Seema C. Shah-Fairbank, P.E., Ph.D.


Assistant Professor and RBF Fellow

California State Polytechnic State University, Pomona
Civil Engineering Department
3801 West Temple Avenue, Pomona CA 91768

Office Location:    Bldg. 17 Rm. 2684
Office Number:    909-869-3954 
Fax Number:        909-869-4342

Home Page


Office Hours



Professional Development and Research



Courses Taught

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Class information is available on Blackboard 9)

CE 451 Hydrology

    HW 2 Topo
CE 351 - Environmental Resource Management

   Outreach Video

CE 332 - Hydraulics

CE 332L - Hydraulic Lab
CE 122 - Introduction to Civil Engineering

    Educational Plan

Colorado State University

Statics ( Summer 2007 at Colorado State University, Fort Collins)

Teaching Assistant

Colorado State University

Introduction to Civil Engineering (Winter 2005)
Fluid Mechanics (Winter 2006)
Erosion and Sedimentation (Fall 2007 and Fall 2008)
Environmental River Mechanics (Winter 2008)

Teaching Philosophy

My interest in pursuing an academic career stems from my experiences as a student. I always found pleasure in helping my fellow classmates understand a subject. In addition, I taught elementary and middle school girls what engineers do for a living. However, I felt to truly teach I wanted to work in the real world.  This way I could provide students with insight on the relevance the class material will have on their future.

My teaching philosophy incorporates the following fundamental ideas:

All of us learn in different ways and by incorporating different teaching practices students can learn at their own pace.

Clear Direction: All instructors would agree that a clear direction is essential to the start of any class. Thus to assure that the students are aware of their expectations during the semester I always provide students with a detailed syllabus. The syllabus is intended to provide students with an idea about the subject they are about to learn. They are informed about prerequisites that they must have to take the class. In addition, I provide students with my availability outside of the classroom, by hosting office hours and review sessions. The students are given a calendar that informs them what topic we will be covering, when tests are scheduled and a list of scheduled office hours. The syllabus also includes a detailed percentage breakdown on how the different areas on the class material are divided for grading. Finally, they are provided with an example on the format of their assignments and informed that all assignments are due at the beginning of class.

Solid Background: I believe that we are constantly learning and one must understand the fundamentals to conquer the topic and learn new information. I use basic lecturing to teach important concepts; however, an hour of lecturing can bore a student. Thus, I find it essential to connect real world examples into what they are learning.

Many times I am curious why something worked certain ways. As I have learned why something is important I have been better able to connect concepts to specific applications. Thus during lecture I always try and provide students with the applicability of the material they are learning. For example, if I were teaching students about trusses in a Statics class, I would take the time to bring the students to a room where trusses are visible (depending on class size) and talk to them about the importance and why they have been designed in this particular manner. In addition, I would show them pictures of different trusses that they see all around them and talk to them about what might cause a truss/bridge to fail. Then I would go into the details of how to calculate the amount of compression and tension in each member.

Participation: I feel it is important to engage students during class by encouraging them to participate. My personal experience has shown that asking students a question during lecture requires them to critically think and gives them a sense of importance. They are eager to share their ideas with you and their peers. In a hydrology class I would have a lecture about flooding within the river environment. I would introduce an example of a catastrophic floods and the damage that was caused. Then as a class we would discuss the importance of flood protection and different design aspects that would prevent this type of problem from occurring again. In addition, I find it beneficial to call on students randomly during lecture. In an introductory class I may ask the students to tell what forces should be drawn on a Free Body Diagram.  I have been able to implement these types of concepts in the following courses I have taught:  Introduction to Civil Engineering, Statics, Fluid Mechanics and Environmental River Mechanics. 

Team Work: Working in teams helps students work together to solve problems. Based on my professional experience, I found that it is important to learn how to work with others. Helping a colleague can strengthen one’s own understanding about the subject. In lower division classes, I find it helpful to have students work on problem solving strategies together. This way they are actually thinking about the steps required to solve a problem and not just listening to me tell them how it is done. During each class I save 10 minutes for group work and I walk around the class assisting groups and observing their interaction. This time is used to have students work on a problem together, which reinforces the concepts from lecture. By working in teams they are helping each other and developing an understanding about the problem. As these students approach their junior and senior level classes they have a sense of teamwork. Therefore, in upper division classes I think it is important to have the students work on a class project. This project would include using the tools they have been taught during the semester. For example, in a river mechanics course I would have students work in teams to develop a new design for a river reach that is unstable.  The teams would be multidisciplinary with engineers, biologist and geologist working together.  They would use different techniques to stabilize the river.

Homework: Out of class work is just as significant as in class work. Students need to practice what they are taught to truly understand the material. Thus weekly homework assignments are always part of any class to assure that students understand the concepts of class.

This is my teaching philosophy and it incorporates how I plan to teach a student to learn using conventional and non-conventional methods to help develop our future. As an engineer is am always faced with developing solutions to a problem, so that the future of this world will be a better place for our children.