Published: Tue Dec 14, 2004Two researchers, motivated by the pure pursuit of knowledge and dedicated to the scholarship of their fields, share this year’s Donald Caplenor Faculty Research Award at Tennessee Tech University.
David Viera, professor of foreign languages, and George Buchanan, professor of civil and environmental engineering, both helped shape the face of research in their respective fields — each creating a spotlight on Tennessee Tech as a result.
“The Caplenor Award is given annually to one member of the faculty for outstanding research accomplishments while at Tennessee Tech. Two faculty members share this distinction this year. Each has a distinguished record of sustained research and creative work that spans a period of more than 30 years,” said Francis Otuonye, TTU’s associate vice president for research and graduate studies.
The Caplenor Award, first presented in 1984, is the university's premier research award and is named in honor of Donald Caplenor, former associate vice president for research and dean of instructional development who died in 1979.
David J. Viera
For more than 30 years David Viera has balanced teaching while traveling the world and establishing himself as the premier researcher in his field. Viera, who speaks five modern languages and can read nine languages, is considered to be one of the leading North American scholars in the field of Medieval Catalan literature.
Catalan, a language spoken by about seven million people in eastern Spain, southern France and parts of Sardinia, is the official language of the Republic of Andorra. Also popular in the Latin America cities of Buenos Aires and Mexico City, Catalan was the language of the merchant class and patriarchs of Eastern Spain in the 14th Century.
“I cannot imagine a more deserving candidate nor one who embodies the true ideals of scholarship and learning,” said Philip D. Rasico, professor Spanish and Catalan at Vanderbilt University.
Viera has published more than 90 articles, six books and 25 book reviews on Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, and Italian language and literature, as well as English as a second language and Portuguese immigration to the United States. He is also an expert on Iberian culture.
Viera ranks as an internationally recognized authority on the literary works of the 14th century Franciscan priest Francesc Eiximenis, a major philosopher and medieval writer, and Valencian friar and renowned preacher Vincent Ferrer.
One of three scholars in North America engaged in extensive research on Eiximenis, Viera was honored with the Ferran Soldevila Prize, a rare award given by the Salvador Vives Casajuana Foundation in Barcelona for his book, “An Annotated Bibliography of the Life and Works of Francesc Eiximenis.”
A first-generation Portuguese-American, Viera collaborated with other scholars to update Leo Pap’s authoritative source for researchers on Portuguese in the United States. Viera’s supplement to Pap’s work took 14 years to research and write.
Other widely recognized works by Viera include the pioneering “Medieval Catalan Literature: Prose and Drama.” He also co-edited “English in Specific Settings,” a collection of articles dealing with teaching English to university students of business, economics, computer science, nursing, medicine and the physical sciences.
“He is a prolific researcher, a fine teacher and a superb colleague in the area of humanities,” said Phillip J. Campana, professor of German.
Viera, a native of Providence, R.I., received his bachelor’s degree from Providence College in Education-Foreign Languages. He graduated with a master’s degree in Spanish and a doctorate in Iberian Studies from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. During his graduate studies he received diplomas from the Universities of Barcelona, Lisbon and Coimbra. His scholarship led him on numerous and extensive travels to the Azores, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Austria, Canada and Great Britain.
“He is one of the rare members of the teaching profession who combines immense knowledge with humble bearing,” said Peter Cocozzell, professor of Spanish at State University of New York at Binghamton.
For more than 40 years, George Buchanan’s focus and energy has been centered on developing numerical methods to solve engineering problems in a practical way. His work has always been dependent on available technology and its power to compute his numbers, and as the university’s resources have grown, so has Buchanan’s ability to make a real difference in the engineering world.
Still an active researcher, he’s remarked that he’s been able to be an even more accomplished researcher in his senior years at TTU because of the increased availability of technology.
A professor of civil and environmental engineering, he first began teaching in the former Engineering Science Department in 1965. He directed the first thesis in the College of Engineering in 1966, and his talent was soon recognized as the university awarded him the 1967 Outstanding Young Faculty Award.
“He was one of the few faculty members to be involved in research in the 1960s,” said mechanical engineering professor John Peddieson, a close colleague and collaborator with Buchanan.
Buchanan’s work in the field of solid mechanics is extensively documented in scientific literature. He has produced notable formulations that couple fundamental engineering mechanics with other disciplines. His book, “Mechanics of Materials,” won a national award for textbook layout and graphics and has been used in engineering courses across the country.
His most well-known work, “Theory and Problems of Finite Element Analysis,” (McGraw-Hill, 1995) was based upon notes he developed over a period of years teaching a graduate class.
“Dr. Buchanan taught a record number of different courses and initiated many of those during his career at TTU,” said Sastry Munukutla, TTU’s director of the Center for Electric Power. “He has created a national level of visibility for TTU due to his scholarly contributions.”
The finite element method is a numerical method of solving equations, easily implemented on computers, that describes many physical processes. Over the last 30 years, it has allowed engineers to solve many complex problems that cannot be dealt with by pencil and paper calculations. His work has also spanned diverse areas such as rain erosion, large deflections of cables, wave propagation in materials, vibrations, age forming of metals and friction stir welding. In each area, he has contributed to the practical knowledge needed to solve problems.
One application of Buchanan’s research on rain erosion involves high speed missiles that are vulnerable to being struck by rain drops. At such a high speed, these drops can cause damage to a missile’s surface, Buchanan developed mathematical models that could be used to predict the circumstances under which large stresses would occur that could lead to premature failure.
Another area of research involved cables used in suspension bridges, towing, electrical transmission and other applications. Failures in these types of cables, referred to as “large deflections,” can range from annoying to catastrophic. For instance, ice from a winter storm can cause cables to sag, which in turn causes power loss. Buchanan developed models to predict and prevent failures.
“As a senior faculty member who has remained active in research throughout his career, he serves as an excellent role model for both graduate students and junior faculty members” said Peddieson.
Buchanan received his doctorate at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees at the University of Kentucky.