Barbara Oakley

Professor of Engineering at Oakland University

Barbara Oakley

Barbara Oakley, PhD, PE is a Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan; Michigan’s Distinguished Professor of the Year; and Coursera’s inaugural “Innovation Instructor.” Her work focuses on the complex relationship between neuroscience and social behavior. Dr. Oakley’s research has been described as “revolutionary” in the Wall Street Journal. She is a New York Times best-selling author who has published in outlets as varied as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Her book A Mind for Numbers, on effective learning in STEM disciplines, has sold over a million copies worldwide; Uncommon Sense Teaching is a critically praised guide to teaching based on insights from neuroscience. Dr. Oakley has won numerous teaching awards, including the American Society of Engineering Education’s Chester F. Carlson Award for technical innovation in engineering education and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers William E. Sayle II Award for Achievement in Education. Together with Terrence Sejnowski, the Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute, she co-teaches Coursera’s “Learning How to Learn,” one of the world’s most popular massive open online courses with some four million registered students, along with a number of other leading MOOCs.

Dr. Oakley has adventured widely through her lifetime. She rose from the ranks of Private to Captain in the U.S. Army, during which time she was recognized as a Distinguished Military Scholar. She also worked as a communications expert at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, and has served as a Russian translator on board Soviet trawlers on the Bering Sea. Dr. Oakley is an elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

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