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LU honors Lou as 2013 University Professor

LouLamar University honored Helen Lou, a professor in the Dan F. Smith Department of Chemical Engineering, as the 2013 University Professor, with officials applauding her as one of the world’s most productive environmental researchers and an outstanding faculty member who has contributed significantly to the successes of her department.

The professorship, awarded for life, is the most prestigious faculty award conferred by Lamar’s academic community.

“The award is the pinnacle of academic achievement at our university and is recognized by all as an emblem of highest merit,” said Stephen Doblin, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Recipients are selected by their colleagues and are chosen for their academic stature and achievements, honed in the demanding and competitive culture of higher education.”

In addition, Lou will become the second Ann Die-Hasselmo Scholar, made posssible by the creation and funding of the Lamar University Faculty Excellence Endowment by Ann Die Hasselmo, a 1966 graduate of LU.  Honored as Lamar’s 1986 Regents’ Professor, Hasselmo was a longtime faculty member whose career path later took her to top university administrative positions and other roles devoted to strengthening academic leadership.

Hasselmo and her husband, Nils, attended the awards ceremony, which is underwritten by the endowment. The University Professor is designated the Ann Die Hasselmo Scholar for the subsequent year – an honor concurrent with that of University Professor.

Lamar officials announced Lou’s selection Wednesday (April 10, 2013) during a program in the University Reception Center of the Mary and John Gray Library. Also at the ceremony, Lamar honored Qiang Xu, associate professor of chemical engineering, as 2013 Research Scholar, recognized 14 retirees and presented University Merit Awards to assistant professors Yunsuk Koh, health and kinesiology; Alberto Marquez, industrial engineering; Amy Smith, English; and Suying Wei, chemistry and biochemistry.

President James Simmons conferred the medallion of University Professor, presented to Lou “as a lasting symbol of this high honor and esteemed title” and described as “the pinnacle of academic achievement at our university . . . recognized by all as an emblem of highest merit.”

“Dr. Lou is committed to scholarly activities that foster knowledge, discovery and innovation in research and engineering education,” said Jack Hopper, dean of the College of Engineering. “She is an exceptionally gifted instructor, receiving recognition, year after year, from her students and professional peers. She is also one of Lamar’s premier researchers and is recognized widely for her service to the university, industry and the profession of chemical engineering.”

Recently, Hopper noted, Lou was listed among the “Top 100 Most Talented” by Shanxi Province in China – a province of almost 40 million people.

“Dr. Lou has been an outstanding faculty member, contributing significantly to the recent successes of Lamar’s chemical engineering department,” said T.C. Ho, Lou’s department chair and a previous University Professor honoree.

“I am here today not because of what I do but because of you, who support me, challenge me, push me and love me,” Lou said after accepting her award.

In teaching, she said, she challenges her students to think beyond the textbook and beyond the numbers. “Together,” she tells them, “We can change the world.”

Lou has served Lamar extraordinarily well for the past 12 years and has made significant contributions to Lamar, chemical engineering and, most importantly, to her students, Doblin said. “In her steady, humble and focused manner, Dr. Lou has grown into one of Lamar’s most productive and accomplished faculty members. She is appreciated by her students, admired by her colleagues and respected by her national and international peers. Her standard of excellence is readily evident throughout the university – in the courses she has taught, the scholarship she has conducted, the funding she has secured, the awards she has received and the international relations she has cultivated.”

Lou is one of the world’s most productive environmental researchers, Doblin said. She has published 28 peer-refereed journal articles, authored six book chapters, served on four invited international panels and delivered more than 100 professional papers – in just 12 years of service. She received the 2009 Lamar University Research Scholar award.

“To fund these efforts – and make Dean Hopper look good – Dr. Lou has received more than $2.1 million in funded research,” Doblin said. “These projects and the dollars they bring to Lamar have inspired and financially supported scores of chemical engineering students.”

Since 2002, Lou has been principal investigator or co-principal investigator on 33 funded projects. The honoree has a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Zhejiang University, two master’s degrees from Wayne State University – one in chemical engineering, the other in computer science – and a doctor of philosophy in chemical engineering, also from Wayne State. Early in her career, she was a petrochemical engineer for Luoyang Corp. in China, but, Doblin said, her true calling was in academics. Her areas of interest include momentum and heat transfer, process controls, optimization processes and environmental and sustainability issues.

During her Lamar career, Lou has taught six undergraduate courses and four graduate courses. For nine of the past 10 semesters, her student evaluation scores have exceeded 4.5 on a 5-point scale. She has served on dozens of graduate committees and has directed four doctoral dissertations and 12 master’s theses. She has received four funded projects totaling $75,000 to enhance instruction, including two from the National Science Foundation and one from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. She serves as faculty advisor for Lamar’s chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and as a mentor to undergraduate chemical engineering majors. Her early accomplishments led to a Lamar University Merit Award for teaching excellence in 2004.

“Dr. Lou’s record of professional activity is, frankly, amazing,” Doblin said. Lou is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Chemical Society, American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society, Sigma Xi scientific research society and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. She is a Registered Professional Engineer in Texas. Lou has served as chair, vice chair, board member or committee member of many professional organizations, and she has chaired dozens of sessions at professional conferences and meetings around the world.

She is an editorial board member for the Journal of Applied Surface Finishing, as well as the Journal of Environmental Progress and Sustainable Energy. In addition, she is a proposal reviewer for the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation, Texas Emerging Technology Fund, Texas Hazardous Waste Research Center, Gulf Coast Hazardous Substance Research Center and national research agencies in South Africa, Qatar and the People’s Republic of China. She is a manuscript reviewer for 18 international journals and four book publishers.

“In the community and in her profession, she volunteers freely and liberally,” Doblin said, citing service contributions in key leadership roles. She has served on dozens of departmental, college and university committees and councils, including the Research Council, Graduate Council and tenure and promotion committees.