Professor Eric Barth is faculty head of Hank Ingram House

Eric Barth, faculty head of Hank Ingram House, with his wife, Helen Bird, and their daughters—Nola and Kira—on The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons.

One of the special parts of student life at Vanderbilt is the university’s uniquely personal and collaborative residential college experience. Undergraduate houses and colleges are led by faculty who live in community with students. Meet engineering professor Eric Barth, one of the university’s newest faculty heads of house.

  • Name: Eric J. Barth
  • Residential college: Hank Ingram House
  • Faculty position: Professor of mechanical engineering
  • Years at Vanderbilt: 21
  • Hometown: Manhattan Beach, California
  • Favorite song: “Happy Birthday” (for the obvious implication of impending gifts)
  • Favorite book: The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
  • Favorite food: Lunch
  • Favorite quote: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  • What are you most looking forward to for the upcoming academic year? I look forward to inviting guests with stories and expertise that will inspire. Hosting dinners that will trigger thoughts about travel and our global society. And engaging in meaningful discussions where a diversity of views and backgrounds will challenge and define our ethos and ultimately help students find their passion.
  • Why do you value being a faculty head of house, or what do you love about the residential college experience? I liked the university environment so much I never left and found a job in academia. Now I’ve found a way to move back onto campus and bring my family with me. The residential college experience is rich with discovery and learning. I look forward to helping students discover and grow intellectually.
  • What advice do you have for new students coming to campus? And returning students? Let’s go! Let’s find our passion and do something that matters. Here’s how you can do that: For new students—go to class (even the ones you don’t like), talk to your professors, get involved. For returning students—take ahold of your experience, don’t just go with the flow.
  • Tell us a funny or poignant experience you’ve had at Vanderbilt. One summer, my building was being renovated and there was no access to my lab for about a month. All of my graduate students retreated to my living room with a lot of the lab equipment in tow. Mornings were a focused time of work. Afternoons included tea, biscuits and building Thomas the Tank Engine train tracks around the dining room with our (at the time) young children. The casual time ignited meaningful conversations—sometimes about research and sometimes about navigating life. The time together was significant because we were in the same space and essentially having a residential experience. On the other hand, upon seeing people in their 20s coming in and out of my house for weeks and seeing my living room full of computers like we were running some sort of scam, my neighbor eventually asked me from over the fence, “So what’s going on with all these people in your house?”
Eric Barth, faculty head of Hank Ingram House, with his wife, Helen Bird, and their daughters, Nola, left, and Kira, outside Hank Ingram House on the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons.