Published: May 1, 2023 By

Charlie and family on top of a mountain.
“I am a lifelong learner, so teaching is the perfect career for me,” said Teaching Professor Charlie Nuttelman, who has taught 18 different chemical and biological engineering classes at CU Boulder since 2007.  “Because when you teach something, you have to master it.”  Nuttelman is pictured with his wife, Ella, and son, Logan, on top of Cirque Peak in the Canadian Rockies. Photo credit: Kate McNerny.

He cares deeply about his students. He constantly grasps students’ attention during class. He meets with students outside of office hours to ensure everyone gets all the help they need. He is one of the best professors I have had in Chemical and Biological Engineering. I truly feel lucky to have been able to take his courses and learn from him. 

These are just a few of the many accolades from undergraduate students who have taken Teaching Professor Charlie Nuttelman’s classes.

Nuttelman recently won the Boulder Faculty Assembly Excellence in Teaching Award for his work as a CU Boulder professor and as a developer of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). The university-wide award, given to only three faculty members each year, recognizes the  importance of teaching and mentoring students as significant components of faculty duties. 

“This award means a lot to me,” said Nuttelman, who has been teaching at CU Boulder since 2007 and has since then won the ChBE Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Faculty Award multiple times. “As a CU Boulder student, I would look at the teaching awards on the second floor wall of Norlin Library, and I would think, ‘Whoa, those people are pretty important. They have a big impact on students.’ And now I am among them.”  

While Nuttelman’s classes cover topics that are not always the most exciting — such as Applied Data Analysis, Introduction to Engineering Computing, and Applied Data Instrumentation and Process Controls — his passion for the subjects and teaching shines through, generating a profound enthusiasm for students to learn.

Sam Burke-Bevis, a CBEN senior, says Nuttelman is excited about some of the most mundane topics in engineering, such as Excel shortcuts.

"He comes to class on time, learns his students names and shows actual excitement to teach the material, Burke-Bevis said. "I can't stress enough how much easier it is to learn a topic when the professor is happy to be there.”   

To help students succeed and long before it was common to do so, Nuttelman created screencasts (short videos) of the material he taught. He later pioneered embedding in-video questions using PlayPosit (a tool that lets teachers create and edit interactive video assessments) to create “learning modules” that help students maintain focus. To date he has created hundreds of learning modules for multiple classes. 

“These learning modules are a student favorite as they are short, cover the right material and are funny with added jokes throughout,” said Teaching Professor and ChBE Associate Chair Wendy Young. “Students consistently comment on how he makes the difficult material approachable and fun.”

Students can rewatch the screencasts, so they have multiple chances to get the answers right. “Everyone gets a 10 out of 10 if they put the work into it,” Nuttelman said.

Nuttelman also created online versions of Introduction to Engineering Computing (CHEN 1310) and Applied Data Analysis (CHEN 3010). 

In response to students expressing difficulties in remembering material between semesters and especially over the summers, Nuttelman created a “booster” course for Material and Energy Balances (CHEN 2120), which include screencasts with in-video questions aimed at reviewing and refreshing prerequisite knowledge among the students. Comparing student performance with past years, Nuttelman found that his booster course led to improved learning and retention of knowledge.

“I have really appreciated the clarity of his teaching style — specifically his notes format, writing directly on the slides and having us work through in-class problems,” said Patricia Mendoza-Anselmi, a CBEN senior. “His screencasts my freshman year were super helpful during recitation and for completing homeworks. My favorite class thus far has been instrumentation and process control because Dr. Nuttelman has done a great job connecting what we're learning and applying it to the real world.”

Burke-Bevis added that Nuttelman’s respectful attitude towards his students has had a significant impact on his personal work ethic. 

“He treats us like students who have completed an extremely difficult degree,” he said. “Being treated with respect makes you want to attend class and pay attention to return that respect.”