2021 Outstanding Faculty Award Recipients, Best Teaching and Faculty awards
Each year, the UC Davis College of Engineering recognizes faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and community with the Outstanding Faculty Awards. Faculty members are nominated by their respective departments and are selected by the college’s faculty awards committee.
These four faculty members will receive awards honoring their exceptional accomplishments during the Celebration of Faculty Excellence on September 30 from 5 – 6:30 p.m. in the Kemper Courtyard, along with faculty members who received Best Teaching Awards for their strong commitment to the mission and vision of the college. In addition, the event will celebrate all faculty who received major awards and recognition in the past academic year and welcome new faculty who have recently joined the college.
Outstanding Faculty Award Recipients
Outstanding Junior Faculty for Excellence in Research Award: Ambarish Kulkarni
Ambarish Kulkarni is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. His research uses multi-scale molecular modeling methods to design and discover novel materials for applications in catalysis, separations and sensing. Specifically, he combines wave function theory, density functional theory and classical force field simulations with data science techniques to study complex phenomena such as aqueous-phase reactions, material syntheses and deactivation, hybrid catalysts and disordered materials. In collaboration with experimental groups, his research generates fundamental, molecular-level insight with diverse applications, including methane upgradation, fuel cells and next-generation sensors.
After receiving his B.S. from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, Kulkarni moved to the United States to complete his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech and his postdoc at Stanford. Since joining UC Davis, he has received an NSF CAREER Award and has been recognized as an outstanding graduate student mentor. His love for science, technology and teaching originates from the wonderful mentors he had throughout his career.
Outstanding Faculty for Excellence in Teaching Award: Nina Amenta
Nina Amenta is a professor in the Department of Computer Science who is known for her research that uses geometry to solve problems in computer graphics and visualization, especially for modeling objects from three-dimensional data, optimization and data structures. She chaired the department from 2013-2017, and served as vice-chair from 2007-2012. In these roles, she maintained the quality of instruction, modernized the curriculum and made computer science available to students across the campus through courses for non-majors.
Amenta's undergraduate degree was in classical civilization, but worked as a computer programmer after graduating, including five years of writing firmware for medical ultrasound machines. She studied in UC Berkeley's Reentry Program before getting her Ph.D. from the university. Since joining UC Davis in 2002, Amenta has received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship and a UC Davis Chancellor’s Fellowship. She has also worked with the Center for Information Technology in the Interest of Society and the Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives on Science.
Outstanding Mid-Career Faculty for Excellence in Research Award: Kent Leach
Kent Leach is the Lawrence J. Ellison Endowed Chair of Musculoskeletal Research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and a biomedical engineering professor at UC Davis. His research is focused on developing cell-instructive biomaterials for tissue engineering, applying transport principles for growth of engineered tissues and modeling cancer, as well as translation from the bench to the clinic. He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the Biomedical Engineering Society and has received multiple teaching and mentorship awards at UC Davis.
Leach holds various leadership roles in his scientific communities, including membership on the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society America’s Council, on the Biomedical Engineering Society’s Board of Directors and he is a member-at-large of the International Society of Fracture Repair within the Orthopaedic Research Society. He is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, the official journal of the Society For Biomaterials. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma.
Outstanding Senior Faculty for Excellence in Research Award: Zhi Ding
Zhi Ding is a distinguished professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1990. Ding joined UC Davis in 2000 after serving as a faculty member at Auburn University and later, the University of Iowa. His expertise covers the areas of wireless networking, communications, signal processing, multimedia and learning. His enthusiastic research team has collaborated with researchers around the world and works very closely with industry to solve practical problems and contribute to technological advances.
Ding is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), has held several positions for the IEEE and currently serves as the chief information officer and chief marketing officer of the IEEE Communications Society. He received the IEEE Communication Society’s Technical Committee on Wireless Communication Award in 2012 and the IEEE Communication Society’s Education Award in 2020. He is also a coauthor of the textbook Modern Digital and Analog Communication Systems.
Best Teaching Award Recipients
Biological and Agricultural Engineering: David Slaughter
Dr. David C. Slaughter is a professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and director of the Smart Farm Initiative at UC Davis. Slaughter is a world leader in the development of non-destructive and non-invasive sensing systems for determining the quality, characteristics and identity of agricultural commodities, and an expert in robotics and automation in agriculture. He is a pioneer in agriculture technology, creating one of the first robotic fruit harvesting systems and holding the U.S. patent on the concept of the robotic cultivator. He received his Ph.D. in 1987 at the University of Florida, his M.Sc. in 1984 at North Carolina State University and his B.Sc. in 1982 at UC Davis. Slaughter is a Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, has ten scientific paper awards and holds seven U.S. patents related to agricultural technologies he has invented.
Biomedical Engineering: Jennifer Choi
Jennifer Choi is an associate professor of teaching in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at UC Davis. In addition to teaching core undergraduate courses, she has played a critical role in integrating engineering design principles and hands-on experiences throughout the undergraduate curriculum. She has interests in engineering education and curricular innovation, as well as impacting the community through increased K-12 STEM awareness and education. Prior to joining UC Davis, Choi taught in the BME department at Rutgers University and was a postdoctoral fellow at Advanced Technologies and Regenerative Medicine, LLC. She received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Tufts University, her M.S. from Syracuse University and her B.S. from Cornell University.
Chemical Engineering: Ambarish Kulkarni
Ambarish Kulkarni is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. His research uses multi-scale molecular modeling methods to design and discover novel materials for applications in catalysis, separations and sensing. After receiving his B.S. from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai India, he moved to the United States to complete his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech and postdoc at Stanford. His love for science, technology and teaching originates from the wonderful mentors he had throughout his career. When he is not staring at molecules on the computer, Kulkarni and his wife enjoy traveling to different countries, snowboarding and playing with their dog.
Civil and Environmental Engineering: Mark Rashid
Mark Rashid is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He came to UC Davis after a short time at Sandia National Laboratories and has been with the university for nearly 28 years.
He is a native Californian who comes from a long line of engineers. He's an Aggie, with a B.S. in mechanical engineering from UC Davis, an M.S. from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in engineering mechanics from UC San Diego. Rashid's research is in the area of computational solid mechanics, with a focus on material modeling and fracture mechanics. His favorite thing in the world is teaching, but he also enjoys traveling with his family, cycling, playing classical guitar and kenpo karate.
Electrical and Computer Engineering: Weijian Yang
Dr. Weijian Yang is an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis. His research interests lie at the intersection of electrical engineering, biomedical engineering and neuroscience. Specifically, he is interested in optical microscopy, biophotonics, integrated optics and optoelectronics, neuroengineering and using advanced technologies to study the functional organization and plasticity of neural circuits.
He received his B.S. in electronics engineering and computer science from Peking University in Beijing, China in 2008 and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at UC Berkeley in 2013. From 2014 to 2017, he was with the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University as a postdoctoral researcher and worked on optical microscopy for brain imaging and modulation, neurotechnologies and neurosciences. He joined UC Davis in 2017.
Materials Science and Engineering: Susan Gentry
Susan Gentry is an associate professor of teaching and vice chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. She earned her B.S. from Northwestern University and completed her Ph.D. and post-doctoral research at the University of Michigan. She aims to improve the materials science and engineering curriculum to support learning for diverse students. She is specifically interested in using simulations and computer-based tools to help students better learn of engineering topics while also developing computer literacy. She also led the development of a seminar to support students adjusting to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering: Xinfan Lin
Xinfan Lin is an assistant professor with the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His research interests include modeling, estimation, control, data analysis and machine learning with applications in energy, automotive and aerospace systems. His teaching interests are in the area of system dynamics and control. Prior to coming to Davis, Lin was a research engineer at Ford Motor Company and was responsible for the development of the battery management system and electric vehicle components and systems. He received his B.S. and M.S. in automotive engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China in 2007 and 2009, and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 2014. He has published over 40 peer-reviewed papers and has received five U.S. patents.
Major Faculty Awards, Fellowships or Appointments, 2020-2021
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
- Fadi Fathallah, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers 2021 Slow Moving Vehicle Technologies Ergonomics, Safety and Health Award
- Ramsey Badawi, Distinguished Investigator Award
- Maury Hull, 2021 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Robert M. Nerem Education and Mentorship Medal
- Laura Marcu, American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow
- Karen Moxon, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Senior Member
- Julie Sutcliffe, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering Fellow
- Cheemeng Tan, UC Davis Chancellor's Fellow
- Jennifer Curtis, 2020 American Society for Engineering Education Benjamin Garver Lamme Award; Alexander von Humboldt Research Award; 2020 American Physical Society Fellow
- Matthew Ellis, 2021-22 UC Davis Hellman Fellow
- Ambarish Kulkarni, UC Davis Graduate Mentor Fellow; National Science Foundation CAREER Award
- Harishankar Manikantan, 2021-22 UC Davis Hellman Fellow
- Karen McDonald, 2022 D.I.C. Wang Award for Excellence in Biochemical Engineering; American Institute of Chemical Engineers Fellow
- Robert Powell, American Institute of Chemical Engineers Fellow
- Priya Shah, 2021-22 UC Davis Hellman Fellow
Civil and Environmental Engineering
- Michele Barbato, Fredrick Panhorst Structural Engineer Award; American Society of Civil Engineers Fellow
- Fabian Bombardelli, Environmental and Water Resources Institute Fellow
- Colleen Bronner, 2021 National Academic Advising Association Outstanding Advising Award; UC Davis Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award
- Dawn Cheng, American Society of Civil Engineers Region 9 ASCE Faculty Advisor
- Jon Herman, National Science Foundation CAREER Award
- Amit Kanvinde, American Institute of Steel Construction T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award Alejandro Martinez, Deep Foundations Institute Young Professor Paper Award
- Maureen Kinyua, 2021-22 UC Davis Hellman Fellow
- Sabbie Miller, 2020-2021 Graduate Program Advising and Mentoring Award
- Veronica Morales, Hydrological Sciences Early Career Award
- Deb Niemeier, Elected to American Philosophical Society
- Katerina Ziotopoulou, 2021 American Society of Civil Engineers Arthur Casagrande Professional Development Award; National Science Foundation CAREER Award
- Hao Chen, Association for Computing Machinery Distinguished Member
- Prem Devanbu, The Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Software Engineering Outstanding Research Award
- Matt Farrens, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Senior Members; Association for Computing Machinery Senior Member
- Vladimir Filkov, Association for Computing Machinery Distinguished Member
- Dipak Ghosal, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Senior Member
- Patrice Koehl, 2020-2021 Graduate Program Advising and Mentoring Award
- Mohammad Sadoghi, Association for Computing Machinery Senior Member
- Aditya Thakur, National Science Foundation CAREER Award; Department of Energy Early Career Award
Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Zhi Ding, 2020 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Communications Society Education Award; 2020-2021 Graduate Program Advising and Mentoring Award
- Jeremy Munday, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Senior Member
- John Owens, American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow; Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellow
- William Putnam, National Science Foundation CAREER Award; Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Senior Member; Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Program Award
- Marina Radulaski, National Science Foundation CAREER Award
- Weijian Yang, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Senior Member; 2021 Science & PINS Award
Materials Science and Engineering
- Jeffery Gibeling, 2021 Minerals, Metals & Materials Society Oleg D. Sherby Award; UC Davis Foundation Lifetime Stewardship Award; American Society for Metals International Fellow
- Roopali Kukreja, Department of Energy Early Career Award
- Marina Leite, The International Society for Optics and Photonics Senior Member
- Jeremy Mason, 2020-2021 Graduate Program Advising and Mentoring Award
- Scott McCormack, National Science Foundation CAREER Award
- Zuhair Munir, 2021 James I. Mueller Memorial Award
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
- Ralph Aldredge, National Society of Black Engineers Golden Torch Lifetime Achievement Award
- Harry Cheng, UC Davis Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community
- Jean-Pierre Delplanque, American Society of Mechanical Engineers Fellow
- Mike Hill, 2022 G.A. Brewer Award
- David Horsley, National Academy of Inventors Fellow
- Maury Hull, 2021 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Robert M. Nerem Education and Mentorship Medal
- Seongkyu Lee, 2020-2021 Graduate Program Advising and Mentoring Award
- Xinfan Lin, National Science Foundation CAREER Award
- Jonathon Schofield, UC Davis Award for Innovation and Creative Vision