Engineering professors awarded with highest honor

By By Paige Fieldsted and By Paige Fieldsted

By Paige Fieldsted

Two U engineering professors received the highest honor an engineer can receive, when they were named members of the National Academy of Engineering.

With their appointments to the NAE, Anil Virkar–professor and chairman of material science and engineering–and William Hustrulid–professor emeritus of mining engineering–became the 33rd and 34th researchers from the U to be elected to NAE membership.

“My election to membership in the academy came as a complete surprise,” Hustrulid said. “It is the highest recognition that a U.S. engineer can receive and I feel very honored, thrilled and humbled.”

In order to be elected to the NAE, one first has to be nominated by a current member. Those nominees are then divided into 12 categories, and from there, the top few individuals in each category are voted in by NAE members.

Virkar and Hustrulid were among 64 members and nine foreign associates elected to the NAE this year. Virkar and Hustrulid are now two of the 2,217 members and 188 foreign associates who make up the NAE.

“Generally, those who have been active in work for several years or decades are the ones who tend to get nominated,” Virkar said.

Virkar has been doing research in material science and engineering at the U for more than 33 years, with an emphasis on ceramic materials.

“I work in fuel cells and batteries based on ceramic materials,” Virkar said. “Fuel cells are devices that can convert the energy of natural gas directly into electricity?without combustion.”

Hustrulid conducted research and taught classes in mining engineering at the U for eight years and was named professor emeritus upon his retirement in 2005.

Hustrulid said he has worked on the improvement of underground mining systems.

“All who come in contact with Dr. Hustrulid come away with a desire to improve their own skills and capabilities as an engineer,” said Matthew Florence, a senior in mining engineering.

Thirty-four present or former U researchers are now members of the NAE.

“We’re thrilled; it is completely deserved,” wrote David Pershing, senior vice president for academic affairs, in a statement. “On a per capita basis, 34 (NAE members) is an amazing number for a state the size of Utah.”

The academy honors engineers who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education and contributions to engineering literature.

“I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work at the university for the last three decades,” Virkar said, “and to have had many, many good students.”