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Outstanding engineering faculty achievements recognized


BLACKSBURG, Va., May 16, 2007 – The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech held its eleventh annual engineering faculty reception where faculty members were honored for a number of achievements.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech held its eleventh annual engineering faculty reception where faculty members were honored for a number of achievements.

Three awards were presented for teaching excellence:

Tom Diller, of mechanical engineering (ME), revised the thermal fluids curriculum by leading an effort to introduce a new course that focuses on the use of modern, state-of-the-art commercial software for engineering analysis and design of thermal fluid processes. He completely revamped ME’s core required undergraduate class, Heat and Mass Transfer.

George Filz, of civil and environmental engineering (CEE), developed an innovative new interdisciplinary graduate level course, team-taught by faculty from five diverse departments, four of which are outside of engineering. It is part of the EIGER project to integrate graduate education and research.

Y.A. Liu, of chemical engineering (ChE), developed a strong industrial-university partnership with Alliant Techsysytems of Radford and Milliken Chemicals of South Carolina to benefit students. Twenty-seven graduating seniors were able to work on nine industrial projects sponsored by the two companies.

Five awards were presented for excellence in research:

Scott Case, of engineering science and mechanics (ESM), organized the 7th International Conference on Durability of Composite Systems, held in Blacksburg in 2006, and he serves on the scientific committee for the 4th International Conference on Fatigue of Composites, to be held in Germany next September.

William Davenport, of aerospace and ocean engineering (AOE), directs the Virginia Tech Stability Wind Tunnel and leads an active group in experimental research in aerodynamics and aero-acoustics. Over the past two years, Davenport and Professor Ricardo Burdisso of ME have spearheaded the acoustic upgrade of the wind tunnel. As a result, Virginia Tech now has by far the largest university-owned anechoic wind tunnel in the U.S., and possibly the world.

Stefan Duma, of mechanical engineering, is the founding director of the Center for Injury Biomechanics, part of the School of Biomedical Engineering and Science. During the past three years, his center has generated some $2.5 million in sponsored-project awards.

Hesham Rahka, of civil and environmental engineering, is the director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s Center for Sustainable Mobility. Since the beginning of 2005, Rahka has received research contracts totaling almost $1.5 million as a principal investigator or co-principal investigator.

Layne Watson, of computer science (CS), is a well-known scholar for his work in mathematical software, theory, and applications of homotopy algorithms for nonlinear systems of equations. Watson has made homotopy algorithms an acceptable approach by demonstrating their viability on countless meaningful applications.

Three awards were presented in the service category:

For the past five years, Romesh Batra, of engineering science and mechanics, has served as director of the engineering science and mechanics graduate program. In the past three years, his efforts helped to increase the enrollment of engineering science and mechanics’s doctoral students from 38 to almost 70.

The second and third recipients are a team--Tom Brandon and Mike Duncan, of civil and environmental engineering. They were nominated this year because of their outstanding work associated with follow-up studies after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Duncan served as the co-leader of the task force that analyzed floodwall and levee performance and Brandon worked closely with the team.

Five outstanding new assistant professors were named:

Maura Borrego, of engineering education (EngE), is currently participating in National Science Foundation grants totaling over $1.4 million, with a personal share of $560,000. She received a 2006 NSF CAREER Award of $500,000 to study interdisciplinary graduate education by analyzing a number of ongoing NSF IGERT programs.

Dennis Hong, of mechanical engineering, is also an NSF CAREER Award recipient. His ingenious ideas on a biologically inspired novel locomotion mechanism could lead to a new way of actuating mobile robots, enabling a new family of next-generation mobile robots for scientific exploration.

In two years, Leigh McCue, of aerospace and ocean engineering, has attracted over $400,000 in grants. In 2005 and 2006, McCue received an American Society of Engineering Education/Office of Naval Research Summer Faculty research award at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Alexey Onufriev, of computer science, is part of the bioinformatics and computational biology research group, and his research focuses on developing bio-computational methods to understand the dynamics of large biomolecular systems such as proteins, DNA, and other complexes. Last fall, as a single investigator, he received a $1.2 million NIH award.

Patrick Schaumont, of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), a researcher of design methods and architectures for embedded electronic systems, has his work in 17 peer-reviewed journals, eight of which were accepted since joining Virginia Tech. His funding exceeds $400,000, the bulk of it in a prestigious NSF CAREER Award based on a proposal he wrote his first year as a faculty member.

The College also announced seven Faculty Fellows. This award carries a $5,000 account to be used for supporting the recipient’s research. They are:

Kirk Cameron, of computer science, is a 2004 NSF CAREER Award recipient, as well as the recipient of a 2004 Department of Energy Early Career Award. Fewer than 20 people have received both awards, placing Cameron in a very elite group in the U.S. Cameron has pioneered the area of high-performance power-aware distributed systems.

Michael Garvin, of civil and environmental engineering, is also an NSF CAREER Award recipient, and the holder of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. In June 2005 he was appointed to the National Research Council Committee on Core Competencies for Federal Facilities Asset Management.

Linsey Marr, of civil and environmental engineering, has had 12 papers published or accepted in peer-reviewed journals in the past four years. Four are in Environmental Science and Technology, rated #1 of 35 refereed journals in the field of environmental chemistry and environmental engineering. Another four are in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, the primary journal of the atmospheric chemistry field.

Chris North, of computer science, studies interactive information visualization, emphasizing the human-computer interaction issues. He directs the Virginia Tech GigaPixel Display laboratory, supported by an NSF infrastructure grant. He also collaborates with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, recently developing a new insight-based methodology for evaluating visualizations that open the door for new perspectives on controlled studies.

Gary Pickrell, of materials science and engineering, concentrates on sensor technology and fiber optics. Pickrell has 11 patents and 88 publications, 50 of these in the last two years. Presently, he is a principal investigator on over $4 million in total funded research with his share being over $1.5 million.

Sanjay Raman, of electrical and computer engineering, investigates microelectronics for communications applications. He builds integrated circuits, nanoscale devices, and micro-electro-mechanical systems or MEMS. He has received NSF’s CAREER and PECASE awards. Raman has secured $2.3 million in external funding with $1.7 million as his share.

Pavlos Vlachos, of mechanical engineering, concentrates on experimental fluid mechanics and biofluids. He has secured over $3.5 million in external funding with $2.3 million as his share. He has won numerous awards, including the NSF CAREER Award in 2006. He was selected to participate in the 2006 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering symposium. Listern to the related podcast. (Length 0:46)

Four Certificates of Teaching Excellence were also presented:

Maura Borrego, of engineering education, who earlier in the ceremony received an outstanding new assistant professor award, also earned this certificate.

Charles Reinholtz, also of engineering education, is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, holding the first rotating W.S. White Chair for Innovation in Engineering Education. He has received the University Wine Award for teaching excellence, the university’s 2004 Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching, three previous College of Engineering Certificates of Teaching Excellence, the Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Engineering, the Ingersoll-Rand Outstanding Mechanical Engineering Faculty Member Award by student vote (twice), and the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Young Investigator Award for Teaching and Research Excellence.

Carin Roberts-Wollmann, of civil and environmental engineering, is also the 2006 recipient of the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute’s 2006 Young Educator Achievement Award. She teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in reinforced and prestressed concrete, and remains active advising the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Concrete Canoe team and co-advises the department’s Big Beam competition team.

Erik Westman, of mining and minerals engineering (MinE), is a past recipient of a five-year NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program Award to develop a practical method for predicting failures in rock masses. Westman’s CAREER project had an educational component. The mining and minerals undergraduate and graduate students engineering are able to use images of real rock masses to study stresses and failures, thus employing tomographic imaging in their coursework.

Also presented at the Dean’s Awards reception was the W.S.”Pete” White Award for Innovation in Teaching, which went to Jan Helge Bohn of mechanical engineering. Bohn teaches two new courses on Global Collaborative Engineering Design that use state-of-the-art communication technologies to allow students from around the globe to participate in real time. Students and faculty from five different universities in four countries have joined together to make these courses truly global.

The College Award for Outreach Excellence was presented to Greg Boardman of civil and environmental engineering. For almost 30 years, Boardman has had a leadership role with Virginia Tech’s Annual Short School for Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators. He is currently president of the Aquacultural Engineering Society and chair of the 2007 Research and Education Conference of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors.