Engineering Faculty Garner Coveted NSF Awards

National Science Foundation LogoTwo faculty members in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering have received CAREER Awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Mario Eden, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and Willie Harper, assistant professor of civil engineering, were both recipients of the prestigious award which includes significant funding.  

Dr. Mario Eden
Mario Eden

"The CAREER Award is a tremendous honor," Harper said. "The competition for these awards is always fierce, and winning it is acknowledgement of the quality of our work."

Eden's proposal, "Targeted approaches for integrated process and product design," focuses on finding better methodologies for chemical process and product design. Because of its broad-based nature, Eden believes that his research will generate societal, economic and environmental benefits.

"This research will, in the long run, lead to enhanced profitability and sustainability through more efficient resource utilization and material substitution across the board," Eden said.

Dr. Willie Harper leaning against chalk board
Willie Harper

The project proposed by Harper, "Sorption and Biodegradation processes for removal of pharmaceutical compounds in biological systems," investigates how pharmaceutical chemicals are removed in biological wastewater treatment systems. His proposal is designed to not only enhance the environmental engineering program at Auburn, but create a greater diversity in engineering programs through partnership with the BellSouth Minority Engineering Program.

"Receiving this award provides a platform to pursue activities that will enhance the recruitment of women and minorities in science and engineering programs, as well as advance our research programs," Harper said.

The early career development awards represent the NSF's most distinguished program in support of the early career development of faculty who effectively integrate research and education into their classrooms and laboratories.

Duke and Byrne examining a metal component
Steven Duke (left) and Mark Byrne

Two other faculty from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Steve Duke and Mark Byrne, also received funding from the NSF for their proposal to make Auburn University the site of a prestigious Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

initiative. "Micro/Nano-Structured Materials, Therapeutics, and Devices," is a three-year project with 10 undergraduate students each year. The program involves various academic programs including biosystems, civil, chemical, mechanical and polymer and fiber engineering, as well as pharmacy and physics.

"This program will be a defining moment in these students' lives. It will turn them on to discovery and lead them toward more creative endeavors in the future," Byrne said.

The students will join in a 10-week summer experience that includes research on micro and nano-material science and technology, as well as faculty mentoring and participation in seminars and workshops focused on professional development and cross-cultivation of individual experience.

"Hosting an REU site brings more attention and recognition to the university and its programs," Duke said. "It really is a substantial honor for our department, as well as the College of Engineering."

The REU program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in areas of research funded by the NSF. This REU site will help develop a diverse group of undergraduate participants from four-year institutions and community colleges that would otherwise have a limited opportunity to engage in research activities.

According to Duke, Auburn and the Ginn College of Engineering have a strong history of undergraduate research. The REU gives the college the opportunity to build on that heritage.

"It's a tribute to both the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and Auburn University for young faculty members to win these prestigious awards," said Larry Benefield, dean of the Ginn College of Engineering. "Their hard work brings positive exposure to the university and adds to the reputation of our college."