Nov 9th, 2011 by dayoung
“Research and teaching – they’re not separate, they’re the same thing.”
That quote summarizes the philosophy of Dr. Constantine Tarawneh , Associate Professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s Mechanical Engineering Department. “I lead by example. I don’t expect my students to do anything I wouldn’t do, including greasing bearings, rewiring equipment or any other messy jobs. When students see my passion for the research, they want to be passionate too. People learn best when they are passionate about their work.”
And that passion has brought over two million dollars in grant and contract money to UTPA. After teaching the summer session at the University of Nebraska in 2005, he was asked to do some thermal testing for a rail car wheel bearing manufacturer. The project was done for a mere $15,000. The next year, Dr. Tarawneh brought in two contracts totaling $47,500. Those research projects have mushroomed to the current contract of $530,656 from Amsted Rail. The projects involve the labor of six faculty members, eight undergraduate students and ten graduate students.
Dr. Constantine Tarawneh checks the work being done by students Jack Hudson (center) and Jesse Salas (right)
As successful as he has been in bringing research money to UTPA, Dr. Tarawneh measures his success by his students’ accomplishments. “Experiential learning is the key. I had one undergrad student who came into my classes with a 2.4 GPA. That wouldn’t get him a job anywhere. When he finished with a 2.9, he had been deeply involved in research – he made the work his own. He’s now employed in Houston at a very good salary” says Dr. Tarawneh. The native of Greece goes on to mention another former student who went on to earn a Ph. D. at the University of Florida and a second now finishing his doctorate at Nebraska.
The research has added to the body of knowledge. Thirteen published papers have been written by students, including eight theses, and another seven have been published by faculty researchers. Co-Principal Investigators on the current contract include Dr. Javier Kypuros ( Mechanical Engineering), Dr. Arturo Fuentes (Mechanical Engineering), Dr. Robert Jones (Mechanical Engineering), Dr. Stephen Crown (Mechanical Engineering) and Dr. Heinrich Foltz (Electrical Engineering)
The research improves the reliability of America’s rail freight system and lowers operating costs as well. Today’s’ large contracts resulted from one professor being willing to do one small research project for a small amount – and the result is excellent research and excellent teaching.