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Making the Leap from Professor to Dean

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

As seen in the Spring 2017 issue of the Georgia Tech Engineers Magazine.


Supportive colleagues. Interdisciplinary research. Valuable mentorship opportunities.

These are just a few of the reasons listed by former College of Engineering professors about what makes CoE a great place to work. Over the past few years, those former faculty members have all accepted dean roles at other universities, demonstrating that the College also offers an excellent foundation for leadership. 

“I truly appreciate the commitment that Georgia Tech has to undergraduate learning and to innovation in engineering education,” says Steve DeWeerth, now dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science at Lehigh University. While at Georgia Tech, he held posts including associate chair for graduate studies in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and associate dean for research and innovation.

Tech’s focus on interdisciplinary research and innovation shaped DeWeerth’s vision for Lehigh. One of his first orders of business there was to initiate an “envisioning process” for his college. This faculty-led advancement of Lehigh engineering focuses on enhancing research impact and interdisciplinary endeavors.

DeWeerth says what when the Lehigh job opened, he knew it was the right time to move. But there are still things he misses about Georgia Tech.

“People are really committed to the university,” he says. “Georgia Tech is such a wonderful place that way.”

The Institute is committed to them in turn. Faculty members have plenty of chances to tackle new challenges, which Ravi Bellamkonda (now dean of engineering at Duke University) named as key to his career growth.

“Georgia Tech is a dynamic, can-do place and is very permissive to those who want to engage and lead,” says Bellamkonda, who left Tech when he was chair of the Coulter Department. “As a result, I had many experiences at Georgia Tech that allowed me to discover and develop my ability to have impact beyond my department. GT/Emory BME and IBB faculty, staff and students are very special.”

Perhaps it might seem natural, then, that mentorship is also important at Georgia Tech. Bellamkonda can name plenty of fellow faculty members and administrators who influenced his career, including Bob Nerem of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, Georgia Tech Executive Vice President for Research Steve Cross, and Bill Todd of the Scheller College of Business.

“It is also special and unusual to have Provost Rafael Bras and President Bud Peterson be so accessible and willing to give their time freely,” Bellamkonda says.

As Gary May, the outgoing dean of the College of Engineering, prepares for a new role himself as chancellor of the University of California, Davis, several former CoE faculty members also cite the value of his leadership in inspiring their own paths to dean roles.

Barbara Boyan, dean of engineering at VCU“I have been lucky to have been able to assemble an outstanding leadership team,” says Barbara Boyan, who became dean of engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013. “Watching [former CoE Dean] Don Giddens and Gary May as role models, I learned to trust my team.”

Boyan (left) spent over a decade at CoE, and she ended her tenure there as associate dean for research and innovation. While at Georgia Tech, she helped spearhead the Institute’s relationship with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and she directed the Translational Research Institute for Bioengineering and Science (which led to the creation of the master’s program in biomedical innovation and development).

“The leadership team empowers faculty and staff at all levels to be the best that they can be,” she says.

That fact might make it difficult to leave Georgia Tech at all, but new opportunities always beckon. Bobby Braun, who was a professor in the School of Aerospace Engineering until 2016 (and spent a year as NASA’s chief technologist), saw a dean role at the University of Colorado Boulder as a chance to “integrate the leadership and management skills I developed at NASA with the academic and scholarship experiences I had matured at Tech.”

Like other faculty members, Braun highlights the influence his colleagues had on his career. He names Ben Zinn, David S. Lewis Jr. Chair in Aerospace Engineering, and AE Chair Vigor Yang as two of his foremost mentors.

“I certainly learned the significance of interdisciplinary research at Georgia Tech,” Braun says. “Just as significant, I learned the importance of true scholarship, collegiality, personal respect, and the need for open and consistent communication.”

Sometimes, taking a position as dean can give a faculty member the chance to build on an emerging legacy. Gilda Barabino served as Georgia Tech’s first vice provost for academic diversity (in addition to the Coulter Department’s associate chair for graduate studies). Now that she is a dean, Barabino says, she continues her work opening doors to more diverse students.

“My position as dean of The Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York affords me the opportunity to lead one of the most diverse engineering schools in the nation,” she says. “CCNY’s historic mission of access to excellence appealed to me and my desire to ensure that the talent pool for engineering is fully tapped and that a diverse cadre of engineers are trained to creatively solve societal problems.”

Her interdisciplinary collaborations at Tech, as well as the administrative posts she held, help guide her as dean.

“Opportunities for leadership and professional development are critical to the advancement of faculty and to the advancement of the institution,” she notes.

Joseph Hughes, who spent nine years at CoE, can speak with a unique authority about how the lessons of Georgia Tech translate to dean roles. He recently stepped down as Drexel University’s dean of engineering.

“My job as dean at Drexel was a dream come true,” he says. “Challenging. Rewarding. Frustrating. Exciting. New, every day.”

While at Georgia Tech, he served as Karen and John Huff Chair of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, (and briefly the Tellepsen Family Chair of Engineering). He appreciated the respect and freedom granted to Tech faculty members – as well as the sense of accountability.

Those qualities extended beyond faculty members, he notes. At Drexel, he thought back on two particular Georgia Tech mentors who embraced some of the Institute’s best qualities.

“Whenever I questioned my compass as dean, I said to myself, ‘What would Don Giddens do?’ He was a remarkable dean and is a great human being,” Hughes says. “Second, I would recall something that Wayne Clough instilled in me:  I had just given a great talk to the Georgia Tech board (or so I thought), and Wayne pulled me aside and said to me, ‘You never said the word student. Never do that again.’ He was not happy with me. I have never forgotten the lesson.” 

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Barbara Boyan, dean of engineering at VCU


Former CoE faculty members who took dean roles elsewhere reflect on Georgia Tech.

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Gary May Surprised with Administrator of the Year Award

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

During this year’s Student Government Association leadership banquet, Dean Gary May was surprised with the James E. Dull Administrator of the Year Award.

May was selected for this award by the Undergraduate House of Representatives, which represents the official student opinion as every member of the body speaks for a class or degree program at Georgia Tech.

“The Administrator of the Year award goes to an outstanding member of the Georgia Tech Administration.  The body voted and believed that Dean May was the most deserving person of this award for this school year due to his work and his love for students,” says Richard Wang, Speaker of the Undergraduate House of Representatives.

The banquet, which caters to around 100 students and faculty involved with the Undergraduate Student Government Association, was held on April 25. The annual event is themed “Celebrate, Reflect, and Inspire”; that is, to laud accomplishments from the previous year, contemplate the impacts made on campus, and motivate the newest members of SGA.

The namesake of the award, James E. Dull, was Georgia Tech’s former Dean of Students and served the school for decades. He was known for his successful peaceful integration of the Institute, and the award is a testament to May’s hard work to increase diversity on campus.


SGA presented the James E. Dull Administrator of the Year Award for the departing dean’s hard work and legacy

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Student Awards Celebration Leaves Moms Proud

Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Hannah Greenwald wins Tau Beta Pi Senior Engineering Cup

Every year, Colleges and the Institute at large honor and celebrate their most outstanding students. At the 2017 Student Awards Celebration, over thirty College of Engineering Students were recognized.

The awards singled-out students for a variety of things: research achievements, best co-op, academic excellence, or simply the most “outstanding senior”. Many of the awards included a monetary gift as well as a plaque.

This year’s Student Awards Celebration took place on Thursday, April 20, in the Student Center Ballroom.


The students honored from the Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering were Madison Lynn Luther for the Aerospace Engineering Outstanding Senior Scholar Award and Yijang Li for the Donnell W. Dutton Outstanding Senior in Aerospace Engineering Award.

The students honored from the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering were Colin Huber for Outstanding Academic Achievement in Biomedical Engineering award, Shohini Ghosh-Choudhary for the S.K. Jain Outstanding Research Award in Biomedical Engineering, and Benjamin Ashby for the G.D. Jain Outstanding Senior in Biomedical Engineering Award.

The students honored from the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering were Taylor Gerhardi for the Chair’s Award – Outstanding Chemical and Biomolecular Junior and David Umo for the Chair’s Award – Outstanding Chemical and Biomolecular Senior.

The students honored from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering were William Disser for the Buck Stith Outstanding Junior Award in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Corinna Slater for the School Chair’s Outstanding Senior Award in Civil Engineering, and Grace Brosofsky for the School Chair’s Outstanding Senior Award in Environmental Engineering.

The students honored from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering were Daniel Canales for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Undergraduate Research Award, Nicole Barcori for the Most Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineering Senior Co-Op Award, Ethan Everett for the Outstanding Computer Engineering Senior Award, and George Tzintzarov for the Outstanding Electrical Engineering Senior Award.

The students honored from the Steward School of Industrial & Systems Engineering were Alex Moran for the Alpha Pi Mu Academic Excellence Award, Harshil Goel for the Evelyn Pennington Outstanding Service Award, William “Alex” Berry and Cole Sutter for the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers Excellence in Leadership Award.

The students honored from the School of Materials Science and Engineering were Garret Lecroy for the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists Student Chapter Award for Graduating Seniors, Nicole Kennard and Marco Scaglia for the School of Materials Science and Engineering Outstanding Senior Award.

The students honored from the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering were John DiPrete, Brian Do, Kevin Pluckter, and Seth Radman for the Richard K. Whitehead Jr., Memorial Awards; Chelsea Silberglied for the School Chair’s Award – George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering; and Franklin Hailey Brown II for the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering Outstanding Scholar Award.

The student honored from Nuclear and Radiological Engineering was Paul Burke for the Outstanding Scholastic Achievement Award - Nuclear and Radiological Engineering Program, School of Mechanical Engineering.

Students who received college-wide awards were Hannah Greenwald for the Davidson Family Tau Beta Pi Senior Engineering Cup; Emily Reinhard for the Helen E. Grenga Outstanding Woman Engineer Award; and Andrew Denig, Emily Ferrando, Adam Fultz, Jonathan Jeffrey, Benjamin Lazar, Abigail McClain, Meghan Pollard, Michael Wang, Michael Waters, Jonathan Yaeger, and Areesh Zindani for the COE Honors Day Awards.


Over 30 College of Engineering students were given awards at the celebration last week

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Faculty and Staff Honors Luncheon Honor Many

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

In a crowd of almost 80 bright individuals that were honored at the annual Faculty &Staff Honors Luncheon, 25 were from the College of Engineering. The luncheon occurred on Friday, April 21 and attendees received awards based on their excellence as researchers, teachers, mentors, and more during the past academic year.

Recipients were nominated by colleagues or students that think they deserve to be recognized for outstanding work, and are then chosen by a variety of different offices on campus and in the engineering community.

The awards are meant to maintain employee morale and pride, as well as recognize faculty and staff for exemplifying the Institute’s core values. Most awards were also accompanied by a monetary gift.

The luncheon was held from noon to 1:30 in the Student Center Ballroom.


Honorees from the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering include Joe LeDoux for the Curriculum Innovation Award, S. Balakrishna Pai for the Innovation and Excellence in Laboratory Instruction Award, and Manu Platt for the GT Faculty Award for Academic Outreach.       

The honoree from the schools of BME, Chemistry, and Biochemistry is Younan Xia for the Outstanding Faculty Research Author Award.

Honorees from the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering include Ryan Lively for the Sigma Xi Young Faculty Award and William Koros for the Sigma Xi Sustained Research Award.

Honorees from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering include Omer Inan for the Sigma Xi Young Faculty Award; Muhannad Bakir, Madhavan Swaminathan, and Manos Tentzeris for the Outstanding Achievement in Research Program Development Award; Deepkraj Divan for the Outstanding Achievement in Research Innovation Award; Ghassan AlRegib for the Steve A. Denning Faculty Award for Global Engagement; Mark Davenport for the Class of 1940 W. Roane Beard Outstanding Teacher Award; Mary Ann Weitnaur for the Outstanding Service Award; and Pamela Bhatti for the Class of 1934 Outstanding Interdisciplinary Activities Award.

The honoree from the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering is Chuck Zhang for the Outstanding Achievement in Research Program Development Award.

Honorees from the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering include Susan Thomas for the CTL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Awards; and Suresh Sitaraman, Samuel Graham Jr., Lenna Applebee for the Outstanding Undergraduate Academic Advising Award for Staff, and Peter Hesketh for the Outstanding Achievement in Research Program Development Award.

Honorees from the School of Materials Science and Engineering include Zhiqun Lin for the Sigma Xi Faculty Best Paper Award, Stephen Edwards for the Outstanding Achievement in Research Enterprise Enhancement Award, Mark Losego for the CTL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Awards, and Seung Soon Jang for the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor.


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Almost 80 faculty and staff members were praised for their excellence on April 21.

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The Perfect Patient

Monday, April 24, 2017

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ME's Alper Erturk Awarded a Second ASME Award

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Portrait of Alper ErturkFor the second time in just a few years, associate professor of mechanical engineering Alper Erturk was recognized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering for early career accomplishments. This time, the 2017 C. D. Mote Jr., Early Career Award honored him for excellence in his research on vibration and acoustics.

The Mote Award was bestowed by the Technical Committee on Vibrations and Sound, which falls under the Design Engineering Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME). This prestigious award recognizes only one outstanding researcher per year.

Erturk’s research centers on smart structures and dynamical systems with the intent of applying his findings to problems such as the conversion of ambient vibration to electricity, aquatic locomotion devices, and wave propagation.

In order to qualify for the Mote Award, a researcher must have been a member of ASME for three years, be under the age of 40, and be nominated within 10 years after obtaining their last degree. The C. D. Mote Jr., Early Career Award specifically is named for the current president of ASME.

Erturk was nominated for this award by Professors Daniel Inman and Kon-Well Wang, who are both collaborators of his from the University of Michigan.

The award includes a $1,500 honorarium, and the opportunity to attend and give an extended presentation at the 2017 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences in Cleveland.

When Erturk was previously recognized, it was with the 2015 Gary Anderson Early Achievement Award, which came from the Adaptive Structures and Materials Systems Technical Committee for his scholarly contributions to that field. His nomination for the award was an indication that he had already had an impact on the field of adaptive structures and material systems.

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Portrait of Alper Erturk


The C. D. Mote Jr., Early Career Award was granted for research excellence

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ME's Bara Cola Honored with Waterman Award

Friday, April 14, 2017

Portrait of Bara ColaIn a testament to the monumental impact his research has made during a career that began only a few years ago, Baratunde “Bara” Cola has won the prestigious Alan T. Waterman Award.

Cola, an associate professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, was honored for his development of new engineering methods to control light and heat in electronics at the nanoscale. The Waterman Award is widely regarded as the nation’s highest honor for early-career scientists and engineers.

The award, bestowed by the National Science Foundation, recognizes one outstanding researcher per year who is under age 35. This year, however, seems to be even more special. It is the first time that a professor from Georgia Tech's Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering has been selected. In the 42 years the award has been distributed, it is only the second time that two researchers have been recognized in the same year.

Cola was recognized for piloting a breakthrough other researchers have been attempting to overcome for decades. He and his team created something called an optical rectenna, which effectively and efficiently turns light into direct current. The research involves carbon nanotubes to collect light and rectifier diodes (which are nanotechnology-enabled mechanisms) to convert this light into electricity.

The device they created promises to create extremely efficient solar cells that can power all kinds of technology. Potentially, the optical rectenna could double solar cell efficiency at a tenth of a cost.

The Waterman Award includes a one million dollar grant over five years, which aims to provide the resources for a researcher’s next significant discovery.

Cola and his team have also made other significant discoveries, “including the first thermally conductive amorphous polymer, the first practical electrochemical cell for generating electricity from waste heat and the first evidence of thermal energy conduction by surface polaritons,” according to a statement from the NSF.

Cola’s research in nanotechnology innovations has also led him to found Carbice Nanotechnologies, Inc. By facilitating heat removal from computer chip testing stations, carbon nanotubes will allow for cheaper and faster production of chips.

In addition to his deep involvement in engineering research, Cola is very involved in the betterment of his students and colleagues. In 2015, Cola participated in the NSF’s Innovation Corps at Georgia Tech, which helped participants to take an entrepreneurial look at the potential effects of their research. He is also co-founder of the Academic and Research Leadership Network, made up of over 300 engineering researchers from underrepresented minority groups.

Cola will be recognized for his accomplishments at a NSF dinner in Washington D.C. next month. By his side will be the other winner of this year’s Waterman Award, John. V. Pardon of Princeton University.

Competition for the Waterman Award is very stiff, and being honored with the grant is an indication of certain current and future impacts on the science and engineering world.

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Portrait of Bara Cola


Baratunde “Bara” Cola was awarded with a million-dollar grant for nanotechnology breakthroughs.

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Faculty Awarded 17 CAREER Grants in 2016

Monday, March 27, 2017

Last year, 17 Georgia Tech professors and researchers were granted CAREER awards – more than those at any other college or university in the country.

Nine researchers in the College of Engineering were awarded these Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards from the National Science Foundation. This prestigious award recognizes achievements already made as well as future potential in faculty who are just beginning their careers and who are sure to contribute greatly to the fields of science, computing, and engineering.

While Georgia Tech is not the largest university in the country or the highest-ranked, the fact that so many faculty members were granted CAREER awards is an indication of certain future growth. As these young researchers mature and continue to make an impact, the reputation of Georgia Tech as a source of groundbreaking discoveries as well as brilliant engineers is sure to grow.

“Georgia Tech’s faculty’s successes in winning CAREER awards is a clear signal that Tech is hiring the future leaders in their respective fields and providing an environment that enables them to grow and succeed,” says Kimberly Kurtis, the associate dean for faculty development and scholarship.

These researchers are also teachers, and all have joined Georgia Tech staff in the last few years. Their expertise spans a wide range of engineering disciplines, including systems, chemical, electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering.

Their topics of research vary just as widely. One assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Jonathan Rogers, was awarded for his proposal titled “Causation in Dynamical Systems: Bridging the Gap Between Data Analytics and System Identification.” It explores how developments in data analysis tools are helping to change the system identification algorithms for large and complex problems.

All projects have educational benefits to students at Georgia Tech, since professors intend to include undergraduate and graduate students in their research endeavors. However, some professors use the grant proposals for teaching specifically by asking for resources to provide undergraduates with hands-on learning and research experiences.

Chloe Arson, an associate professor of civil engineering, received her grant for a proposal titled “Multiphysics Damage and Healing of Rocks for Performance Enhancement of Geo-Storage Systems - A Bottom-Up Research and Education Approach.” The money granted to Arson will help her to conduct research and educational activities to give students a more complete image of microscopic theories of rock fracture fragmentation and the ability to assess the environmental impact of things like energy geotechnologies.

Still more faculty members intend to create programs that will educate underrepresented groups of students. Asegun Henry wants to recruit African-American and women undergraduates, high school music teachers and high school students for a summer program that will help them create an app and provide an innovative new way for students to learn chemistry: through the sonification of every element on the periodic table. His proposal was titled “Engineering Heat Conduction through Alloys and Surfaces.”

The principal investigators in engineering fields at Georgia Tech that were recognized were Guangui Lan, Alejandro Toriello, Nga Lee Ng, Jonathan Rogers, Shuman Xia, Alenka Zajic, Chloe Arson, Phanish Suryanarayana, and Asegun Henry.

Kurtis says that winning one of these awards opens many doors for young faculty at Georgia Tech, because the money granted provides a foundation for the impact they are sure to make during their time at the Institute.

The grants came in amounts up to $500,000 in order to allow faculty to continue their research. Some awards are ongoing, and will continue to benefit the researchers and the school for as late as 2022.


Georgia Tech researchers won more CAREER awards than any other college or university

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