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Biernacki honored with Caplenor award


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Tennessee Tech chemical engineering professor Joseph Biernacki (center) is presented the 2018 Caplenor Faculty Research Award by vice president for research and development Bharat Soni and president Phil Oldham.

Published Friday Apr 20, 2018

Joseph Biernacki, chemical engineering professor, has been awarded Tennessee Tech University’s highest faculty honor, the 2018 Caplenor Faculty Research Award.

“Dr. Joseph Biernacki was selected as this year’s Caplenor Faculty Research awardee based on his extensive record of externally funded research and publication,” the Caplenor award committee said in a statement. “Dr. Biernacki is recognized by his colleagues as one of the most influential researchers in cementitious materials and his diverse and innovative research is highly valued.” 

The award was established in 1984 in memory of Charles Donald Caplenor, former associate vice president for research and dean of instructional development. This is the second time Biernacki has received the award.

“It is truly and honor to receive this award in honor of such a great man as Dr. C. D. Caplenor,” said Biernacki, who also received the award in 2010. “When I came to Tech I never expected to win any awards, let alone dream or imagine to win the Caplenor twice. I anticipated working hard and being a complete academic in every sense of the word.”

Biernacki has made his home at Tech since 1997. He earned his undergraduate degree from Case Western Reserve University and his doctorate in engineering from Cleveland State University. Biernacki chose to come to Tech because he felt that it would allow him to combine teaching, research and service to become a more complete academic.

“I wanted to teach, do research and serve the university and my professional community as a faculty,” said Biernacki. “I’ve kept my eye on these things since 1997 and have never deviated from that mission.” 

Biernacki’s research has led to several honors or awards. Most recently in 2016, he earned the American Ceramic Society Brunauer Award for best paper, the American Ceramic Society Della Roy Lecture Award, the Chemical Engineering Education “Top 5” paper recognition and the Tech Department of Chemical Engineering Outstanding Teacher Award.

“TTU has been a remarkable vessel in which I have been able to achieve my vision to be a ‘complete academic,’” said Biernacki. “I’ve been here for almost 21 years and have been surrounded by supportive mentors and colleagues.”

Biernacki’s current research has two focal areas, cement-based materials for infrastructure applications and processes for harvesting renewable carbon resources which have important fundamental research and practical applications.

“Additive manufacturing for construction of infrastructure is an exciting emergent technology,” Biernacki said. “Imagine being able to reduce the amount of time and human labor to build housing anywhere in the world or to resort and rebuild entire communities devastated by a natural disaster in a matter of weeks or months instead of years. Using machines to print cement-based structures is what we are working on. We hope to establish TTU as a leader in this new field.”

Biernacki recently received a collaborative National Science Foundation grant with colleagues from Vanderbilt and Purdue University for his research.

Caplenor Award Recipients

  • 2017-18, Dr. Joseph Biernacki, Department of Chemical Engineering
  • 2016-2017, No award
  • 2015-2016, Dr. Michael Birdwell, Department of History
  • 2014-2015, Dr. Pedro Arce, Department of Chemical Engineering and Dr. Greg Danner, Department of Music
  • 2013-2014, Dr. Ying Zhang, Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • 2012-2013, Dr. Robert Qiu, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • 2011-2012, Dr. Faisal Hossain, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • 2010-2011, Dr. Sakir Ayik, Department of Physics
  • 2009-2010, Dr. Joseph Biernacki, Department of Chemical Engineering and Dr. Mohamed Abdelrahman, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • 2008-2009, Dr. Jiahong (John) Zhu, Department of Mechanical Engineering 
  • 2007-2008, Dr. Phillip Bettoli, Dept. of Biology, and Dr. Kwun-Lon Ting, Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • 2006-2007, Dr. Lewis Keith Crouch, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • 2005-2006, Dr. David Dean Richey, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
  • 2004-2005, Dr. George Buchanan, Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Dr. David Viera, Department of Foreign Languages
  • 2003-2004, Mr. Ralph Winston Morris, Professor, Department of Music and Art
  • 2002-2003, Dr. John J. Wheeler, Associate Dean and Professor, College of Education
  • 2001-2002, Dr. Joseph O. Ojo, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • 2000-2001, Dr. Ali Alouani, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • 1999-2000, Dr. Tor Guimaraes, Decision Science and Management
  • 1998-1999, Dr. Sastry Munukutla, Mechanical Engineering
  • 1997-1998, Prof. Robert Jager, Music
  • 1996-1997, Dr. Sharon Berk, Biology
  • 1995-1996, Dr. Michael Gunter, Political Science
  • 1994-1995, Dr. Helen Deese, English
  • 1993-1994, Dr. George Webb, History
  • 1992-1993, Dr. Raymond Kozub, Physics
  • 1991-1992, Dr. John Peddieson, Jr., Mechanical Engineering
  • 1990-1991, Dr. Dale Ensor, Chemistry
  • 1990, Dr. Periasamy Rajan, Electrical Engineering
  • 1989, Dr. Donald Weinrauch, Management and Marketing
  • 1988, Dr. Scott Northrup, Chemistry
  • 1987, Dr. David Yarbrough, Chemical Engineering
  • 1986, Dr. Jerry Ayers, Education
  • 1985, Dr. John Gordon, Civil Engineering
  • 1984, Dr. Cemil Bagci, Mechanical Engineering

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