National Academy of Engineering

On Thursday, National Academy of Engineering announced that four professors in the Cockrell School of Engineering were elected to the academy this year.

Those elected were Gregory Fenves, provost and engineering professor; Thomas Edgar, director of the Energy Institute and chemical engineering professor; Yale Patt, engineering and computer science professor; and Bob Schutz, aerospace and mechanics professor.

The academy is a private, non-profit organization that honors individuals who establish themselves as leaders in their field. Individuals cannot apply to join the academy, instead they must be elected by the academy’s existing members. Members examine all engineering fields and look for individuals who have practiced, researched or studied engineering and those who have contributed significant advancements and new approaches to traditional engineering fields. 

 Fenves, Edgar, Patt and Schutz are four of 67 new members and 11 foreign associates elected to the academy in 2014, making UT the institution with the highest number of new members elected this year.

Sharon Wood, interim dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering and member of the academy, said she thinks this honor will help to attract higher caliber students.

“I think it really enhances our reputation, and it shows that our faculty are at the forefront of their fields,” Wood said. “I’m extremely proud of all the faculty, and the fact that we have this external recognition makes it clear that other people think highly of them too.”

According to Sandra Zaragoza, spokeswoman for the Cockrell School of Engineering, the Cockrell School has the fourth most members in the academy nationwide. In total, there are more than 6,000 members and foreign associates in the academy.

At Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting, Chairman Paul Foster applauded the four professors, as well as President William Powers Jr., for their achievement.

Clarification: The use of "record high" in the headline of this story is referring to the number of UT engineering professors elected in one year to the academy, a number it tied in 2014 with four elected members. UT also elected four professors in 1988 and 2005.

For his work on the lithium-ion battery, engineering professor John Goodenough will receive the Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering — one of the world’s preeminent awards for engineering achievement from the National Academy of Engineering.

Goodenough, a professor in the departments of mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering, has worked at the University for 28 years. 

“It was a pleasant surprise,” Goodenough said.

Goodenough and his collaborators Yoshio Nishi, Rachid Yazami and Akira Yoshino will accept the award at a ceremony in Washington D.C. on Feb. 18 and split the $500,000 prize.

Goodenough first began work on the lithium-ion battery after a series of oil price shocks caused an energy crisis in the 1970s. In 1979, he was able to show that by using lithium cobalt and graphite, he could create a stable battery with a high density of stored energy. The battery was licensed to the Sony Corp.

“The Sony Corp. made the first cell telephone, and that initiated the wireless revolution,” Goodenough said.

Electrical engineering senior Angus Ranson said Goodenough’s work on the battery has had a major impact on virtually all modern consumer electronics.

“The lithium-ion battery has revolutionized the world of portable electronics by providing lightweight, high-energy density means of providing power to common and popular devices like cell phones and laptops,” Ranson said.

John Halton, associate dean at the Cockrell School of Engineering, said Goodenough’s work had a universal impact.

“He invented something that has affected the life of every person on the planet because we would have no hope of having mobile communication without the lithium-ion battery,” Halton said. 

In 2001, Goodenough received the Japan Prize for his work on the lithium-ion battery, and in 2013 he was awarded the National Medal of Science for his lasting contributions to materials science and technology.

Halton said that despite his age and many existing accomplishments, Goodenough is still hard at work. 

“He’s very passionate, very hard working,” Halton said. “At his age, over 90, he’s still as sharp as he was when he was a teenager.”

Goodenough said he and his colleagues are still working to improve the lithium-ion battery.

“We are developing new strategies for the lithium-ion battery to try to make it cost-competitive with fossil fuels, so that we can have electric cars and store electrical energy coming from wind farms and solar farms,” Goodenough said.

Professors Joseph Beaman Jr. and Sharon Wood were inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in recognition of their achievements in the engineering world.

Beaman received an undergraduate education at UT and works on technology for 3-D printing and manufacturing at the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Wood, chairwoman of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, is the first woman elected to the academy in the area of structural engineering. 

The National Academy of Engineering has only 2,461 members and foreign associates, 80 of which were inducted this year, said Maria Arrellaga, director of communications and public affairs at the Cockrell School of Engineering. 

“Being inducted into the NAE is something that is the result of years and years of research,” Arrellaga said. “It’s the award of all awards, the recognition of all recognition.”

Wood was elected for her designs for reinforced concrete structures, which can withstand more severe earthquakes and are based on field research in Chile, Turkey and California after earthquakes, as well as for her work installing seismic instruments in earthquake prone areas, according to the academy’s website.

Wood said she and colleagues studied collapses of parking garages in California after the Northridge earthquake in 1994, and she recently worked on committees to implement a national plan for installing seismic instruments in buildings.

“One of the problems when you go out and look at an earthquake is you don’t know how the ground moved in that location or how the building moved,” Wood said. “The idea is you have instrumented buildings in regions of high seismic risk. Eventually there are going to be earthquakes in the region of those buildings and you’re going to get real seismic data.”

Beaman was elected for his role in developing technologies that can more cheaply manufacture parts on demand. His main contributions were with his work on solid freeform fabrication and selective laser sintering.

Beaman said the technology for selective laser sintering, which allows manufacturers to print parts on demand, is the result of his cooperation with former UT graduate student Carl Deckard that started in 1986.

“We wanted to be able to sit at the desk [in front of a 3-D modeling program] and print a hard copy,” Beaman said. “It costs a lot of money to make a mold. With this technology, you make it overnight.”

Beaman said according to one study the technology is usually cheaper than standard manufacturing processes when less than 10,000 parts are being produced.

“[Beaman has] been an integral part of UT,” said Jayathi Murthy, chairwoman of the mechanical engineering department. “I think it’s a shining example of how you translate high-level university research into real-world work.”

The need for technologies to prevent and respond to a nuclear attack is growing, according to the National Academy of Engineering website. This global challenge, along with others, is a focus of a new program at the University that engages students in directly working towards solutions to major issues.

The Longhorn Grand Challenges Scholars Program makes its debut at UT this semester and joins a number of similar programs at other prestigious universities. The program was originally founded collectively at the engineering colleges of Duke University, Franklin W. Olin College and the University of Southern California.

“We started doing research in 2008 on how active students here were in humanitarian engineering,” said UT program director Christina White. “We found that students were incredibly interested yet felt they hadn’t participated enough in it.”

White said UT faculty searched for a way to implement a program that was complimentary, not additive, to students’ current curriculum. She also said that students can apply as early as their freshman year and do not have to be engineering majors.

“We know we have a really diverse and talented pool of students at UT,” White said.

The program is named after the National Academy of Engineering’s list of Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century, said White.

Program coordinator Sheila Reynolds said the opportunities it provides for students will greatly benefit them during their undergraduate years as well as after graduation as they dive into the real-world engineering pool.

The highly prestigious program is accepting applications through Oct. 7, and Reynolds said there isn’t a cap number on how many students will be chosen.

“We’re choosing the students based on the high-quality talent we’re looking for,” Reynolds said. “If it’s 10, it’s 10. If it’s 50, it’s 50.”

She also said that the five-question application allows students room to be creative with their answers. Once accepted, students will choose one of the 14 grand challenges and will have to address five components based on that challenge, she said.

“I like this program because it obviously has an emphasis on engineering, but it tries to go outside the realm of engineering to try and solve problems,” said civil engineering junior Ali Barton. “I think it’s really applicable and necessary if we want to solve large challenges.”

Reynolds said students that participate in GCSP gain additional skills that might not be acquired without taking part in the program. She said the students will have better skills interviewing, applying to graduate school and applying for jobs. These skills will help them grow professionally, scholarly and personally, she said.

“GCSP has the potential to change the very fabric of engineering education at UT,” said mechanical engineering professor Kristin Wood. “It has the potential to create a ground swell of design-based learning, of interdisciplinary learning whilst removing, through a natural and student-centric process, the barriers caused by our college, department and discipline structure, of diversifying engineering in every form as students actively engage in changing the world.”

Wood said the program provides exciting opportunities for students to further develop after graduating from the University.

“The students will be partners in the endeavor and become the next generation of entrepreneurs to make our world the essence of our dreams,” Wood said. “It is exciting. It is contagious. It is real.”

Printed on October 4, 2011, as: Program encourages student involvement in worldly issues