Faculty Spotlight: Dr. John Shelton

After working for several years as an engineer in the automotive industry, John Shelton, Ph.D., decided to transition to teaching, and he hasn’t looked back.

In 2015, Shelton joined the NIU Department of Mechanical Engineering as an assistant professor. Originally from New York, he received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of South Florida in 2011.

Shelton said teaching is very different than the fast-paced environment of the automotive industry, but he adjusted quickly.

“I would describe my teaching style as leading through example,” he said. “I like to do a lot of examples in class so that I can put theory into practice.”

Along with teaching classes like thermodynamics and radiative heat transfer, Shelton is part of many clubs and organizations. He is a member of Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers and an advisor for ReNIU and the American Solar Energy Society. Last summer, he and the members of the MillenNIUm Solar Car Team worked as mechanics and mechanical consultants at ComEd’s Ice Box Derby.

Shelton’s research interest lies in renewable energy, specifically solar energy. His main concern is being able to store energy from the sun and use it when the sun is not shining. Shelton uses computational and experimental methods to find how nanoparticles improve the properties of molten salts used to store thermal energy for concentrated solar power plants. In the future, Shelton said he would like to establish a stronger relationship between Northern Illinois University’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology and Argonne National Laboratory.

“My favorite parts of my job are solving problems and working with students to help them expand their knowledge base,” he said. “My long term goals would be to become a really great professor at NIU. I want to be like the Lionel Messi of teaching.”

In giving advice to students, Shelton said it is important to be adaptable – after all, he entered college as a freshman with plans to be an accountant.

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“Be flexible, respectful and be thirsty for knowledge,” he said. “University is a great environment to have fun, mess up and learn.”
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