Joseph Biernacki may have retired from his position of professor of chemical engineering at Tennessee Tech University in the summer of 2023, however, he is still a familiar face on campus as professor emeritus – and will soon be a sought-after speaker across the United States and abroad.
Biernacki was named a distinguished lecturer with Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society that has chapters in colleges, universities, government laboratories and industry research centers around the world. Starting in July of 2024, he will be included on a special list of Sigma Xi lecturers and will spend two years being available for their speaking engagements.
“I was very excited to hear that I had been selected and honored to be among the distinguished individuals that are and have been in the past Sigma Xi lecturers,” he said.
During his time at Tech, Biernacki has been working on research on printable cement pastes. Using such printable paste could potentially reduce the cost of construction projects, minimize waste, decrease construction injuries and improve architecture in general. Because traditional cement does not work well with printing technologies, Biernacki, his students and colleagues have been working together to create a new type of paste.
“The talk I am planning (for Sigma Xi) will focus on the broader field and the techno-socioeconomics of the concept,” he explained. “What would it mean to drastically reduce the cost of housing? Is it possible? How many houses must we build to address our nation’s housing issues and how many to address the global problem? What impact would it have on the environment to print houses using portland cement-based materials? These are the types of questions I plan to address in the talk.”
Once his term starts, Sigma Xi will include Biernacki on their list of Distinguished Lecturers, which they describe as “outstanding individuals who are at the leading edge of science.”
Robby Sanders, interim chair in the chemical engineering department, said about his colleague, “Dr. Biernacki is an exceptionally talented communicator and educator who captivates with his keen intellect, humor and passion for helping others acquire and transfer skills in solving complex problems. Expounding on the platform of his research interests, as a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer, audiences far and wide will be the great beneficiaries of continuing to learn from him in critically important areas, including but not limited to, infrastructure improvements.”
In addition to preparing to speak at Sigma Xi events, Biernacki is also still active on Tech’s campus, working on two projects funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. One grant explores the effect of critical thinking training on student success, for which he also acts as a senior advisor for a Ph.D. student. The other project is running a Research Experiences for Teachers site, which hosts up to 10 teachers on campus for a six-week intensive summer research experience.
“Tennessee Tech has been ‘the everything’ that has led up to my application for the Sigma Xi Lectureship,” Biernacki said. “Without my time at Tech and the many opportunities that Tech has enabled me to pursue and helped me with, I could never have applied, let alone been accepted to the lectureship program.”