Kuo endows two Early Career Professorships in mechanical engineering

Kenneth Kuo, distinguished professor of mechanical engineering and director of the High Pressure Combustion Laboratory, has endowed two Early Career Professorships in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering.

The professorships, to be named the Kenneth K. and Olivia J. Kuo Early Career Professorship and the Kenneth Kuan-Yun Kuo Early Career Professorship, are designed to foster the success of young and talented faculty members in combustion and propulsion.

"Our combustion and propulsion program is one of the best in the country among all American universities. We would like to see the continuation of strength in this special area, which is important for future space exploration as well as national defense," Kuo said. "Also, it will be highly beneficial to attract the best candidates to continue the usage and further expansion of the High Pressure Combustion Lab, which I initiated and developed over the years with many of my colleagues and graduate students along with Penn State’s support."

The Kenneth K. and Olivia J. Kuo Early Career Professorships, named in honor of Kuo and his wife, will be used to supplement departmental support for an outstanding mechanical and nuclear engineering faculty member whose research focuses on thermal sciences with application to propulsion, energy, combustion, and/or the environment with special emphasis on theoretical modeling and numerical simulation techniques.

The Kenneth Kuan-Yun Kuo Early Career Professorship will support a mechanical and nuclear engineering faculty member whose research focuses on thermal-fluid sciences with a concentration in propulsion and combustion with special emphasis on instrumentation and diagnostics.

Early Career Professorships offer support to promising young faculty members at a crucial time in their careers. The endowments allow faculty in the first ten years of their career to establish a commitment to teaching by directing initial energies to the classroom. Professorships provide startup funds for new areas of research and teaching laboratories, as well as offer early recognition for outstanding accomplishments.

"From the early days when I was initially hired as an assistant professor in 1972, I started to realize the most difficult time for a young faculty member to achieve a successful academic career is the early period, during which there is a strong need to acquire some support before the individual becomes known to his/her field of specialty," Kuo said. "Therefore, my wife and I wanted to provide this endowment to help certain future recruited faculty members more quickly establish themselves with some recognition."

Karen Thole, head of the department, said, "The ability to award an endowed position is one of my strongest vehicles to recruit and retain outstanding faculty who are being recruited nationally. Endowed professorships allow Penn State to compete for the best and brightest of the nation's faculty."

The professorships also allow Kuo’s legacy to continue, Thole stated.

"Dr. Kuo has given so much of his career to developing the propulsion field and to educating generations of our students," she said. "Even more humbling is that he will be giving back in perpetuity by leaving a legacy in our department through these Early Career Professorships."

Kuo joined the faculty in 1972 as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. He rose to associate professor in 1976 and full professor in 1981. In 1985, he was named a Distinguished Alumni Professor, and in 1990 he was appointed a distinguished professor.

Kuo is internationally known for his work in combustion, rocket propulsion, ballistics and fluid mechanics. He is the founder and director of the High Pressure Combustion Laboratory, which focuses on chemical propulsion and combustion.

The mechanical engineer has served as principal investigator for more than 90 projects totaling more than $40 million, including two major University Research Initiative grants.

Kuo's publications include "Principles of Combustion" and "Fundamentals of Turbulent and Multiphase Combustion." He has also edited 11 other books and published more than 475 technical manuscripts.

He currently serves as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Energetic Materials and Chemcial Propulsion. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the International Ballistics Society.

In his tenure at Penn State, Kuo has supervised 85 master's theses, 40 doctoral dissertations and guided the research of 22 post-doctoral researchers and research associates.

Kuo's gift will earn matching support from the University through the Faculty Endowment Challenge. This program offers donors an opportunity to leverage a 1:2 match from the University for gifts creating new Early Career Professorships in any of Penn State’s academic units. These awards rotate every three years to a new recipient in the first 10 years of his or her academic career, providing seed money for innovative research projects and flexible funding for new approaches to teaching. The endowments typically require a minimum commitment of $500,000, but through the Faculty Endowment Challenge, donors may establish new Early Career Professorships for any of the University’s colleges or campuses with a commitment of $334,000. The University will commit the remaining 1/3 of the necessary funds, approximately $166,000, from unrestricted endowment resources, ensuring support for rising faculty stars.

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Last Updated December 08, 2010