia Tech’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).

The award is presented annually to recognize faculty members who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of scholarship addressing teaching and learning in higher education. All Virginia Tech instructional and research faculty members (full-time and part-time) and graduate students are eligible for nomination for the award.

Salado began his career in academia after a decade developing satellites in industry and quickly realized that there was no reason for the significant difference in what students learned in academia and what engineers actually do in practice.

“I felt that educational institutions were wasting potential learning opportunities that were readily available to them,” said Salado. “Thus, my educational research interests center around how to embed real-life aspects of engineering into the existing engineering education curriculum. I am interested in both the application of engineering methods and the acquisition of behavioral tenets to navigate through a messy world.”

Salado said he resolved early in his academic career to maintain a constant production of scholarship related to teaching and learning on top of his regular research. “Since I joined Virginia Tech, I have published teaching and learning scholarship every year, including two published journal papers, seven published peer-reviewed conference paper, and one journal paper currently under second review,” Salado said. “These publications collectively cover my research interests.”

Two strategies in particular have allowed Salado to successfully pursue teaching and learning scholarship in parallel with his core research.

“I have actively sought synergies with my instructional duties, both in terms of identifying opportunities for improving teaching and learning and in terms of trying out novel instructional approaches,” said Salado. “I believe that the classroom offers an excellent setting to test (and report on) educational innovation with just a little extra effort from the instructor.

“I have also consistently partnered with engineering education and math education doctoral students and professors to transform instructional ideas into scholarship by bringing in theoretical frameworks that I had never been exposed to before, curating the research methods and helping in assessing and understanding the results of the studies.”

Salado came to Virginia Tech in 2015 from OHB System AG in Munich, Germany where he worked as a systems engineer. He also served on the faculty of the University of South East Norway in Kongsberg, Norway as an industry professor at the Norwegian Institute of Systems Engineering. Salado's research is focused on the need to elucidate scientific foundations for systems engineering and the intention to produce work that can be transitioned to practice. In addition, he experiments with novel approaches to embed real-life aspects of engineering practice into the classroom.

Salado earned a Ph.D. in systems engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He also earned master degrees in electronics engineering and project management from Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain.

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award is given to a maximum of two recipients per year with award winners receiving a $500 prize and a plaque. The scholarship of teaching and learning at Virginia Tech involves the rigorous examination and investigation of higher education teaching and learning. It uses a research-based, scientific, and scholarly lens to examine questions in higher education pedagogy, making the results public for examination and critique.

For more information on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award and a list of past winners, visit the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at teaching.vt.edu.