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NAE elects engineering professor

Adam Llorens | Thursday, February 16, 2012

The National Academy of Engineers (NAE) elected Joan Brennecke, the Keating-Crawford Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, to their prestigious organization earlier this month.

Membership in the governmental-based non-profit group is considered among the top titles an American engineer can hold, Brennecke said. Of the 1,100 members in the NAE, 156 are chemical engineers.

“It’s a recognition by your peers that you’ve made significant contribution to chemical engineering,” she said. “It’s sort of like a lifetime achievement award. Kind of a stamp of approval that you’ve really made a difference, and that feels great.”

Brennecke said election to the NAE is based on a scholar’s entire contribution to the industry. Brennecke said fellow engineering professor Dr. Ahsan Kareem is the only other NAE member inducted while at Notre Dame.

“When people look at schools and ranking universities, they’ll look at the National Academy to determine if it’s a top place,” Brennecke said. “So, for the university, it’s really important.”

Brennecke said her research specializes in the use of ionic liquids and supercritical fluids for environmentally benign chemical processing. Brennecke has three postdoctoral, 11 graduate and seven undergraduate students working in her Ionic Liquids Lab.

“In my 23 years here, we have seen huge growth in external research funding the number of Ph.D. students,” Brennecke said. “That has been important to me because I’ve been able to do research that I’m interested in.”

The focus on undergraduate teaching is also a very important facet of Notre Dame, she said.

“Notre Dame has provided me with the opportunity to teach really great students in a setting where teaching is valued and appreciated,” Brennecke said. “Notre Dame is very committed to enhancing and growing our graduate programs.”

Brennecke said Notre Dame is a wonderful environment to work in since the research conducted on campus makes a difference.

“Notre Dame has created an environment that’s very conducive to doing great research,” she said.

Brennecke said her election is advantageous for both her work and the university.

“Everybody tells me it’s great for me, the department and Notre Dame,” Brennecke said. “It’s great that we’re being recognized here.”