2020 Duke Engineering Faculty & Staff Awards Announced

4/23/20 Pratt School of Engineering

Each of the winners reminds us, especially now, that Duke Engineering remains deeply committed to education, research and service.

2020 Duke Engineering Faculty & Staff Awards Announced

While the world around us seems to shift almost instantaneously, there are some encouraging constants in these challenging times—such as strength of our research, the dedication of our staff and the quality of education we provide our students.

I am proud to announce the winners of the 2020 Duke Engineering Faculty & Staff Awards.

These outstanding individuals profiled below remind us that regardless of external factors, we remain deeply committed to education, research and service. Please join me in congratulating the winners!

Ravi V. Bellamkonda

Prof. Ravi V. Bellamkonda
Vinik Dean of Engineering

Eric S. Richardson

Eric S. Richardson

Klein Family Distinguished Teaching Award

Recognizes an outstanding educator nominated by engineering students and selected by a faculty committee. These faculty inspire students to learn and apply, engage students in the classroom and share their love of engineering.

Eric Richardson’s nominators pointed to his significant efforts since coming to Duke two years ago to expand and deepen entrepreneurial design education—especially through new biomedical engineering (BME) design courses, the department’s medical device design certificate for master’s students and the Duke Design Health program. Richardson, an associate professor of the practice in BME, was also praised for his own love of engineering design and his passionate commitment to teaching. He regularly shares his industry experience with students, who find his insights valuable as they plan their own careers. As a mentor, one nominator wrote, “he takes time out of class to make sure that we’re on the right track.”

Ken BrownKen Brown

Stansell Family Distinguished Research Award

Given each year to an outstanding researcher nominated by the department chairs and selected by a school committee. These faculty inspire their colleagues, serve others, contribute to the knowledge base and have a deep passion for their work.

Nominators noted Ken’s far-reaching leadership in both the theoretical study of quantum computation and the experimental investigation of cold molecular ions. A nominator wrote: “These two approaches—theory and experiment—are usually distinct because they require very different skill sets. The integration of these approaches in Ken’s research holds significant potential for important discoveries.” Brown, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE), was also praised for his productivity since coming to Duke two years ago. He published 25 journal articles in 2018 and 2019 that have attracted over 200 citations. He is the principal investigator of a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) project supported by the Department of Defense and an Ideas Lab program funded by the National Science Foundation.

Rebecca SimmonsRebecca Simmons

Capers & Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring & Advising

Recognizes an individual, while honoring all members of our Duke Engineering community, who through excellence in mentoring and advising have nurtured and guided students and colleagues, thereby helping build a better future.

Faculty nominators estimated that Rebecca Simmons sponsors about four dozen students in independent study projects a year. “That alone is a testimony to many things,” a nominator said. “To her breadth of knowledge, her willingness to spend time with students, and her fervent desire for students to have an opportunity to learn and grow in the direction of their choosing while being provided with expert mentorship.” Rebecca, an associate professor of the practice in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS), was praised for the sheer number of mentoring meetings that she holds, each one tailored to a particular project and a specific student or group of students. Nominators also noted that she has gone beyond the extra mile, including co-hosting a podcast with students called This Engineering Life, which seeks to connect with students and provide insights, resources, and advice from peers and experts.

Joel CollierJoel Collier

Lois & John L. Imhoff Distinguished Teaching Award

Given to a member of the faculty in recognition of superior dedication to undergraduate teaching—nominated by the engineering students and selected by a school committee.

Student nominators noted that on the first day of a class, Joel Collier takes nearly the whole class time getting to know the students, and helping the students get to know each other. One wrote: “Not only did Dr. Collier show a genuine interest in his students’ lives in and outside of the classroom, but I can confidently say I learned more about many of my peers in those 75 minutes than I have in the last three years.” Collier, an associate professor and director of graduate studies in BME, continues that relationship-building throughout the semester. His undergraduate biomaterials courses, which he jumped at the chance to revamp, are interactive and filled with real-life examples and active student participation.

Aaron FranklinAaron Franklin

Capers & Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Teaching & Research

Recognizes the career achievements of an individual, while honoring all engineering faculty, who through excellence in teaching and research have challenged and nurtured students and contributed to growing humanity’s knowledge.

Aaron Franklin has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in ECE with impressive results. In just one example of his excellence in teaching, he initiated the collaborative redesign of an ECE core course on microelectronic devices. Launched in fall 2018, the changes to the class had an immediate impact, as seen in significantly increased overall course evaluations. Beyond the numbers, nominators said the James L. and Elizabeth M. Vincent Associate Professor and director of graduate studies in ECE inspires and motivates students as a passionate teacher and researcher. A student nominator noted that he is always “clearly prepared for the class, easy to talk to, fair, and genuinely invested in students.” Students also appreciated his ability to connect course topics to realistic research problems. As one student observed, “He taught us more than what the formulas are, and gives a perspective of the real world.”

Patrick McGuirePatrick McGuire

Dean’s Award for Leadership in Program & Operational Excellence

Given to a faculty member or staff leader who excels in managing and enhancing programs that impact the Duke Engineering community. Considerations for the award include operational excellence, responsiveness to program participants and continuous improvement through the integration of new tools and process innovations.

Faculty, students and staff in MEMS praised Patrick McGuire as a “can-do” senior lab administrator who sees his work as service to colleagues. One student wrote of his expertise with the 3D metal printer in The Foundry: “Patrick has spent numerous hours supporting the printing of parts for myself and other students, including spending time educating students on CAD design, how to best design parts for 3D printing, and fabricating the parts. He has taken this incredible resource that the department has and made it accessible to students of all levels to use for their innovations.” Other nominators praised how he regularly goes above and beyond to support the requests of students in the department to try new projects and iterate on their designs so they can be most successful: “Patrick truly is the ‘go-to-guy’ in the department.”

Previous Award Winners