This document is a compilation of relevant material developed by
Barbara A. Soloman and Richard M. Felder at North Carolina State University
in Raleigh, North Carolina. For more information, see
Felder, Richard, "Meet Your Students: 1. Stan and Nathan."
Chem. Engr. Education, 23
(2), 68-69 (Spring 1989).
Stan and Nathan are juniors in chemical engineering and roommates at a large midwestern university. They are
similar in many ways. Both enjoy partying, midnight pizza runs, listening to rock and watching TV. Both did well
in science and math in high school, although Nathan's grades were consistently higher. Both found their mass
and energy balance course tough (although they agree the text was superb), thermodynamics incomprehensible,
English boring, and other humanities courses useless. Both have girl friends who occasionally accuse them of
being "too logical."
For all their similarities, however, they are fundamentally different. If single words were chosen to describe each
of them, Stan's would be "practical" and Nathan's would be "scholarly" (or "spacy," depending on whom you
ask). Stan is a mechanical wizard and is constantly sought after by friends with ailing cars and computers, while
changing a light bulb is at the outer limits of Nathan's mechanical ability. Stan notices his surroundings, tends to
know where he put things, and remembers people he only met once; Nathan notices very little around him,
misplaces things constantly, and may not recognize someone he has known for years. Nathan subscribes to
and reads science fiction and mystery novels voraciously; Stan only reads when he has to. Stan
has trouble following lectures; Nathan follows them easily, but when instructors spend a lot of class time going
through detailed derivations or homework assignments he already understands he gets bored and his attention
When Stan takes a test he reads the first problem, reads it again, and if the test is open--book tries to find an
identical worked--out problem and copy the solution. If he can't find one, he searches for suitable formulas to
plug into. He frequently rereads the problem while working on it and repeats each numerical calculation just to
be on the safe side. When he has gone as far as he can go he repeats the process on the second problem. He
usually runs out of time and gets class average or lower on the test. Nathan reads test problems only up to the
point where he thinks he knows how to proceed and then plunges in. He works quickly and usually finishes early
and gets high grades. However, he sometimes blows tests because he makes careless errors and lacks the patience
to check his calculations, or he fails to read a question thoroughly enough and misses important data or answers
a different question than was asked.
The one place where Stan outshines Nathan academically is the laboratory. Stan is sure--handed and meticulous