Graduating seniors in the Mechanical Engineering Department selected Professor Sumita Pennathur as their Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award winner. A pioneer in nanofluidics, interfacial science, and biological engineering, Pennathur’s work has revealed unique physics at the nanoscale, making it possible to model, predict, and control fluids and the molecules they contain.
“Teaching means the world to me,” said Pennathur, who has applied her discoveries to develop novel biomedical technologies, which has led her to found three startup companies. “Getting voted the best faculty of the year is always an honor, but this year is especially gratifying because of the difficulties involving the pandemic.”
Pennathur says that providing encouragement is one of the most important ways that she can impact students, adding that they just need to be reminded that they can overcome the challenges they face. She says that the pandemic gave her the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with her undergraduate students to learn more about who they are and what they need to succeed.
“This has been invaluable to me as a teacher and mentor. We can all acknowledge that Zoom made certain conversations possible and more accessible, and we should continue to capitalize on that going forward,” said Pennathur, whose previous awards and recognitions include the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists for Engineers (PECASE) from President Barack Obama, the Defense Advanced Research Programs Administration (DARPA) Young Faculty Award, and election as a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). “The challenges of this year have made these students uniquely capable of identifying and ultimately solving the challenges our society is faced with. We are proud of the people they have become and will be going forward, taking care of each other and our society.”