TEDx Cooper Union: Nina Tandon and Teaching in a Networked World

June 26, 2012

Nina Tandon (EE'01) teaches bioelectricity at Cooper Union—introducing students to the complex function of electrical signals in the human body. It's what Tandon describes as a very serious class that delves into "dense" material and challenges her students. Adding a new layer to class this semester, Professor Tandon used her course as a site for an experiment in networked pedagogy.

Using her existing affiliation with the TED organization (as a Senior TED Fellow), Professor Tandon opened up her course to the dispersed TED community by encouraging students to initiate and participate in class-related discussions on the TED Conversations web forums. As class discussions spilled over into the network, conversations were democratized by students who would actively respond to each other as well as others on the Internet. These conversations exploded what might otherwise be a highly technical and specialized discourse into something articulated for a wider community, inviting ideas from neighboring disciplines like social science and the humanities. The class discussions and work further seeped into TEDx Cooper Union—the conference that Tandon organized at Cooper with colleagues Toby Cumberbatch, David Turnbull, Ivana Gadjanski, and Noemi Thieves (A'2011).

In her TEDx talk above, Tandon describes her experiment in teaching this semester. In addition to lecturing at Cooper Union, Tandon is a tissue engineer at Columbia University and a certified yoga instructor. Her research involves the use of electrical signaling for directing cell differentiation. In parallel, she is also pursuing her interest in scientific entrepreneurship and leadership via an executive MBA at Columbia. She began her career in telecom at Avaya Labs, designing enterprise communications software, spent one year as a Fulbright Scholar in Rome, Italy, working on an electronic nose used to "smell" lung cancer, and then completed her PhD at MIT and Columbia, studying electrical stimulation for cardiac tissue engineering. After spending a year as an associate at McKinsey, she is now continuing her research on electrical stimulation for broader tissue engineering applications.

Watch the Cooper Union website over the coming weeks for a new TEDx Cooper Union video posted each week.

You can watch the entire TEDx Cooper Union video series on Youtube.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.