December 6, 2011
Distinguished success: Industrial engineer, children's literature expert earn 2011-2012 Commerce Bank Graduate Faculty awards
Kansas State University professors Zhijian "ZJ" Pei and Philip Nel are the 2011-2012 Commerce Bank Distinguished Graduate Faculty award winners.
Pei, a professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, and Nel, a professor of English, will be recognized at the K-State Graduate School commencement ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, in Bramlage Coliseum. The awards, which come with a $2,500 honorarium, are supported by the William T. Kemper Foundation and the Commerce Bancshares Foundation. They are coordinated through the Kansas State University Foundation and the president's office.
"For 17 years, Commerce Bank and the William T. Kemper Foundation have joined with K-State to support the Commerce Bank Distinguished Graduate Faculty Awards," said Tom Giller, community bank president of Commerce Bank, Manhattan. "Exceptional instruction breeds student success, and we are proud to help the university honor faculty members who excel in research and the teaching and mentoring of K-State students."
Pei is an international authority on advanced manufacturing processes with particular emphasis on developing efficient abrasive processes for difficult-to-machine materials used in advanced applications. He is a recognized authority in the grinding of semiconductor materials and rotary ultrasonic machining processes.
Pei has obtained more than $3 million in research funding from federal and industrial sources and has been published in more than 100 journal papers, 80 peer reviewed conference papers and six book chapters. He is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and has received several awards, including the Frankenhoff Outstanding Research Award from the university's College of Engineering and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award.
In addition, Pei developed and regularly organizes a workshop to help young faculty members develop funded research. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, these annual workshops have been attended by more than 800 professors nationwide.
Pei earned his doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois, then completed four years of industrial experience and one year of postdoctoral research.
"It is a great honor to be selected for this award," Pei said. "I am very grateful to all the support I have received from the Graduate School, the College of Engineering, our department, my colleagues, my students and my wife and kids. Without their support, I wouldn't be able to achieve much."
Nel is the director of K-State's program in children's literature and a professor of English. Since coming to K-State in 2000, he has published six books, including one about Harry Potter. His next book, coming in fall 2012, is a double biography of two married children's writers: "Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI and Transformed Children's Literature."
Nel has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including "CBS Sunday Morning" and NPR's "Talk of the Nation," "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered." He has held a Smithsonian fellowship and won a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Nel also received K-State's William L. Stamey Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2004.
Nel regularly teaches classes on literature for children and literature for adolescents. In 2002, he created the popular class, Harry Potter's Library, which has been taught annually since then. He also teaches graduate-level courses on Dr. Seuss, radical children's literature, picture books, comics and graphic novels.
After earning his bachelor's degree in English and psychology from the University of Rochester, Nel earned a master's degree and doctorate in English from Vanderbilt.
"It's an honor to be recognized for teaching and scholarship in children's literature," Nel said. "Thanks to the university, and especially to those who nominated and selected me for this award."