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College of Engineering Selects Dimitrakopoulos, Christofa, and Nonnenmann to Receive Outstanding Senior and Junior Faculty Awards

As Acting Dean for the College of Engineering Christopher Hollot announced last week, “Please join me in congratulating Doctors Christos Dimitrakopoulos, Eleni Christofa, and Stephen Nonnenmann for being selected as outstanding faculty in the College of Engineering in 2019.” Professor Dimitrakopoulos of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department was selected for the Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, while the review committee chose Assistant Professors Christofa of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department and Nonnenmann of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department as joint awardees of the Barbara H. and Joseph I. Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award.  

Dean Hollot explained that Dimitrakopoulos was selected for the Senior Faculty Award based on his world-leading reputation and his extensive record of research and publication in materials science. He is the holder of 83 U.S. patents and was elected to the National Academy of Inventors earlier this year. He has also been recognized for his excellence in teaching and service to the ChE department.

Dimitrakopoulos has been a faculty member in the Chemical Engineering department since 2013.  From 1995 to 2013, he was a Research Staff Member at IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, and from 1993 to 1995 he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

ChE Department Head John Klier said that Dimitrakopoulos is one of the most cited scientists in the area of materials science. “He has authored or co-authored more than 80 journal and proceeding publications, with a total citation count of more than 19,000,” said Klier. “He has given more than 70 invited talks at national and international conferences and academic, government, and industrial institutions.”

Klier added that one of Dimitrakopoulos’ papers, published in 2002, was listed in the top-ten of the Most-Cited Papers in Materials Science from 1996-2006. He was co-recipient of the 2001 Paul Rappaport Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and received an Extraordinary Technical Accomplishment Award by IBM Corporation. Other notable honors include Master Inventor at IBM Research, an Outstanding Innovation Award, and a Research Division Award, all from IBM. In addition, he shared the 2000 Technology of the Year Award from Industry Week.

Klier also explained that at UMass Dimitrakopoulos has established a leading research group focused on the growth, transfer, characterization, and applications of two-dimensional materials such as graphene, transition metal dichalcogenides, black phosphorous, aerographite foams, massively exfoliated graphene, organic semiconductors, high k dielectrics, and perovskites for photovoltaic applications. These materials are especially significant in energy generation, harvesting, storage, lighting, displays, medical sensing, and actuation.

Christofa has been recognized for her great success in transportation research while collaborating in 16 sponsored projects totaling more than $2.5 million in funding. She was also honored with the Outstanding Young Member Award from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; a national award given to only one person per year in recognition of exceptional service to TRB and achievements in transportation research.

“Eleni has been successful in her early career at UMass in developing a very vibrant and active research program,” explained CEE Department Head Richard Palmer. “Her primary research interests are in the fields of traffic operations and control, sustainable traffic management, intelligent transportation systems, and transportation safety.” 

Christofa’s research program has been funded by the U.S. Departments of Transportation (USDOT) and Energy as well as the Massachusetts Departments of Transportation and Public Health. These include highly competitive grants through the USDOT University Transportation Center and the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy programs.

While explaining this body of research, Christofa has published 21 peer-reviewed papers in highly respected journals, and she has taken part in 46 peer-reviewed journal proceedings, while advising three Ph.D. students to completion.

Palmer noted that, since arriving at UMass, Christofa has also received a number of honors and recognitions for her teaching. These include the Innovation Fellowship and Student-Centered Teaching & Learning Fellowship from UMass and selection for the highly competitive American Society of Civil Engineers ExcEED (Excellence in Civil Engineering Education) program.

Her service to the profession was honored in 2015 by receiving a Certificate of Outstanding Contribution in Reviewing from the journal Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, one of the most highly ranked journals in her field.   

Christofa’s co-recipient Nonnenmann is recognized for his contributions in both research and teaching. He received an NSF CAREER award for his research in nano-scale physics for energy applications, the results of which have been published in a number of high-impact, high-visibility journals. In addition, he received this year’s College of Engineering Outstanding Teacher award, which was supported by every single teaching-related metric, ranging from outstanding SRTI scores, superlative comments from students, and the large number and high quality of student researchers he has mentored.

As noted by MIE Department Head Sundar Krishnamurty, “Nonnenmann has established himself as a leader in materials science and engineering at the macro- and nano-scale level with a unique expertise for developing alternative energy sources and greatly enhancing the efficiency of current energy sources. His deep knowledge in surface science, solid state physics, and electrochemistry has enabled him to develop a niche research program – individually and collaboratively – to address critical challenges in an innovative manner.”

“He is a 2019 recipient of the NSF CAREER Award and a PI or co-PI on highly-competitive NSF and ARL awards, enabling him to grow his impressive Nanoscale Interfaces, Transport, and Energy (NITE) Lab at UMass Amherst,” said Krishnamurty.

Nonnenmann has published 33 studies in high-impact journals, including Science Advances, Advanced Functional Materials, and Nature. “It is equally impressive,” said Krishnamurty, “that his contributions include 14 publications within the last three years with his students as co-authors, as well as two book chapters, three patents, and 57 presentations at national and international scientific venues.

Nonnenmann actively participates in multiple interdisciplinary collaborations across campus with colleagues in the ChE, ECE, Chemistry, Microbiology, Physics, and Polymer Science and Engineering departments, as well as with faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-Irvine, and at West Virginia University.

All three award winners will be recognized during the College of Engineering Faculty/Staff Recognition Reception to be held on Wednesday, May 1. (April 2019)