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2021 Faculty and Staff Awards Announced

The Tickle College of Engineering annually honors outstanding members of the college during the spring Faculty and Staff Awards, recognizing efforts of those who have gone above and beyond to help make the college successful.

Traditionally, those chosen for an award are honored at a banquet where their peers can publicly applaud their efforts, but due to measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this year’s event will be fully virtual.

The event is also where the Nathan W. Dougherty Award—the highest honor bestowed by the college—is given to those who have brought acclaim to the university. This year’s honoree is Kim Greene, a 1984 graduate of the college and the current chairman, president, and chief executive officer for Southern Company Gas. Read about her success and her selection as the 2021 Dougherty Award winner.


Staff Awards


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.

Karen Boyce
Financial Specialist, RMC, CMP, SMRC, Ma2JIIC

Karen is excellent at her job and our staff depends on her breadth of knowledge, insight in a large variety of situations, kindness, and organizational abilities to keep the CMP running smoothly. In addition to her long list of duties, Karen is always willing to go the extra mile to assist the staff in the centers she supports. If she can do something to make your job easier, you bet she will take care of it! And she does it all with a smile and a helpful attitude.


Supervisor of the Year Award

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

Lisa Byrd
Assistant Director, Engineering Advising Office

Lisa provides a steady and diligent hand with management and is always willing to help on any project or task. Lisa is complimented regularly about her attention to detail and concern for academic planning with the students she advises. Lisa forms deep bonds with the TCE Ambassador group because she participates in hiring, training, and teaching their course. Ambassadors often serve in this role for several years and Lisa is able to support their growth and development. It is heartwarming to see all the hugs and smiles at graduation.


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.

Chris Moore
Communications Specialist II, RMC

Chris is an invaluable member of the RMC team. He manages all of our communications and marketing efforts and has grown our social media presence and business tremendously since taking over the role. Chris takes it upon himself to look for opportunities to increase his skill set so that he can be of additional value to the Center. He also looks for new and innovative marketing strategies to help us get the word out about our events and initiatives. Anyone would be lucky to have a Chris on their team!


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.”

Michelle McBee
Accounting Specialist I, Nuclear Engineering

Michelle is an extraordinary and essential member of the Nuclear Engineering team and serves as inspiration to all TCE staff with her commitment to the students, faculty, her fellow staff, and the university. When Michelle began her work in the department, she was the first person everyone would meet coming into the Nuclear Engineering building. She had a variety of roles, but everyone in the department whether you were staff, faculty, or a student knew that if you had a question or needed help that Michelle was there for you.


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, or the community.

Teresa Finchum
Administrative Specialist II, Innovation Computing Lab

Teresa takes it upon herself to provide exceptional support and service to not only our research faculty and students but also to newly hired group members. She discerns quickly their individual needs, she moves efficiently to provide key information, and she helps them navigate the University. Teresa is caring, resourceful, and happy to offer service no matter the task. Her skills and knowledge together with her untiring willingness to help and dedication to the group make her an essential part of our team, and her efforts are indispensable for our success.


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.

John Hoffschneider
Coordinator, Engineering Diversity Programs

The success of the Office of Diversity Programs during the past 4 years would not have been possible if it was not for John. He has not only demonstrated exceptional abilities within his role, but has gone beyond what necessary. John is very dependable, hardworking, and a leader. His commitments are extraordinary and laudable which makes him priceless to UT, TCE, ODP, and mostly important the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.


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.

Amber Tipton
Financial Specialist I, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Amber has all of the qualifications of an outstanding staff member: professionalism, adaptability, effective communication, initiative, customer service, and many times has gone the extra mile to insure the efficient running of CBE. She is a truly exceptional staff member of TCE, exhibiting efficiency and professionalism that make departmental operations seamless in the face of the every-day chaos that seems to swirl in most academic departments. She truly is an emerging leader in CBE.


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.

Justin Forbes, Joe Jones
TCE Administrative Office—IT Support

I cannot think of a better group than TCE IT Support for this award this year! Given how many tasks and people had to move online or virtual due to COVID, the IT support group has been instrumental in making sure faculty, staff, and students accomplish what is needed. They have always been professional, friendly, supportive, and informative. I cannot tell you how immediately responsive Joe and Justin are when I send up the ‘help’ email. It is so calming to know that IT support is ready and able to help.


Outstanding Faculty and Service Award Winners

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


Outstanding Outreach and Engagement Award

David Icove
UL Professor of Practice, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

David is a dedicated professor of practice in EECS. He has a passion for fire protection engineering, spearheading the development of both a graduate concentration and certificate program in the field. He is responsible for TCE’s strategic partnership with the Underwriter’s Laboratory where he is a member of the advisory board. In addition, he is a reserve officer with the Knox County Deputy Sheriff’s office working with the Fire Investigations Bureau, assisting in investigations in criminal and civil cases.


Outstanding Service to the College Award

Jamie Coble
Associate Professor, Nuclear Engineering

The breadth and depth of Jamie’s service at all levels in the university are well-known throughout UT. Of particular importance to the college is her dedicated service to efforts at promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. She served on the TCE’s Diversity Action Plan Executive Committee, has been assisting with WomEngineer’s Day since its inception, as well as being involved with the annual WomEngineer’s Welcome Dinner. She also represents the college on the undergraduate council, the Commission for Women, and the Council for Diversity and Interculturalism.


Outstanding Service to the Discipline Award

David Donovan
Associate Professor, Nuclear Engineering

The highlight of David’s recent professional service is his leadership in the Division of Plasma Physics Community Planning Process. This group was assembled to assist the US Department of Energy Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee with long-range strategic planning. As a result, he was named lead organizing chair for one of the workshops, which was ultimately held at our own Knoxville Convention Center with attendees from around the country.


Moses E. and Mayme Brooks Distinguished Professor Award

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

Jim Plank
Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Jim’s regular teaching responsibilities include very large sections of undergraduate foundational computer science classes from 100 to 300 level. He is also known as an avid mentor and supporter for undergraduate research experiences, having mentored 23 such students in the last 5 years. His research program is responsible for providing open source software for graphics and computer security. Along with his students, Jim has developed the “TENNLab Exploratory Neuromorphic Computing Framework” that provides a common software testbed for research in artificial intelligence.


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.

Wes Hines
Postelle Professor, Chancellor’s Professor, Department Head, Nuclear Engineering

During Wes’ time as Vice Chancellor for Research, the university saw the expansion of the Joint Directed Research and Development program with ORNL and partnerships with the Plant Directed Research and Development Program with Y-12. He has served on the advisory boards of ORNL, the Nuclear Science and Engineering Directorate, the East Tennessee Economic Council Board, and the Oak Ridge Cleanup Advisory Council. In addition, he developed a minor in the discipline that provided secure local jobs in the Knoxville and Oak Ridge communities.


Teaching Fellow Awards

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


Leon and Nancy Cole Teaching Award

Floyd Ostrowski
Assistant Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering

In his teaching, Floyd brings the unique perspective of understanding shop floor culture through to the board room formality. His superior teaching focuses on developing engineering students as people and good citizens and equipping them with engineering techniques. His efforts contribute to the overall teaching mission of the college, and has been at the forefront of new and innovative TCE programs.


Brett Compton
Assistant Professor, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering

Brett is not only a very accomplished scholar, but has been excellent in the classroom. He has taught a range of undergraduate, graduate, and advanced/special topics graduate courses with content addressing mechanics of materials in mechanical engineering. It is clear that he is a gifted and talented educator that genuinely cares for his students. He also goes beyond this and has taken care to mentor student groups to competition. His combination of high standards and student satisfaction is certainly admirable for the large and small classes he teaches.


Mark Denavit
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Mark is well respected as a dedicated teacher by his students. Overall students’ reactions to his teaching are very positive, especially considering the rigor of some of the subjects he teachers. His additional teaching activities demonstrate a strong commitment to student learning. Mark is also developing as a researcher.


Nicholas Wierschem
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Nicholas has demonstrated innovation in his teaching through the use of physical demonstrations. Together, he and Mark Denavit mentored a high school student during one summer to develop and build an apparatus to illustrate column buckling. He has created other demonstration units to illustrate concepts from structural dynamics. It is noteworthy that Nick’s research career is off to a promising start. He is proving to be a strong asset to the department in every respect.


Mariya Zhuravleva
Assistant Professor, Materials Science and Engineering

Mariya’s teaching style is very beneficial to understand the material. She really cares about her students by giving them many opportunities to ask questions and visit her office. It is obvious that she wants her students to understand the material and succeed. She is very well organized, provides plenty of material, and is an effective teacher who seems to put in extra time and effort for students’ better learning experience in and out of her classroom.


Courtney Faber
Lecturer, Research Assistant Professor, Cook Grand Challenge Honors Program

Courtney has enhanced the delivery of several courses in a number of ways including developing instructional plans for recitations led by teaching assistants and increasing the engagement of students during lecture with reflection exercises. Over the past year, she has led our efforts in EF 157 and EF 158 to deliver our courses in online and hybrid formats and engage students in these environments. She has implemented successful strategies using online collaboration tools to keep design teams attentive to each other and their assignments.


Professional Promise in Research Award Winners

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


Michael Jantz
Associate Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Michael has built a strong and vibrant research program, as evidenced by his record of continuous publication in top-tier computer science research venues as well as raising and managing nearly $1.9M as principal investigator from diverse funding sources. He has made important contributions in addressing the challenges posed by emerging memory architectures. Recent computing trends have led to an increased reliance on systems that include multiple types of memory devices with different capabilities and constraints.


Maik Lang
Associate Professor and Pietro F. Pasqua Fellow, Nuclear Engineering

Maik continues to build upon his laboratory’s capabilities with the addition of new equipment of which he makes available to others in the college and university. He was also involved with more fundamental condensed matter physics research and is an internationally recognized expert in the behavior of materials under extreme conditions. He can already be considered to be one of the world leaders in the field of swift heavy ion effects in materials.


Shuai Li
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Shuai works broadly in the area of technology-enhanced civil infrastructure. He seeks to deploy a variety of sensors, robotics, unmanned ariel vehicles, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence to a vast array of application areas. His interests are well-aligned with the department’s goal to expand the impact of the civil engineering profession through innovation and provide numerous opportunities for collaboration across the industry. His success in being a leader in emergent research areas is both visionary and rare for someone so early in their career.


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

Dustin has made great progress toward establishing an independent research program in a relatively short time. Since his joining the department, he established the Upper Limb Assist Lab, with the goal to enhance the function of individuals with upper limb movement disability. He is building a vibrant research program whose promise has already been recognized by multiple external funding agencies. He is making strong progress in several key areas of research, including funding, publications, and student mentorship.


Research Achievement Award Winners

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


Joshua Fu
John D. Tickle Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Joshua’s work in the areas of air quality modeling and climate change is nearly encyclopedic in scope. His work includes studies both at the global and regional scales. His work also comprises the full spectrum of atmospheric pollutants, including particulate matter, ozone, dust, nitrogen deposition, carbon black, aerosols, acid deposition, and greenhouse gases, emanating from diverse sources such as industrial emissions, electrical power generation, transportation, forest fires and erosion. This breadth of coverage is rare.


Richard Komistek
Fred M. Roddy Professor, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering

Richard has an excellent and continuous record of scholarship, funding, teaching and service. He ranks at the very top of his field in the world, and is a pioneer in biomechanics modeling and analysis. His team conducts research related to knee and hip implants, mainly using fluoroscopy to analyze the motion of these implants and mathematical modeling to assess the in vivo forces and stresses. During the past five years, Dr. Komistek has continued to push forward in his various research programs.


Hairong Qi
Gonzalez Family Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Hairong’s research focuses on advanced imaging and collaborative processing. Over the years, she has established herself as a well-known and well-respected figure in her research community by laboring actively and diligently in research, teaching, and service. She possesses those rare qualities in a researcher: her acute instinct and in-depth knowledge of her own domain, coupled with her kind personality and gentle leadership, allowed her not only to identify the highly sought-after opportunities of interdisciplinary studies, but also be able to spearhead and organize the team, and take it to a fruitful collaboration.


Fred Wang
Professor and Condra Chair of Excellence in Power Electronics, CURENT Technical Director, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Fred is a globally recognized leader in power electronics and power systems research, an IEEE Fellow, and a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Among his important contributions, he played a key role in managing and successfully renewing CURENT, the first NSF Engineering Research Center in the UT system, and the only one in the nation focusing on the electric power transmission system. In addition, he has served as the PI for several high profile, high impact programs, involving multiple UT co-PIs, and local and national industry partners.


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.


Caleb Rucker
Associate Professor, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering

Caleb represents a model for the next generation of faculty at UT, that is strong in traditional areas of scholarly work, mentoring, education and service and also seeks to translate his research into use for the betterment of society. His research in robotics and surgical devices is application-driven and has generated several invention disclosures during his time at UT.