Engineering Dean's Awards for Excellence presented for 2007-08

Award recipients

Award recipients

BLACKSBURG, Va., May 5, 2008 – Virginia Tech's College of Engineering has presented its Dean's Awards for Excellence in Teaching, Research, and Service for 2007-08. In addition, the college awarded five Outstanding New Assistant Professor Awards, five Faculty Fellow Awards, an award for Innovation in Teaching, and its Certificates of Teaching Excellence.

The following provides a summary of the recipients of the college’s award ceremony.

Teaching Excellence Category

Amy Bell of electrical and computer engineering was cited for developing a new introductory electrical and computer engineering course for freshmen that has drawn a great deal of praise from faculty and students alike. She is currently a University Scholar in Residence, awarded by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. She was an invited participant in the 10th Annual Frontiers in Engineering Symposium of the National Academy of the Sciences.

Randy Dymond of civil and environmental engineering has built an educational program focused on land development design that serves the needs of civil and environmental engineering students and the land development design engineering community. He has increased the number of students graduating with an interest in land development as a career path. He has done so based on resources generated by the professional engineering community.

To get these resources, Dymond organized a series of four presentations around the Commonwealth: they were in northern Virginia, Richmond, Virginia Beach and Roanoke. In these presentations, he focused on the concept for land development design that brought about the strong involvement of the professional engineering community as well as financial support for the Virginia Tech educational program. He has also developed computer-aided design materials to support the educational needs of the students in this program.

Scott Hendricks of engineering science and mechanics taught 985 students during the 2006 calendar year, and supervised the teaching of 300 more. His teaching evaluations are phenomenal for a person carrying this load. In fall 2007 he taught 800 students “statics” and received an overall rating of 3.6 on a 4.0 scale. During the 2006-07 school year, he taught 1300 students and received a rating of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.

He is known to carefully create situations in class where students are allowed -- or lead -- to make many of the errors that they commonly make. This leads to wonderful, meaningful teaching opportunities. He is able to do this without embarrassing his students. He has also made significant contributions to innovative supplemental software that is used in the engineering science and mechanics service courses. At the March Board of Visitors meeting, Hendricks was named to the W.S. White Chair of Innovation in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech.

Research Excellence Category

Foster Agblevor of biological systems engineering concentrates on thermo-chemical biomass conversion and rapid characterization of biomass feed stocks. He has provided leadership to the bioprocess engineering group in biological sciences engineering, and because of his leadership, Virginia Tech is considered to be one of the leading institutions in the world in this field.

His recent research efforts include development of pyrolysis process to convert poultry litter to bio-fuel or slow release fertilizer, and low temperature catalytic biomass gasification process to produce green diesel. Recently, he received $1.3 million in funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation and Farm Pilots Projects Corporation and $1.2 million from Virginia Tobacco Commission. Agblevor was also instrumental in the establishment of the Center for Biodesign Bioprocessing Center. The Center was awarded $950,000 from Congress in 2007 and a similar amount is expected over the next 2 to 3 years.

Naira Hovakimyan of aerospace and ocean engineering works in the area intelligent control. Her original work is leading to new techniques that are enabling many revolutionary applications in control of aerospace vehicles. Without including an earlier Air Force grant and two Multidisciplinary University Research Intitiative program awards, her research grants from 2006 to the present total $2.3 million. Her personal share is at $1.97 million. These grants reflect the impact that her contributions are making to the programs of value to the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, NASA, and industry.

In 2007 Boeing Aircraft Company presented her with its Pride@Boeing Award. One of the directors at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base writes that Hovakimyan has recently performed groundbreaking work on adaptive control from a validation and verification viewpoint. He adds that she has also done outstanding work on vision-based control for tracking for use by unmanned air vehicles.

Don Leo of mechanical engineering is a recognized leader in the field of smart materials. Most recently, he published a book, Engineering Analysis of Smart Materials Systems, released by John Wiley and Sons in 2007. This work follows on the publication of 60 research papers in the field and over 120 peer-reviewed and conference publications. He currently serves as the vice-chair of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Adaptive Structures and Material Systems Technical Committee, and he will assume the chair position at the end of this year.

He has served as the technical chair and the general chair of the Adaptive Structures and Materials Symposium, and is currently the co-chair of the SPIE Smart Structures and Materials Conference. One of the most notable aspects of Leo’s career is his interdisciplinary work that led to a five-year multidisciplinary University Research Initiative award from the Army Research Office. He also has secured several large awards from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

John Novak of civil and environmental engineering has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on research projects totaling approximately $1.9 million since the beginning of 2005. Much of this work is from wastewater utilities and other entities related to the wastewater treatment industry. His work for the Washington D.C. Water and Sewer Authority will serve as the basis for the design of a $400 million sludge handling and disposal system to be built over the next five years.

Since January 2006 he has directed four Ph.D.s and nine master’s students to completion. He is currently advising or co-advising four Ph.D. students and six master’s students. In total, Novak has had 130 graduate students work under his supervision. In 2007 Novak was awarded the prestigious Simon Freeze Award by the American Society of Civil Engineers for his career-based work on residuals characterization and management. Recently, he agreed to lead the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science effort in the area of water management and science.

Ted Oyama of chemical engineering received three significant honors in 2007. First, he was named a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Scholar. This is a fellowship award that allowed him to carry out research at the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, the top national laboratory in Japan. Second, he received the Most Cited Author Award for 2002-06 from Elsevier for a paper published in 2003 on novel catalysts. Third, he was named Editor of the Journal of Catalysis, the top journal of its field.

Service Excellence Category

Alan Brown of aerospace and ocean engineering has provided tremendous insights and leadership in guiding the Ocean Engineering program in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. He has a network of contacts throughout the U.S. Navy and the naval architecture community from his years as a naval officer. He is very active in the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and the American Society of Naval Engineers.

He is a Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Fellow; Past Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Vice President of the northeast region; a Past American Society of Naval Engineers National Council member; the Chairman of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Ad hoc Panel on Structural Design and Response in Collision and Grounding; the Past-Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the New England Section of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers; and the Technical Advisor to the U.S. Delegation at the International Maritime Organization. Brown also assumes a lead role in promoting Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers activities for students.

Mike Hyer of engineering science and mechanics has served as a chair or a member of the Faculty Search Committee, the Promotion and Tenure committee, and the core values committee –– all at the department level in the past year. At the university level he was a member of the Academic Advisory Council, the Provost’s Committee to provide advice on the update to the Strategic Plan, and chair of the Alumni Awards for Research Excellence Selection Committee. His service to his profession included being technical chair of the IAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics and Materials Conference, Chair of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Structures Technical Committee, Chair of the NASA Impact Dynamics Research Activities Review Committee, and Chair of the American Society for Composites Nominating Committee.

Brian Kleiner of industrial and systems engineering organized the department’s annual Senior Design Symposium, highlighting industrial and systems engineering senior capstone design projects in 2007. Almost every senior attended the event. He also organized a memorial meeting with industrial and systems engineering seniors to share emotions, prepare memorials, and decorate a Hokie Stone for each faculty member and student killed on April 16. He conceived, designed, and developed the Kevin P. Granata Occupational Safety and Health Research Program, and convinced the National Institute of Health to fund the program.

Kleiner also led a website redesign project as a catalyst for an industrial and systems engineering culture and image change. He also used National Science Foundation funding to complete a “Do It Yourself” safety promotional video that was distributed to television stations nationwide. He led a capstone design collaboration with French, British and Mexican colleagues. And he served as a reviewer or editorial board member for 11 major journals.

Outstanding New Assistant Professors

Marie Paretti of engineering education joined the engineering education department in August 2004, transitioning from a nontenure-track position in engineering science and mechanics and materials science and engineering where she taught communication skills. When Paretti joined engineering education, she remained as the Director of the Engineering Communications Program, a joint effort between the two departments. In that role, she works with her staff to teach professional skills, including communication, collaboration, and global competence, to students.

She also helps the materials science and engineering students develop portfolios to showcase their work. In addition, she has taken on the task of directing the capstone design programs in both departments. In engineering education, she has established a successful research program, serving as PI or Co-PI on seven NSF grants totaling over $900,000. She currently has nine refereed journal publications in print or in press and has served as editor of two other significant volumes.

Mark Paul of mechanical engineering joined the department in 2004 and he is now a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award winner. He says he plans to use computational science and engineering as the vehicle to capture the interest of the next generation of engineers. He is creating a new outreach program that will greatly benefit over 400 women and minority pre-college students each year.

He has been invited to contribute to a book chapter for the Nobel Foundation, and to spend the summer as a visiting faculty member at the Issac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge, England. In the past year, he has been an invited speaker at Yale, Boston University, Caltech, the University of California in Los Angeles, Georgia Tech, University of Kentucky, and the Chemmitz Technical University in Germany. His research in spatiotemporal chaos in fluid convection has the potential to yield deep new insights into complex nonlinear dynamics of strongly driven, spatially extended systems.

Nichole Rylander holds a joint appointment in mechanical engineering and the School of Biomedical Engineering and Science. She is the sole PI on a $270,000 National Science Foundation grant to characterize and develop a model for the cellular response to nanotube-mediated laser therapy. She also received an Advance VT Research Development Award and a Comprehensive Cancer Center Multidisciplinary Pilot Project Award in collaboration with researchers at Wake Forest Medical Center. In the last year she was an invited speaker at a 2008 SPIE Photonics West conference, giving a talk on laser cancer therapy. She has developed a new graduate course called “Biomedical Heat Transfer and Thermal Therapy Design.” She is actively involved in mentoring women undergraduate and graduate students in engineering.

Yong Xu of electrical and computer engineering has published 40 peer-reviewed papers that have been cited by more than 760 authors in the optics literature. More than 250 authors have cited one of his papers. This extraordinary number of citations is a reflection of the importance of his work in the field of optical devices and nanophotonics, the new field involving the interaction of light with sub-wavelength size bodies. For his work he has been given a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award.

He is also receiving an Air Force Office of Scientific Research grant for his proposal to work on nonlinear fibers. He is a reviewer for Physics Review Letter, Physics Review, Optics Letters, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Optics Express, Optical Communication, and IEEE’s Journal of Quantum Electronics. He presently has four Ph.D. students and one master’s student.

Percival Zhang of biological systems engineering joined Virginia Tech in 2005 and within his short tenure, he has received the Air Force Young Investigator Award, the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated University, and was named a Sun Grant Fellow. He was recognized with a first place faculty award for his presentation at the Dean’s Forum on Environment. He was featured among the Best and Brightest of Esquire Magazine in 2007.

Zhang has received an impressive amount of $1.7 million in external funding over the past two years in support of his research program. Zhang has published 13 peer-reviewed publications, three book chapters, and has filed for five patent disclosures. He serves on the editorial boards of prestigious journals of Process Biochemistry and Biotechnology for Biofuels. He has already experimentally validated the biological feasibility of consolidated bioprocess method for lowest-cost cellulosic ethanol production.

Faculty Fellow Award

The College of Engineering Faculty Fellow Award carries a $5000 account to be used for supporting the recipient’s research.

Dennis Hong of mechanical engineering focuses hi research on the problems of multi-limbed robots. He has received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award as well as a $350,000 National Science Foundation award for work on an intelligent mobility platform. He has collaborated with other researchers and secured a $2.5 million grant with researchers from Drexel University, and a $1 million grant with his colleagues at Virginia Tech. On this latter grant he worked as an adviser on the successful VictorTango team that took third place in the international Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Urban Grand Challenge Competition.

He has founded his Robotics and Mechanics Laboratory nicknamed RoMeLa for undergraduates and graduates. He has 14 graduate students currently working in his lab. Hong’s student team for the international autonomous robot soccer competition, Robo Cup, was the first and only team to qualify from the United States in 2007. His work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, the cover of Servo magazine, and in Popular Science.

Thomas Hou of electrical and computer engineering won a 2003 Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award and a 2004 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, along with two National Science Foundation Network Technology and Systems awards, a National Science Foundation Information Technology Research award, an Office of Naval Research Basic Research Grant, and a Department of Defense University Research Instrumentation Program Award.

His personal share of funding is $2.4 million. Since Hou joined the faculty in 2002, he has had 45 journal papers published or accepted. He has won three best paper awards from IEEE. He recently organized a highly successful National Science Foundation-funded workshop on "Bridging the Gap Between Networking Technologies and Advances at the Physical Layer." He currently serves as an editor of three journals, two of which are top-tiered ACM and IEEE publications. He has been granted five U.S. patents. He developed and taught two new graduate level courses titled Multimedia Networking and Advanced Foundations in Networking.

Thurmon Lockhart of industrial and systems engineering has participated in externally funded projects totaling more than $6.5 million. He has published 27 journal articles and 53 conference proceedings papers in top tier journals and prestigious conference venues. Lockhart is particularly noted for his work in the area of gait analysis and slip and fall accidents, especially with aging persons.

He serves as the director of the Locomotion Research Laboratory. He has led extension activities with the Southwest Virginia Training Center in Hillsville, Va. in an attempt to reduce fall accidents among mentally handicapped persons. His work was most recently featured in an article produced by Fortune magazine. He is the 2003-04 recipient of the Liberty Mutual Award for the Best Paper published in the leading journal in his field, Ergonomics. He has advised 3 Ph.D.s and 12 master’s students to completion. One of his students was a top finisher in the 2005 student paper competition sponsored by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

Vinod Lohani of engineering education is the leader of the National Science Foundation-funded Departmental Level Reform project, called “Reforming General Engineering and Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech.” The project involves faculty from engineering education, biological systems engineering, academic assessment, computer science, and mining engineering. National Science Foundation has awarded more than $1.1 million towards this effort. The primary thrust of the project is to introduce a spiral curriculum in the Bioprocess Track of the biological systems engineering undergraduate curriculum. As a result of these efforts, he has become a nationally recognized figure in implementation of spiral curricula.

Lohani also remains involved in watershed modeling research and has worked with civil and environmental engineering faculty and Water Resources Research Center to obtain funding for an National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates award. He has partnered with a number of colleagues at Virginia Tech and universities both in the United States and Brazil to obtain funding from the Funds for Improvement of Post Secondary Education Program to create a Global Engineering Certificate Program.

Linbing Wang of civil and environmental engineering arrived at Virginia Tech in 2005, and is an associate professor working in the Transportation and Infrastructure Engineering Program. His research expertise is in characterizing, modeling, and simulating the behavior of infrastructure materials exposed to a wide variety of conditions. His work has led to major cost savings in the multi-billion dollar U.S. highway industry.

His pioneering vision allowed him to receive two National Science Foundation grants, two Department of Defense grants and one National Cooperative Highway Research Program project. He has secured more than $5.6 million in funded research, with $2.7 million as his share. Realizing the potential of his emerging research area, National Science Foundation sponsored the First International Workshop on Microstructure and Micromechanics of Stone-based Infrastructure Materials, and had Wang served as the chair. He has published 28 refereed journal articles and 16 refereed conference proceedings. He served as co-editor of two American Society of Civil Engineers special publications on Asphalt Pavements.

W.S.”Pete” White Award for Innovation in Teaching

Joe Tront of electrical and computer engineering won the 2005 XCaliber Award for Excellence in Teaching with Technology. Since then he has published three papers about the use of Tablet PCs. He was the invited U.S. Delegate to a USA-Korea-Taiwan Workshop on Engineering Education and Research. He has given presentations all over the world about the use of Tablet PCs at Virginia Tech. Most recently he was a guest of the Queen of Jordan at an Education Technology Conference.

College Award for Outreach Excellence

Eugene Brown and Mark Pierson of mechanical engineering have been the driving force behind the college’s efforts to re-establish its nuclear engineering program. The college now has a graduate certificate in nuclear engineering and it is well on its way to establishing minors. Graduate degrees in nuclear engineering are coming.

The major outreach activity that they have developed and sustained over the last two years involves the partnership with the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research. In 2006, the Region 2000 community of Lynchburg, Bedford and surrounding counties established this center, based on Virginia Tech’s intellectual assets. It supports the significant presence of nuclear related companies in that area. This is the first of several planned regional centers in the state.

Brown and Pierson have identified and matched Virginia Tech faculty expertise with the research needs identified in the Region 2000 companies. As a result six of these research projects with AREVA and Babcock and Wilcox have either been completed or are in progress for a total of $700,000.

Certificates of Teaching Excellence

Alan Brown of aerospace and ocean engineering continually takes the initiative in developing and shaping programs and courses for aeronautical and oceans engineering. He served as the graduate program coordinator from 2003 until 2007. And he is known by his colleagues to assume a greater-than-normal teaching load to strengthen the ocean engineering programs.

Preston Durrill of chemical engineering was appointed as the chemical engineering undergraduate advisor in 2004. Professor Durrill has been an adjunct faculty in the department for many years, primarily coordinating and teaching its unit operations laboratory courses in the summer since 1983. He received a Faculty Appreciation Day Student’s Choice Award from the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and the 2006 Sporn Award for Teaching Undergraduate Engineering Subjects.

Michael Karmis is the director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, an interdisciplinary study, research, information and resource facility for the Commonwealth. Karmis teaches courses on: health, safety and risk management; advanced ground control; mining engineering leadership; and energy, resources, development, and the environment. Previously, Karmis was a recipient of the National Stone Association Professor of the Year award for significant contributions to the education of young men and women preparing for a career in the mineral aggregates mining industry. The award recognizes teaching excellence, dedication, motivation of students, and national contributions to teaching. This is his fourth Certificate of Teaching Excellence.

Jenny Lo of engineering education primarily teaches first-year engineering students, and she typically has well over 100 first-year student advisees. Her teaching evaluations are consistently excellent, and she has an open door policy for both her students and advisees. For the past several years she has been one of the coordinators of Engineering 1024 and has brought many innovations into that course. In addition to her first-year work, she has taught the graduate course Practicum in the Engineering Classroom and developed and taught a two-course sequence to prepare students for undergraduate research and then coach them through reporting the results of their research.