Dean Fauchet announces annual awards and faculty promotions

Dean Philippe Fauchet announced May 9 the promotions of engineering faculty members at the final faculty meeting of the 2022-2023 academic year and presented four school awards at a reception following the meeting.

Dan Work has been promoted to the rank of professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Two faculty members have been promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure. They are Ethan Lippmann, chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Yuankai Tao, biomedical engineering.

Five non-tenure track faculty members have received promotions. In computer science, Graham Hemmingway, professor of the practice; Himanshu Neema, research associate professor; and Vikash Singh, associate professor of the practice. In mechanical engineering, Kevin Galloway, research associate professor, and Tom Withrow, professor of the practice. In electrical and computer engineering, Jeffrey Kauppila, research associate professor.

Fauchet announced two faculty awards, one staff award and one research award based on an outstanding paper written by a graduate student.

The Vanderbilt School of Engineering Award for Excellence in Teaching was presented to Hiba Baroud.

  • Baroud

    Hiba Baroud, associate professor and associate chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation Faculty Fellow

    Since joining Vanderbilt in 2015, Baroud has developed three new courses that have been instrumental in advancing computing and data science into the civil engineering curriculum. Students learn to how to solve probability problems and analyze data using real world applications—the impact of tsunamis in Japan, air quality in the U.S. and risk analysis of dam failures. She achieves a collaborative and engaging learning environment through group discussions, games and competitions. She consistently receives course evaluations well above engineering school averages. One of her new courses was featured in a 2018 issue of the American Society of Civil Engineers magazine. This month, the magazine will feature an interview with her on the state of engineering education. Baroud has delivered numerous guest lectures across the country and abroad—notably in Colombia and Norway—as well as short courses for government agencies in Sri Lanka and Germany. “By all measures, including teaching ratings, innovation in course development and instructional methodology, positive influence on curriculum, and global educational outreach, Hiba is leader among her peers in effective engineering education,” said Caglar Oskay, chair and professor of civil engineering.

This year, there are two recipients of the Edward J. White Engineering Faculty Award for Excellence in Service—Cynthia Reinhart-King and Alan Peters.

  • Reinhart-King

    Cynthia Reinhart-King, University Distinguished Professor, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor, Senior Associate Dean for Research, and professor of biomedical engineering and cell and developmental biology

    Reinhart-King’s mentoring of biomedical doctoral students has had enormous impact in fellowships to BME graduate students. In 2019, her mentoring led to more NSF fellowships to the BME graduate program than any other program in the country, including the much larger programs at Georgia Tech, UC-Berkeley and Duke. Last year, she led two major workshops on application process and preparation: one for engineering faculty and one for engineering graduate students. Her goal is to spread those successes across the school. She also mentored two students to win Ford Foundation fellowships. They are the first two school of engineering students to win the award. “Her efforts are having a tremendous impact on the reputation of the department and the school, on our recruiting, and on building a diverse student population,” a nominator said.

  • Peters

    Alan Peters, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering

    Peters serves the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as its director of graduate studies and did exemplary work to revise the MS and PhD requirements for ECE during the complex separation of the EECS department into the departments of CS and ECE. “It required patience and perseverance to bring the faculty to consensus on a document we could all agree and vote on in a timely manner. He should be commended for this effort,” said Bennett Landman, chair and professor of electrical and computer engineering. Peters also manages the PhD preliminary examination process, monitors student progress, and serves as academic adviser to ECE master’s students.

A Judith A. Pachtman Engineering Staff Award was presented to Lesa Brown and Melody Kekez.

  • Brown

    Lesa Brown, PhD, research engineer, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

    Brown played a critical leadership role in the development of the Materials Durability and Environmental Research Facilities Hub, a core research and instrumentation facility. She is responsible for a major upgrade to the environmental scanning electron microscope and recent selection and procurement of a specialized optical microscope with artificial intelligence enhanced image processing. As a result, Brown is responsible for the smooth operation of cutting-edge instrumentation valued at several million dollars. Through her efforts, the MDERFH has become a highly valued resource for CEE and the wider research community. Brown plays a major role in the development of multiple research proposals, including multi-university proposals and collaborations with national laboratories. She also has co-authored two papers (in press 2023) in top quartile peer-reviewed journals, two peer-reviewed conference proceedings and two journal manuscripts currently in review. “Beyond her technical skills, Lesa is a gifted teacher. She assists faculty in courses with laboratory components, provides students with hands-on experience, and the students have praised her ability for explaining complex concepts in an easy-to-understand manner,” said David Kosson, Gass Family Chair in Energy and the Environment and Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

  • Kekez

    Melody Kekez, graduate program coordinator, Department of Mechanical Engineering

    Kekez joined the mechanical engineering department in November 2020 and quickly oriented herself to the administrative landscape, solving problems and creating and streamlining processes. The improvements and efficiencies include graduate students notifications, requirements and forms. Kelez works directly with the department’s director of graduate recruitment. She has streamlined numerous aspects of communicating with potential graduate students and onboarding new graduate students. For her work, she has drawn the attention of the Graduate School and the engineering school as a model for how to streamline certain tasks. “Melody is deeply committed to our graduate students’ well-being, consistently displaying professionalism, kindness, knowledge, timeliness and diligence. Her communication with faculty and staff is exceptionally professional, responsive, and helpful. We are lucky to have her,” said Eric Barth, professor of mechanical engineering and director of graduate studies.

The award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research Paper was presented to Prarthana Patil.

  • Patil

    Prarthana Patil, PhD’22, Biomedical Engineering

    Patil receives the award for “Reactive oxygen species–degradable polythioketal urethane foam dressings to promote porcine skin wound repair,” published April 2022 in Science Translational Medicine, a top journal with an impact factor or 19.3. The paper was chosen for the issue’s cover and in less than a year has accrued 11 citations. In this work, Patil sought to engineer affordable synthetic dermal substitutes for chronic skin wounds that especially affect patients with co-morbidities such as diabetes. She developed new biomaterial foam chemistries based on polythioketal (PTK) polymers. The new PTK biomaterial was chemically optimized to trigger a type of immune reaction and other cellular responses that lead to faster and higher quality healing. She also proved that her synthetic scaffold chemistry performed as well as and in some facets better than the clinical gold standard biologic dressing Integra, a highly effective resorbable wound dressing product that is extremely expensive because it is biologically based. “An NIH R01 grant has been proposed to build from Prarthana’s impressive results. We have a pending utility patent application on Prarthana’s wound healing biomaterials and are receiving substantial interest in licensing of this technology with two international-scale medical biomaterial device companies,” said Craig Duvall, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Biomedical Engineering. Patil is now a Scientist II at Kodiak Sciences where she works on developing biopolymer-antibody-drug conjugates for the treatment of retinal diseases.

    Contact: Brenda Ellis