2021 College of Engineering Awards Recipients Announced

Dean Sharon L. Walker is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2021 College of Engineering Awards. These individuals have been chosen for their exceptional performance and outstanding contributions to the College.

Photos of 8 college awards winners
Top row (l to r): Antonios Zavaliangos, Christopher Peters, Amir Yaghoob  Farnam, Charles Haas
Second row: Vibha Kalra, Youngmoo Kim, Dionne Gordon-Starks, Emily Bogunovich

Faculty Awardees

Outstanding Service Award

Antonios Zavaliangos, PhD, A.W. Grosvenor Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been at the forefront of service to the University.  He has served as the College of Engineering representative on the Budget Planning and Development (BP&D) committee of the Faculty Senate since 2017, including two years as chair. He has also served on the Drexel University strategic planning Executive Planning Committee and co-chairs the integration subcommittee. This past year, Zavaliangos also served on the Executive Committee for the college strategic planning process and as co-chair of the Aligned Means and Conditions committee and the Graduate Programs Committee. He has previously served as department head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and as a Provost Fellow.

Outstanding Teaching Award

Christopher Peters, PhD, teaching professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has consistently displayed excellence in student engagement, senior design participation, and curricular innovation. Over the last 12 years, Peters has taught 30 distinct courses and has supervised more than 40 senior design teams. Additionally, he was instrumental in setting up the college’s nuclear engineering minor. During the past several months, he developed a special project-based course, providing a valuable laboratory-like experience for students to complete from home.

Outstanding Early-Career Award

Amir Yaghoob Farnam, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, conducts research spanning fundamental materials science to product development, and has built a strong reputation in the field of lightweight aggregates made from waste materials, such as bottom/fly ash, waste glass, and municipal solid waste ash. Farnam frequently collaborates across the college and with different industries.

Outstanding Career Research Award

Charles Haas, PhD, LD Betz Professor of Environmental Engineering in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, is a leader in the fields of water treatment, risk assessment, bioterrorism, environmental modeling and statistics, microbiology, and environmental health. He is Distinguished Fellow of the International Water Association, Fellow of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, and Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Among other accolades, Haas is the recipient of the Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize, administered by the National Water Research Institute, considered to be the most prestigious research award in the field of water research. This past year, he has been a prominent voice in the discussion about the airborne spread of COVID-19 and its associated risks.

Outstanding Innovation Award

Vibha Kalra, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, has established an outstanding innovative research program centered on nanomaterials for energy storage. Her research spans from fundamental science to technology translation and commercialization. Vibha has collaborated with and/or been funded by many companies including Applied Materials, Saft Batteries, Arkema, Elmarco, Murata Manufacturing, among others. She has a sponsored research agreement signed with a company that marks the largest dollar amount of industrial funding from a single grant at Drexel. In addition to other accolades, Kalra is the recipient of the 2020 Provost Award for Outstanding Mid-Career Research Achievement.

Inclusive Excellence Award

Youngmoo Kim, PhD, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Expressive and Creative Interactive Technologies (ExCITe) Center, has a sustained commitment to broadening participation and inclusion in STEM. He runs two summer camps for Philadelphia area students, including a free STEAM camp for middle schoolers in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone, which serves over 75 neighborhood students annually. Youngmoo is also dedicated to educating the general public about the digital divide. He currently serves as a member of Drexel’s anti-racism task force, and chairs the task force subcommittee focused on graduate student issues.

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award

Christopher Schade, PhD has served as an instructor for Processing Metallic Materials (MATE 366, both lecture and lab), Powder Metallurgy (MATE 560), and Solidification Processing (MATE 530) for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering since the fall of 2014 and consistently receives high praise from his students. He frequently supplements classroom learning with guest lecturers, including technical experts in a variety of fields. Additionally, Schade has helped to facilitate a close collaboration between Drexel and his company, Hoeganaes, to expand Drexel students’ real-world experiences. During the pandemic, he has adapted his teaching and the loss of an in-person lab with creative recordings of labs at Hoeganaes and has enlisted his colleagues to interact with students in small groups, providing students with a meaningful engineering experience.

Staff Awardees

Outstanding Professional Staff Award

Dionne Gordon-Starks serves as Senior Academic Advisor in the Undergraduate Advising Center. In addition to her advising duties, she has taught UNIV E101 for incoming students in the college and has expanded her teaching efforts to help students in the First Year Exploratory Studies program and CIVC 101 Civic Engagement. She focuses on encouraging her students to collaborate and support one another. Gordon-Starks has been a tireless advocate for women and underrepresented minority students and has taken on the extra load of supporting African American students during this particularly difficult year. She is a member of the college’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.

Outstanding Academic Advising Award

Emily Bogunovich, Assistant Director in the Undergraduate Advising Center, serves as the lead advisor to fourth- and fifth-year mechanical engineering and mechanics (MEM) students. While helping to ensure that this large number of students is on track to graduate, Emily has also continuously taken on more responsibilities and a greater number of students due to staff changes. She serves on the MEM curriculum committee and has recently been asked to serve on their strategic planning committee. She additionally manages the BSE program, the NAE Grand Challenges Scholars program, and teaches UNIV E101, among other duties.

Student Awardees

Outstanding PhD Student Awards

Mohammad Balapour, a PhD student in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, is a student leader and exceptional researcher in the Advanced and Sustainable Materials group. His research work, centered on finding scientific sustainable solutions to manage waste material for the benefit of society, has resulted in five journal publications and four conference presentations/papers. In 2018, he was the most cited PhD student in the college, with more than 200 citations. In addition to research, he has served as a teaching assistant and mentor to graduate and undergraduate students alike. He is the recipient of several Drexel scholarships and was an NSF I-Corps Entrepreneurial Lead Fellow in 2019.

Asia Sarycheva is a PhD student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering conducting research in the Nanomaterials Group. Her research focuses on developing MXene-based antennas, and she documented the first MXene sensor for surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy. She is an expert in Raman spectroscopy, acting as a super-user for the research group. Sarycheva has published 29 research papers at Drexel, including seven as first author, and has an h-index of 17. In addition to her academic and research achievements, she has a profound interest in leadership and engaging the next generation of scientists and engineers through innovative and hands-on educational outreach. She has served as president of the Materials Research Society (MRS) student chapter, a mentor to other students, an organizer for the ASM International Materials Camp, and a regular volunteer at Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day, among other activities. She is a 2020 recipient of the Drexel Graduate College Teck-Kah Lim Award for outstanding promise, impact and scholarly achievement.

Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award

John Card is a student in the construction management program and a recently elected member of the national Sigma Lambda Chi Honor Society. He is an exemplar for other students, often taking the lead in class projects and discussions. He participated on a team of multi-disciplinary Drexel students in Puerto Rico to design, build, and operate a charcoal-based water filtration system that can inexpensively provide potable water to citizens after a natural disaster. He is also a recent recruit to Drexel’s award-winning inter-collegiate Construction Management Heavy Civil Competition Team. Prior to enrolling at Drexel, Card served in the United States Marine Corps.

Outstanding BS/MS Student Award

Renee Saraka is a BS/MS student in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering working in the Tang Lab, developing a new project on the effects of coating and drying parameters on the performance of lithium-ion batteries. An independent researcher, Saraka has mastered a number of key lab skills including advanced microscopy, complicated image analysis with Matlab and ImageJ, and carefully controlled rheological characterization. She learned new analytical and experimental techniques at her first co-op and taught the other more senior students within the lab these new skills. Saraka currently has a first-author publication under revision in ACS Applied Energy Materials. She has served as president and secretary of Alpha Omega Epsilon, Drexel’s sorority for science and engineering students, as a peer mentor for the Steinbright Career Development Center, and is a SuperNova Undergraduate Research Fellow.

In This Article