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2020 Faculty & Staff Awards Announced

Academic and administrative colleagues of the Tickle College of Engineering show appreciation for each other every day as a matter of course. Each spring, the college makes the highest of these acknowledgements official with the annual Faculty and Staff Awards.

The accolades are traditionally observed with a banquet gathering, but due to measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, that event has been rescheduled to the fall. Until then, we present here the winners and a few words in honor of their accomplishments.

The Nathan W. Dougherty Award

This highest honor bestowed by the college recognizes engineers whose accomplishments have brought acclaim to the university. This year’s Dougherty plaque goes to Wayne T. Davis, former interim chancellor and dean emeritus of the college. Read the full announcement about Davis’s Dougherty Award honor.

Pass the Torch Award

Recognizes the outstanding all-around achievement of one staff member who demonstrates exceptional service to the college and/or community at large. This individual goes above and beyond in their work to help others and does so with a high degree of excellence, professionalism, and integrity; thus, contributing significantly to improving the overall environment and experience of the college.

Amanda Lovelace
Undergraduate Advisor, Nuclear Engineering

Colleagues describe Lovelace as extremely tuned-in to the needs of students and passionate about identifying the best opportunities for students to succeed. She is also passionate about service and goes out of her way to help with recruitment and community outreach efforts.

Supervisor of the Year Award

Recognizes a staff member who excels at supervising their staff, department, and/or center.

Kim Kallstrom
Assistant Director, Reliability and Maintainability Center

Kallstrom focuses on identifying any needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in collaboration with the staff. She regularly reminds her team members of the value of their work and presents a great a role model for her team, demonstrating integrity in all her professional relationships.

Sidekick Salute Award

Recognizes an outstanding co-worker or teammate who has gone the extra mile in helping the team on a project, is always looking to make sure the team has everything they need, or has performed a special act of kindness or service that has had a positive impact on the team/department.

Ruthann Moyers
Financial Specialist, Mechanical, Aerospace & Biomedical Engineering

The MABE department could not run as smoothly as it does without Moyers’s knowledge of university policy and willingness to continue to grow and learn every day. She consistently finds ways to help faculty and her co-workers in the department. Her positive attitude is deeply appreciated by her department—and can be contagiousness.

Inspirational Leadership Award

Recognizes an individual who inspires others. They influence without authority, often putting the interests of others ahead of their own, and serve as “a champion for staff.”

Jada Huskey
Director, Engineering Research Office

Huskey assures colleagues of their success when she lets them know it is her job to help them succeed. With her leadership, the research office collaborate seamlessly to get the job done as efficiently as possible. One nominating coworker called Huskey their “personal UT cheerleader.” She is an ardent proponent of continuing education, both through formal programs and informal collaborations, which allows for her colleagues to enhance their professional lives and has a direct impact on creating better efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness amongst TCE staff.

Commitment to Excellence Award

Recognizes a staff member who has contributed at least 10 years of service to the college. This staff member, regardless of position or title, has demonstrated exceptional leadership and exemplary service to engineering students, staff, and/or the community.

Markus Iturriaga Woelfel
IT Administrator, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

Woelfel shows his dedication and skill in many ways, from resurrecting broken research servers to preserve data to staying late to upgrade a stubborn software license so lab sections can proceed without hiccups. His leadership is highlighted by swiftness of response, courteousness, competence, and the ability to think outside the box to find solutions. He enables EECS to provide high-quality instruction and innovative research in an environment where change is a never-ending process.

Commitment to Inclusive Community Award

Recognizes an individual within the college who has demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion in consideration of affordability, ability, identity, and access; and an exceptional understanding of diversity and inclusiveness beyond the call of duty.

Anne Skutnik
Education Coordinator, Center for Ultra-Wide-Area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT)

Skutnik makes an influential impact in providing diversity and inclusion awareness through the CURENT program. She has been inspirational in leading efforts to improve communication to those with diverse backgrounds, identifying strategic programming to increase underserved populations in undergraduate/graduate programs, and aligning with the university and college commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Emerging Leader Award

Recognizes a staff member who, regardless of position or title, exceeds the responsibilities of their position in a manner that demonstrates a commitment to departmental success and ambition to progress in their current role.

Hannah Swan
Undergraduate Advisor, Materials Science and Engineering

Swan has embraced and strengthened her departmental community above and beyond her assigned role as an advisor. She holds orientation sessions for first-year students and sophomores, and actively takes on leadership roles in planning community building exercises. Department Head Verle Keppens calls Swan “the best thing that has happened to our department in recent years.” Her impeccable job performance over the past three years deserves the highest praise.

Circle of Excellence Teamwork Award

Recognizes a group or staff within an office, cross-functional group of staff, or committee of staff members who have worked together in an exceptional manner to perform an assigned task to benefit the unit, college or university in one or more exceptional ways.

Office of Engineering Communications:
Christie Kennedy, Director; Adria Amos, Digital Media Specialist; Kevin Bogle, Communication Specialist; Randall Brown, Writer/Photographer; Melissa Callahan, Project Manager; Andy Gallaher, Web Designer; David Goddard, Media Relations Specialist; Kathy Williams, Communications Coordinator; Mitchell Williamson, Graphic Designer; Elan Young, Writer

The professional and polished level of expertise on all projects makes this team exceptional. One nominating colleague said, “They make us all look good and are a tremendous support for recruiting efforts in this college. They have transformed the presence of TCE online, in print, and on social media. In a digital age we truly could not recruit and communicate with constituents effectively without them.” The team has been able to impact faculty, staff, students, alumni, and beyond. Their efforts continue to provide awareness and keep the college connected with the modern-day world.

Outstanding Faculty Service Awards

Recognize and reward superior service to and engagement with important constituents across three distinct categories.

Outstanding Outreach and Engagement Category

Chien-fei Chen
Research Associate Professor (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and Director of Education and Diversity for CURENT

Chen accomplishes important work with outreach to the local community, including the Young Scholar’s program, the Research Experiences for Teachers, and the Adventures in Stem program. In addition, she has assisted the college on many occasions with outreach efforts to members of underrepresented populations of students, including the HITES and eVOL pre-college programs, GEM GRAD Lab, Breakfast of Champions, and others.

Jenny Retherford
Senior Lecturer, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Retherford is truly impressive in facilitating engagement between civil and environmental engineering design students and the local community. She was instrumental in bringing the first service-learning course to the college. Particularly notable is her work with the Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition to advise students in developing multiple designs to make the bridge more secure and to discourage impulsive suicides. Her work is the type of high impact engagement the college seeks to encourage.

Outstanding Service to the College Category

Daniel Costinett
Associate Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Costinett’s efforts to increase the diversity of the college through his work with CURENT are impressive. His contributions are described by the department as “critical and formidable” to improving the culture of inclusion in CURENT.

Outstanding Service to the Discipline Category

Michela Taufer
Dongarra Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Taufer’s high-visibility service to the high-performance computing community has been a great asset to the college. In particular, her leadership role in the SC19 conference went a long way to raising the college’s profile internationally. More people know what great things are happening here because of Taufer’s accomplishments—an exceptional model for the college.

Moses E. & Mayme Brooks Award

Recognizes and rewards outstanding engineering faculty who have achieved distinction in engineering practice, along with effective teaching.

Andy Sarles
Associate Professor, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering

The selection committee was impressed with Sarles’s ability to teach effectively—as evidenced by the peer teaching evaluations—and with high student-satisfaction courses. In the area of engineering practice, the committee noted that Sarles submitted six provisional patents to the UT Research Foundation and was awarded two that have been licensed by former students. Sarles’s productivity is building the college’s reputation in the state and beyond and among peers as a leader in technology transfer and advancement.

Charles E. Ferris Faculty Award

Recognizes and rewards faculty with a distinguished record of research and teaching as well as a record of contributions to the advancement of technology in the local community through local public engagement in the professional discipline.

Chris Cherry
Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Cherry has an impressive record with the community and university on improving transportation infrastructure. This includes transportation alternatives designed to reduce environmental impact and ways to more effectively integrate these into a range of options. His work has increased the visibility of the university both locally and nationally as a leader in sustainable and safe transportation.

Teaching Fellows

Recognize and reward superior teaching in the college. One fellow is selected to receive the Cole Award.

Leon & Nancy Cole Teaching Award

Elizabeth Barker
Assistant Professor, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering

The selection committee was impressed by the “truly exceptional” regard in which Barker is held by her department. In addition, the committee noted her efforts to update the biomedical engineering curriculum and efforts to attract and retain students from low-income families. Her interest in providing access while maintaining a high-quality educational experience for undergraduates is much appreciated.

Steve Abel
Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Abel is an outstanding instructor who maintains an excellent rapport with his students, underscored by consistently high student survey results and comments by students. Additionally, the peer teaching evaluation details his careful attention to student learning and the ability to pivot when necessary to more thoroughly cover topics the students found challenging. Maintaining rigor while providing opportunities for students to fully grasp difficult material is not easy, and Abel goes beyond the normal expectations.

Ben Blalock
Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Blalock has a dedication and willingness to take on challenging and time-consuming instructional responsibilities such as senior design. He remains interested in the academic progress of his students as an advising coordinator and accomplishes all of this while managing a successful research program.

David Donovan
Assistant Professor, Nuclear Engineering

Donovan is clearly an exceptional teacher, with peer-teaching evaluations noting his ability to communicate challenging subject matter to students while maintaining both rigor and high student satisfaction. In addition, he has been instrumental in bringing new nuclear-fusion coursework to the department while maintaining a very active research program. While the latter isn’t required for this award, it is still noteworthy and appreciated that he maintains full faculty responsibilities at a high level of accomplishment and quality.

Stephen Marz
Lecturer, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

The awards committee was impressed with Marz’s work in teaching both service courses with high enrollments and courses with his majors to a wide range of levels, from undergraduate to doctoral students, while maintaining high student satisfaction and course rigor. Department Head Greg Peterson additionally noted Marz’s willingness to work with students facing challenges above and beyond normal expectations.

Tim Truster
Associate Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Truster is a conscientious and highly competent teacher with an admirable passion for improvement of existing courses and development of new courses related to his research interests in structural engineering. He brought online offerings in finite elements to serve the needs of Department of Transportation students—an excellent example of how the college addresses its mission as the land-grant flagship.

Professional Promise in Research Awards

Recognize tenured or tenure-track faculty members at the assistant or associate professor rank who have received national and/or international recognition in their fields and show professional promise in their research.

Steve Abel
Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Abel’s research applies theoretical and computational methods to investigate fundamental problems in cell biology and immunology. A major focus is on the development of a multiscale, spatiotemporal understanding of cellular processes involving the interplay of signal transduction networks, membranes, and the cytoskeleton. Abel received an NSF Early Career Award in 2018 in order to develop approaches to model immune cells, particularly T cells and B cells, which begin in bone marrow before spreading through the lymphatic system to help fight infection.

Jamie Coble
Associate Professor and Southern Company Faculty Fellow, Nuclear Engineering

Coble’s research focuses on the application of data analytics and system dynamic modeling for process and equipment monitoring, anomaly detection and diagnostics, equipment prognostics, enhanced risk assessment, and system control. She employs these methodologies in a wide variety of applications to support the safety, security, and economics of nuclear power systems. Her research has been recognized by colleagues through several awards, including two PNNL Outstanding Performance awards and the ANS Ted Quinn Early Career Award.

Nicole McFarlane
Associate Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

McFarlane’s research focuses on developing sensors for a wide variety of sensing applications that make faster measurements, measure more samples simultaneously, are smaller, and are less costly than traditional sensing systems. Her sensing applications thus far include neutron detection, glucose sensing, bowel sound detection, and temperature measurements. These diverse applications have resulted in her publishing 14 journal papers on technological advances in the last five years. Furthermore, she has published 25 refereed conference proceedings in this same timeframe.

Jim Ostrowski
Associate Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering

Ostrowski is a recognized expert in the area of exploiting symmetry in optimization methods, for which was recently awarded a DoE Early Career Award. He also researches the application of optimization to power systems problems, for which he is using and expanding upon integer programming techniques to better solve the unit commitment problem—the problem of providing a minimum-cost schedule of power generators that will meet forecasted demand—which is critically important to energy markets nationwide.

Research Achievement Awards

Recognize tenured faculty members who have been tenure-line for more than 10 years and have received national and/or international recognition in their field.

Jason Hayward
Professor and UCOR Fellow, Nuclear Engineering

Hayward’s research, which focuses on radiation instrumentation and imaging, especially for nonproliferation technologies, has received extensive funding and multiple grants from sources including DoE, DHS, and DTRA. His work has led to advancements in the neutron instrumentation used by the IAEA, the creation and demonstration of the highest resolution scintillating fiber achieved for cold neutron imaging, and the design and demonstration of a wearable radiation detection system capable of detecting and tracking nuclear threats in congested areas, among many other achievements.

Mingzhou Jin
Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering

Jin’s research focuses on operations research and its application in sustainability, transportation and logistics, supply chain, additive and smart manufacturing, and climate science. Jin’s research has been published in multiple high impact journals and is widely supported through grants and contracts from a broad spectrum of federal, local government agencies, and corporations including NSF, DoE, ORNL, Y12, Argonne, TDoT, America Makes, FedEx, Nissan, and the Material Handling Industry, among others.

David Mandrus
Professor & Jerry and Kay Henry Endowed Professor, Materials Science and Engineering

Mandrus’s research focuses on the electronic and magnetic phenomena in materials, including concepts related to the properties of quantum materials. For the third year running, he has been named a Highly Cited Researcher by Clarivate Analytics, which identifies scientists who produced multiple papers ranking in the top 1 percent by citations for their field and year of publication. In 2018, Tennessee House Joint Resolution 781 was passed which recognized him as “a giant in his field of study, one upon whose shoulders subsequent generations will stand as they endeavor to advance our understanding of the work in which we live”

Dayakar Penumadu
Fred N. Peebles Professor and JIAM Chair of Excellence, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Penumadu’s research is focused in advanced materials and geotechnical engineering with his most recent efforts directed toward carbon fiber composite materials characterization and their multi-scale mechanics, in particular for lightweight composites. Penumadu is a key researcher involved in the recently established Volkswagen Innovation Hub. His research is well funded from agencies including DoE, NSF, and the Office of Naval Research, and his development of flexible polymer-based scintillators have applications in homeland security for radiation detection in cargo and in industrial and medical imaging.

Philip Rack
Professor, Leonard G. Penland Chair, Materials Science & Engineering

Rack’s research investigates emergent properties of nanoscale materials and devices; combinatorial thin film processing; fabrication of nanoscale devices; and nanoscale focused electron, ion, and photon beam induced processing. His work has led to funding from NSF, DoE, UT-Battelle, Y-12, and Intel, among others. In the past five years alone he has published 78 refereed journal papers, many in high-impact journals, and he has been cited thousands of times.

Translational Research Award

Recognizes a faculty member or group of individuals whose research has achieved societal benefit through the development of intellectual property via licensing agreements, patents, and/or business startups.

Dustin Crouch
Assistant Professor, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering

Crouch’s research seeks to better understand and use muscle-driven endoprostheses (MDEs), which are a type of prosthetic that is completely implanted under the skin of a patient’s body, to attach to a residual limb following amputation to enable patients a more natural experience with improved dexterity and mobility. Crouch recently received an NSF Early CAREER Award for his work.