Biernacki wins 2007 Brown-Henderson Award

Whether in teaching, research or service, Jospeh Biernacki's ability to excel while taking on the role of a team player has earned him personal honors as this year's Tennessee Tech University Brown-Henderson Award winner.

The Brown-Henderson award honors outstanding performance in teaching and research or service and carries the names of TTU College of Engineering Dean Emeritus James Seay Brown and James Henderson, the college's first dean.

"I believe that Joe's efforts have laid out the best foundation to assist students in grasping new and vital concepts for today's very demanding and competitive technology work force," said Pedro Arce, chairperson of TTU's chemical engineering department.

A winner of TTU's 2006 Quality Enhancement Program Award for Innovative Teaching, Biernacki is know for integrating his lab and lecture activities in his courses.

"The projects that are assigned are situations that allow students to use a mathematical analysis within a real-world situation to better understand the reasoning behind the education," said Melissa Boner, a student who nominated Biernacki for the award.

A central feature of Biernacki's approach involves a six-week team skills and critical thinking workshop to coach students through essential elements of teamwork, team selection, critical thinking and the taxonomy of learning.

Biernacki also has enhanced the infrastructure of the College of Engineering by setting up a state-of-the-art electron microscopy laboratory that may be used across disciplines. He and other colleagues obtained a grant to enhance the lab with projection equipment so that a whole class of students can see the capabilities of the microscope at the same time.

Biernacki is one of the few chemical engineers in the world who is working on the multi-scale characterization of cement-based materials.  Biernacki is the principal investigator on more than $1 million in research support including his National Science Foundation funded U.S.-India workshop on Advanced High-Performance Cement-Based Concrete Composites. This involvement places him among a small field of contributors that have organized similar international efforts in the area of infrastructure materials.

In his service efforts, Biernacki is “a constant force supporting junior colleagues within the university and beyond,” according to Arce. Among other efforts, he has organized several workshops to help assistant professors in proposal writing and developing new research programs.

"One that I think is a true measure of his commitment to service activities is his workshops to assist high school teachers in STEM disciplines," said Arce. "Joe is a tremendous and dynamic force in this community."

Biernacki earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Case Western Reserve University and went on to earn his master's degree and doctorate in chemical engineering from Cleveland State University.

He was previously honored by TTU in 2002 as the Leighton E. Sissom Innovation and Creativity Award winner as well as the Kinslow Engineering Research Award winner. He also received the 2003 Outstanding Faculty Award for Professional Service. More recently, he won two national awards from ASEE for an outstanding paper — the 2006 Corcoran and Thomas C. Evans Awards.

Last year's Brown-Henderson Award winner was chemical engineering professor Don Visco.