On May 2, 2022, faculty gathered for the annual spring celebration of Dean’s Awards for Excellence at the Inn at Virginia Tech. The College of Engineering is celebrated across the commonwealth and the country for the high quality of its programs in engineering education, research, and public service.

The Dean's Awards for Excellence recognize the contributions of faculty in these areas, and emphasizes how their work benefits undergraduate and graduate students.

This year, three Department of Chemical Engineering faculty were honored by Dean Julia Ross.

Associate Professor Ayman Karim received the Excellence in Research Award for his work on catalysis of sub-nanometer clusters and single atoms, and predictive modeling for the synthesis of nanoparticles.

Since joining Virginia Tech, Karim has been awarded more than $4.7 million in funding with a personal share of $3.2 million and a more than 50% success rate. Of those grants, $2.2 million was awarded in the past two years, including funding from the catalysis program in the Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences, which only supports the top researchers in the field.

Karim trains his Ph.D. students for high-impact professional development using industry-standard annual work plans and evaluations to identify areas of strength and improvement.

Huiyuan Zhu wins award
Huiyuan Zhu (center) received the Outstanding New Assistant Professor award from Dean Julia Ross (left) with congratulations from Department Head Steve Wrenn (right). Photo by Peter Means for Virginia Tech.

Huiyuan Zhu was named Outstanding New Assistant Professor for a wide range of work. 

Her research group seeks to develop new synthetic well-defined nanocrystals and 2D materials with atomically precise surfaces and interfaces to advance electrochemical CO2 conversion, sustainable nitrogen cycling, and heterogeneous thermocatalytic reactions.

Zhu is currently mentoring four Ph.D. students, one postdoctoral researcher, and nine undergraduate researchers, with a focus on interdisciplinary techniques, including computational tools and operando microscopy and spectroscopy.

Zhu has organized, chaired, and presided over symposia at several high-profile national meetings and been a panelist for National Science Foundation programs. She presents lectures to undergraduates in subjects such as water splitting and sustainable energy. She also works with the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity.

Michael Bortner wins award
Associate Professor Michael Bortner was honored with a certificate of teaching excellence at the 2022 Dean's Awards. Dean Julia Ross (left) and Department Head Steve Wrenn (right) congratulated him. Photo by Peter Means for Virginia Tech.

Associate Professor Michael Bortner received the Dean’s Certificate of Teaching Excellence.

Bortner takes his students beyond the classroom, giving tours and lectures at local facilities with relevant equipment to connect math, science, and theory to real-world applications.

Bortner has worked to coordinate industry- and government-sponsored design projects and internships across multiple disciplines in and outside of the College of Engineering.

Bortner has worked with the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program, funded by the Office of Naval Research, which focuses on workforce development through innovative curriculum design. Specifically, he looks at composites in electromagnetic applications, where concepts ranging from computational electromagnetics and engineering mechanics to materials synthesis and design to polymer processing, as well as  process design and control, are combined for a holistic view on the subject.