College of Engineering Establishes Grand Challenges Program, Names Scholars

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

University of Iowa News Release

A new University of Iowa College of Engineering scholarship program that allows recipients to choose their own academic focus from among a list of world-class challenges and study under the direction of a faculty mentor has named its initial four scholars.

The Grand Challenges Scholars program draws its name from the 14 "Grand Challenges for Engineering" in the 21st century -- including such goals as "provide access to clean water" -- laid out last year by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. The UI College of Engineering was the 11th college nationwide to sign up as an academy-approved grand challenges program.

The scholarship winners are:

--Jacob Kirpes, a sophomore majoring in industrial engineering, will work to "make solar energy economical" under the guidance of Pavlo Krohkmal, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.

--Andrew Maurer, a sophomore majoring in civil engineering, will work to "manage the nitrogen cycle" under the mentorship of Gene Parkin, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

--Shayma Elsheikh, a first-year biomedical engineering major, will work to "provide access to clean water" under the guidance of Craig Just, adjunct assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

--Nicholas Glynn, a first-year chemical engineering major, will work to "provide access to clean water" under the mentorship of Michelle Scherer, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

The program scholarships, valued at about $3,000 each and renewable annually for three years, will be endowed through donations received under the umbrella of the UI Foundation. First donor to the scholarship program is Engineering alumnus James R. Whiteley (BSE 1962 Mechanical Engineering, MS 1964 Industrial Engineering), chief executive officer of Vail Systems, Deerfield, IL.

In addition to choosing a research focus area related to one of the 14 challenges, scholars will engage in five required activities: research experience, interdisciplinary curriculum, entrepreneurship and innovation, global dimension, and service learning.

Keri Hornbuckle, professor and associate dean for academic programs, said that the program provides students with an added dimension to their undergraduate studies.

"The students funded in the first year of our Grand Challenges Program represent what engineers and engineering are all about. They are ambitious, smart and ready to make a difference. In addition, their projects are representative of the National Academy of Engineering's vision of the major problems facing our world. We are very pleased to be able to support them in their efforts," Hornbuckle said.

Engineering Interim Dean Alec Scranton said that the program is one more way in which the UI College of Engineering distinguishes itself from engineering programs at other universities.

"The Grand Challenges Scholars program is one more example of how we strive for excellence in engineering education. We have a history of successful and innovative programs in undergraduate research, entrepreneurship, service learning, multidisciplinary opportunities, and global awareness, therefore it was natural for us to create a new opportunity for our students to be recognized for completing a program that includes all five of these elements," Scranton said.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,