William Benjamin Munson: In 1869, William Benjamin Munson became the University of Kentucky’s first graduate. Munson studied engineering, although an engineering degree was not offered at the time. He became a prosperous entrepreneur, eventually owning 10 million acres of Texas land.
Margaret Ingels: Margaret Ingels earned a mechanical engineering degree in 1916, becoming the first woman to receive an engineering degree from the UK College of Engineering. When she later received a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, she made history as the first woman in the United States to earn a graduate degree in engineering.
Holloway Fields Jr.: Hollways Fields Jr. was the first African-American student to receive an undergraduate degree at UK. He graduated with an electrical engineering degree in 1951. Mr. Fields enjoyed a long, productive career with General Electric and was inducted into the College of Engineering’s Hall of Distinction in 1998.
Elmer T. Lee: Elmer T. Lee earned an electrical engineering degree with honors in 1949 and proceeded to take a position with George T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort (renamed Buffalo Trace in 1999). Over the next 36 years, Lee would forge a career that would equate his name with premium bourbons. He was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001. He received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from both Whisky Advocate in 2002 and Whisky Magazine in 2012, and Whisky Magazine inducted Lee into its Hall of Fame.
From 3D-printing face masks to donating supplies to making hand sanitizer and much more, the faculty and staff from across UK united in the fight against COVID-19. Read about their there efforts here.
Brent Seales (Computer Science): Dr. Seales’ pioneering research into digitally unwrapping badly damaged ancient scrolls has been featured by “60 Minutes,” Science Advances, The New York Times, “NOVA” and many other news outlets. Dr. Seales has earned a reputation as “the guy who can read the unreadable.” His breakthrough work on the scroll from En-Gedi received international recognition. Thanks to grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Andrew Mellon Foundation, Dr. Seales is now unwrapping scrolls from the library at Herculaneum that were carbonized after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.
Suzanne Smith (Mechanical Engineering): Dr. Smith is professor of mechanical engineering and former director of the NASA Kentucky Space Grant and EPSCoR programs. Dr. Smith is at the forefront of precision meteorology, which develops unmanned aircraft systems and technologies to address key scientific questions in atmospheric physics and enables accurate local-scale weather forecasting for sustainable agriculture, safe and efficient transportation, renewable energy optimization, and much more. She was named an AIAA Fellow in 2020 and received induction into the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame in 2019.
Rick Honaker (Mining Engineering): Dr. Honaker has received over $7.5 million in funding from the Department of Energy and project partners to build a pilot plant where rare earth elements are extracted from coal and coal byproducts. REEs are a series of 17 chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust. Due to their unique chemical properties, REEs are essential components of technologies spanning a range of applications, including electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care and national defense. The demand for REEs has grown significantly in recent years, stimulating an interest in economically feasible approaches for domestic REE recovery.
Greg Erhardt (Civil Engineering): Dr. Erhardt’s research into the impact of ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft on traffic congestion in major cities has been featured by NPR, “NBC News,” The Economist, The New Yorker and more. Such entities, called Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) promised their service would reduce traffic congestion, but Dr. Erhardt and his team have convincingly shown TNCs increase congestion.
Kunlei Liu (Mechanical Engineering): Kunlei Liu, associate director for research at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) and associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was named a Fellow in the National Academy of Inventors in 2019. Liu has 14 U.S. patents and $24 million in active research awards. Liu has over 29 years of experience in directing research projects in the areas of combustion, gasification and emissions control. He has built a diverse, internationally recognized research team of about 35 scientists, engineers, technicians and students. Liu annually publishes 10-18 peer-reviewed papers, files five to seven invention disclosures, and submits five to 10 new project proposals.
Dibakar Bhattacharyya: UK Alumni Professor Dibakar Bhattacharyya (DB) was formally recognized as a Fellow of the North American Membrane Society (NAMS) in 2019. Fellows are recognized for their service to NAMS as well as for their highly significant professional accomplishments in the membrane field. A UK staple for over 50 years, Dibakar Bhattacharyya (DB) has received numerous awards for his accomplishments. In June 2018, he served as co-chair with chemical engineering professor Isabel Escobar for the 2018 NAMS Annual Meeting hosted in Lexington, Kentucky.
Faculty Awards and Honors
Suzanne Smith, professor of mechanical engineering and director emeritus of the Kentucky Space Grant Consortium and NASA EPSCoR Programs, was elected to the 2020 class of Fellows of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Only 29 of the 33,000 AIAA members from across the U.S. and around the world were selected.
Simone Silvestri, assistant professor in the University of Kentucky Department of Computer Science, received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award in 2020. His project seeks to overcome current limitations associated with state-of-the-art energy management for SREs by explicitly including humans in the design loop through novel algorithmic, machine learning and optimization solutions that specifically take into account user behaviors, perceptions and psychological processes.
Mary Beth Wright (BSCE 2002): Civil engineering and MBA alumna Mary Beth Wright, Business Development Executive at Messer Construction Co., led Messer’s coordination efforts in securing a $241 million contract bid to build the new and expanded Lexington Convention Center and modifications to Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington, KY. Wright and her team were involved in coordinating, preparing and executing the project plan that eventually was accepted and voted on unanimously by the Board of Directors of the Lexington Center Corporation.
Rebecca Wingfield (BSME 2007): In July 2018, Rebecca Wingfield became one of six women and men selected to join the elite corps of flight directors who will lead Mission Control for a variety of new operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. She currently oversees missions related to the International Space Station. While there have been over 350 astronauts, there have only been 97 flight directors in NASA’s history.
Sophomore Yuke Wang was among 396 students nationwide selected to receive a 2020-21 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Wang is pursuing majors in physics, mathematics and computer science.
One Day for UK: On April 17, 2019, the UK College of Engineering called its alumni and friends to give generously toward scholarships on One Day for UK, the university's inaugural day of giving. That call was definitively answered. While the original fundraising goal for Lester Scholarships stood at $100,000, supporters surpassed the goal. The final tally: 222 gifts totaling $129,975. Terry and Sue Strange, alumni of the college who offered a $50,000 match for donations made April 17, paved the way for the college to meet its goal.
20 New Faculty Hires: In September 2018, Dean Rudy Buchheit announced a faculty hiring initiative to add 20 new tenured or tenure-track professors to the college for the 2019-2020 academic year. One year later, the college welcomed 22 new faculty members, 20 of whom are on the tenure track. The new hires bring impressive credentials, a passion for teaching and research prowess in autonomy and robotics, engineering for human health, materials and energy, humanitarian engineering, aerospace engineering and more.
Dr. Mark Suckow: Dr. Suckow is not only a professor of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering, but also an attending veterinarian for the University of Kentucky as well as associate vice president for research. Hired in February 2019, Dr. Suckow worked at Purdue University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Minnesota over a 30-year span.
Women In Engineering Explore Camp: In June 2019, over 40 high school girls received a glimpse of life as a UK Engineering student through the Women in Engineering (WiE Explore Camp). Through hands-on activities, campers learned about UK’s nine engineering majors, visited local engineering companies and engaged professional women engineers. This is the second year of the week-long camp, during which campers reside in Pigman Hall—home of the college’s Engineering Living Learning Program.
NSF Graduate Research Fellowships: In 2019, four UK College of Engineering students and alumni were selected to receive government-funded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. NSF Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees for a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM field. Annually, the NSF awards approximately 1,500 fellowships from an applicant pool of over 12,000.
Diversity and Inclusion
ASEE Bronze Award: In recognition of its ongoing efforts to promote and improve diversity and inclusion, the University of Kentucky College of Engineering has received a Bronze Award from the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). In addition to the Bronze Award, the college was further recognized as being “exemplar.” The distinction came as the result of ASEE’s inaugural Diversity Recognition Program.
Corey Baker: Computer science assistant professor Corey Baker has created a graduate campus visit program that has garnered interests of more than 70 prospective underrepresented minorities (URMs) from around the country. In January 2019, the college hosted 13 of these bright students to show them first-hand the groundbreaking research being conducted on campus. Since joining the college in 2017, Baker has made it his mission to ensure equal access to opportunity and learning.
At the 2019 Miss Black & Gold Scholarship Pageant, chemical engineering junior K’Lynn King was named Miss Black & Gold, and electrical engineering junior Savannah Lewis was Miss Gold (first runner-up).
Institutes and Centers
The Power and Energy Institute of Kentucky (PEIK): PEIK offers UK students the opportunity to earn undergraduate and graduate certificates in power and energy. PEIK averages over 1,300 enrollments in its power and energy courses each year. For the 2018-2019 academic year, PEIK issued a record 57 certificates in power and energy. In 2019, PEIK awarded 16 E.On Scholarships to eligible students who demonstrated a strong interest in power and energy studies. These annual scholarships, which continue to be supported by the endowment established years ago at UK by E.On/Kentucky Utilities, provide recipients with $2,500 annually and may also grant an additional $2,000 for use on a power and energy-related study abroad trip during the school year or the following summer.
Lean Systems Program: The UK College of Engineering has partnered with Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky for over 25 years to develop a world-class Lean Systems Program. Students in the Engineering Technology program profit from professional instructors, some of whom are former Toyota executives.
Grehan Hall: The completion of the Grehan Hall’s modernization added 45,000 square feet of space to the college’s total footprint, which now totals 320,000 square feet. Grehan is the college’s first new or renovated facility since the Davis Marksbury Building opened in 2011.
Joseph Halcomb III, M.D. Department of Biomedical Engineering: In 2016, alumnus Joe Halcomb III, M.D. made a $7 million gift to transform biomedical engineering at the University of Kentucky. In gratitude, the UK College of Engineering introduced the F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D. Department of Biomedical Engineering—making it the first named department at UK.
Solar Car Team: In July 2019, the Solar Car Team competed in the Formula Sun Grand Prix, which was held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. By putting their engineering skills to use in adverse circumstances, the team overcame challenges and finished third in the event. This was the team’s best finish since placing second in 2009. Additionally, the UK Solar Car Team broke the record for the fastest lap by an astonishing 42 seconds.