Engineering Departments

Virginia Tech's College of Engineering Announces Faculty Awards

Blacksburg, VA , May 04, 2009

Virginia Tech's College of Engineering held its twelfth annual engineering faculty reception and announced the recipients of numerous teaching, research and service awards for 2009.

In the teaching innovation category, awards were presented to Chema de la Garza of civil and environmental engineering (CEE), Leslie Pendleton of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), and Robert West of mechanical engineering (ME).

de la Garza was cited for his development of an innovative distance learning course called “Construction Industry Institute Best Practices.” Pendleton, a non-tenure track instructor, voluntarily teaches “Engineering Professionalism,” a course developed after the 2001 ABET review that called for more ethics content ECE curricula. West has invested great effort into the reorganization of the finite element undergraduate and graduate course sequence, as well as serving as a faculty advisor to the capstone senior design project team.

Research awards went to Maura Borrego of engineering education (EngE), Andrea Dietrich of CEE, Dan Inman of ME, Maury Nussbaum of industrial and systems engineering (ISE), and Wayne Scales of ECE.

Borrego is breaking new ground in her field as she is the first person in the country to win a National Science Foundation Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for the development of methods that will better prepare faculty and graduate students for interdisciplinary work. Dietrich led the first successful CEE interdisciplinary proposal effort in the drinking water area. It resulted in her team receiving one of three $1.8 million NSF grants awarded in the biocomplexity area. Inman, the George Goodson Professor of Mechanical Engineering, is the director of the Center for Intelligent Material and Systems and Structures, attracting some $6 million in research contracts in recent years, representing some 27 percent of the ME department's total.

Nussbaum is among the world's leading experts in spine biomechanics and the measurement and modeling of localized muscle fatigue, and directs the Industrial Ergonomics and Biomechanics Laboratory. Scales is responsible for the formation of the Center for Space Science and Engineering Research or Space@VT, a research group on atmospheric science and is considered to be a world expert in the physics of dusty space plasmas, currently believed to be linked to global climate change.

Service awards were given to Muhammad Hajj of engineering science and mechanics (ESM), Michael Karmis of mining and minerals engineering (MinE), William Knocke of CEE, Kostis Triantis of ISE, and Mary Leigh Wolfe of biological systems engineering (BSE).

Hajj has served as the president of the Engineering Faculty Organization for the past two years. Karmis was the 2008 president of the American Institute of Mining Engineers and received AIME's 2008 Mineral Industry Education Award for his “national and international recognition as a teacher, researcher and academic leader. Knocke chairs the Department Heads Council, provides leadership in the VT Advance program, and worked to change the formula for the distribution of indirect cost recovery funds. Triantis has served three one-year terms as president of the Northern Virginia Faculty Association, three one-year terms as secretary, and six years on its executive committee. Wolfe has served for many years on the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology's Engineering Accreditation Commission, currently chairing this commission.

Five Outstanding New Assistant Professors were named: Masoud Agah of ECE, Ali Butt of computer science (CS), Rafael Davalos of the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences (SBES), Nakhiah Goulbourne of ME, and Pamela Murray-Tuite of CEE.

Since Agah's arrival at Virginia Tech in 2005 he has established the Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems Lab, and he is an NSF CAREER Award recipient for his work. Butt joined the CS department in 2006 as a member of the High-end Computing Systems and Networking Research Group, and he is also an NSF CAREER Award recipient for developing innovative storage techniques for emerging peta-scale computing platforms. Davalos received the “Most Promising Engineer or Scientist” Award in 2006 from the national Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Award conference, and his work in the field of cancer research is groundbreaking as a co-developer of the irreversible electroporation technique, cited by NASA Tech Briefs as one of the top inventions for 2007.

Goulbourne received a 2008 NSF CAREER award for her work with membrane sensors, and she is conducting innovative work on a new type of heart stent sensor. Murray-Tuite is one of five full time CEE faculty at the national capitol region where she is a member of the Transportation Research Board and is on its Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure. In 2008, she established a research internship program for high school students in Falls Church and Fairfax County.

The College named six faculty as recipients of Engineering Faculty Fellows. The award carries a $5000 account for three years to be used for supporting his or her research. The recipients were: Clay Gabler of SBES, Chris Roy of AOE, Adrian Sandu of CS, Sunil Sinha of CEE, Tonya Smith Jackson of ISE, and Mark Stremler of ESM.

Gabler is an internationally recognized expert in crash injury biomechanics, participating in more than $6.9 million in research funding since joining Virginia Tech with his personal share at $2.7 million. Roy, an expert in the areas of verification and validation for scientific computing and computational fluid dynamics, has received a Department of Energy Early Career award in 2005, and in 2006 he earned a NSF Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Sandu received an NSF CAREER award to develop computational methods for the new generation of air quality models. The majority of his research funding comes from highly competitive federal agencies like NSF, NASA, NOAA, and NIH.

Sinha joined the CEE department in 2007, the same year he received an NSF Career award. Collaboratively with CEE's Marc Edwards, he has successfully built momentum for an ICTAS-based center that will focus on water infrastructure systems. Smith-Jackson is the founder and director of the Assessment and Cognitive Ergonomics Laboratory, and director of the Human Factors Engineering and Ergonomics Center. Stremler was named by the Army Research Office as a Young Investigator in 2004. He is a pioneer in the application of topological chaos to fluid mixing.

The College presented its W.S.”Pete” White Award for Innovation in Teaching to Tom Walker of EngE. He is a leader of the efforts to bring maximum use of student computers into the freshman engineering courses for many years.

The College Award for Outreach Excellence went to the members of the ROXIE Faculty Group. ROXIE stands for the Real Outreach eXperiences in Engineering, and the involved faculty were: Richard Goff, Mara Knott, Jenny Lo, and Janis Terpenny of engineering education, and Chris Williams who holds a joint appointment with engineering education and mechanical engineering. The ROXIE faculty group charged engineering teams to go into the community. The teams were asked to solve engineering design problems they discovered while working with community organization partners. The ROXIE project resulted in 185 teams working with 87 community partners on service-learning projects for the semester. ROXIE is an integral part of the course, Exploration of Engineering Design.

Four Certificates of Teaching Excellence were presented to Jaime de la Reelopez of ECE, Randel Dymond of CEE, Kimberly Ellis of ISE, and Michael Philen of AOE.

de la Reelopez, a past recipient of the Sporn Award for teaching engineering subjects, is described by his students as passionate about teaching and as a professor who takes the time to make sure that everyone understands the materials. Dymond was the 2008 CEE Alumni Teaching Excellence Award recipient, an award based purely on input received from CEE alumni who have graduated in the past four years.

Ellis, also a past recipient of the Sporn Award for teaching engineering subjects, received the Ralph R. Teetor Award for Young Educators from the Society of Automotive Engineers and the Outstanding Faculty Award from the ISE undergraduate students. Philen teaches vehicle vibration and control and applied numerical methods and manages the Aerospace Structures and Materials Laboratory. On one of his evaluations, the student wrote, “Philen Rocks!”

Lynn Nystrom
(540) 231-4371