LU College of Engineering announces five new chairs

The College of Engineering is proud to announce the appointment of five new chairs for civil and environmental,electrical, mechanical, chemical and biomolecular, and industrial and systems engineering departments.

“We were able to attract these talented leaders due to the rich history of Lamar Engineering, which can be traced back to our earliest days as Lamar State College of Technology,” said Lamar University President Taylor. “The reputations of our successful alumni and their contributions to endowments and scholarship funds were key to recruiting a cadre of such high caliber academic leaders.” 

Joining the LU campus is Dr. Venkatesh (Venki) Uddameri, chair of civil and environmental engineering, Dr. Mansour Karkoub, chair of mechanical engineering, and Dr. Abdelnasser Eldek, chair of electrical engineering. Dr. Tracy Benson has been promoted to chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering and Dr. James Curry has been promoted to chair of industrial and systems engineering.  

“With the leadership of LU President Dr. Jaime Taylor, we had a tremendously successful search for new department chairs for all five LU College of Engineering’s departments,” said Dr. Brian Craig, dean of the College of Engineering. “I am thrilled to welcome this diverse group of proven leaders to build on LU CoE’s long and strong history and to enter a new era of success and accomplishments.”  college-engineering-five-department-chairs

The chairs are all set to be active in their roles by Aug. 1 and can be found in the Cherry Engineering Building and the Lucas Engineering Building.  

“The primary focus of the LU CoE is student success. We are committed to providing our students with unmatched service and support throughout their college career. We are determined to graduate even more job-ready graduates equipped with the most modern knowledge and the skills to apply it in their emerging careers,” Craig said. “We will continue to lead the state of Texas in return on investment for our engineering graduates. With the addition of these new chairs, we will reach new heights in innovative and applied research in the days ahead. Our partnerships with industry will continue to flourish as we demonstrate our dedication to bringing tremendous value to our Southeast Texas community.” 

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering chair Dr. Uddameri said, “My goal is to make the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at LU a premier program for undergraduate and graduate education in the nation that solves local problems and has a global impact. The location of the school, the range and depth of the faculty and a strong leadership make it easy to collaborate across disciplines and provide a great platform to move the CoE to even greater heights.” 

Uddameri received his B.S. in civil engineering from Osmania University in India in 1991. He received his M.S. from the University of Maine in 1993 in civil engineering with an emphasis in groundwater hydrology and his Ph.D. in civil engineering with an emphasis in environmental engineering in 1998 from the University of Maine. Uddameri. Prior to coming to LU, he was a professor in the department of civil, environmental and construction engineering at Texas Tech University, where he served as the director of the TTU Water Resources Center and as a co-director of the Texas Produced Water Consortium. Until recently, he was also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association, published by Wiley Interscience. His research and professional interests are in the broad areas of water resources sustainability with an emphasis on integrative modeling of water systems. He has a strong interest in engineering pedagogy, especially the use of technology to foster learning. In addition to his new role at LU, he serves as the Associate Editor in Water Resources Management, for the Frontiers in Water Journal. He has authored two books, more than 100 journal articles, peer-reviewed technical reports and partnered with other authors in their works.   

“As the department chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, my priority is to empower our faculty and staff to enhance the curriculum and expose our students to modern tools and frontiers in mechanical engineering, such as robotics and autonomy, data science and A.I. I want to focus on fostering innovative research areas that build on current expertise and invest strategically in areas that will strengthen the region’s economic and technological development,” Karkoub said.  

Karkoub began his engineering career by attending the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. There, he received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. He went on to obtain his H.D.R. from the University of Versailles in France in 2003. Karkoub started his academic career as a lecturer at the University of Minnesota and researcher at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute. In 2002, he joined the French National Institute for Research in computer science and controls in Rocquencourt, France as a professor and researcher in smart transportation systems. In 2005, he joined the Petroleum Institute as department head for the mechanical engineering department and later was nominated as assistant provost in charge of all accreditation activities in the college of engineering. In 2009, Karkoub joined Texas A&M University campus at Qatar as professor of mechanical engineering. In the summer of 2009, Karkoub was presented with the Eminent Scholar Award as a member of a consortium on “Self-driving Vehicles Infrastructure” at the University of Aix Marseilles, France.  

Throughout his career, Karkoub has been presented with several awards, including the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University and the 2019 Faculty Research Excellence Award. In the past 10 years, Karkoub raised more than $7 million dollars for research funding in the area of autonomous robotic systems from QNRF and the oil and gas industry. In 2022, he received $1.2 million dollars for research funds from an international consortium for research on smart, connected and autonomous vehicle and energy systems for efficient, safe, secure and sustainable transportation in metropolitan cities. He is the founder and director of the Smart Systems Laboratory, which houses state-of-the-art ground and underwater autonomous vehicles and haptic robotic systems testbeds for applied robotics research. He has published more than 190 peer-reviewed articles and a textbook on computer aided design. Karkoub is a member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, member of the Institute of Engineering Technology, member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineering and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Currently, Karkoub serves as a program evaluator for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology and is a registered professional engineer in the state of Texas and a licensed engineer in the UK.  

“My goals as the chair of the Philip M. Drayer Department of Electrical Engineering will be improving the curriculum and teaching methods, increasing student enrollment, and enhancing research,” Eldek said. “In addition, I plan to introduce a new degree in computer engineering.” 

Eldek obtained his B.S. in electrical engineering with an emphasis in electronics and telecommunications Zagazig University in Egypt and went on to receive his M.S. in electrical engineering with an emphasis in image processing from Eindhoven University of Technology in Netherlands, as well as his Ph.D. in electrical engineering with and emphasis in electromagnetics from the University of Mississippi. He also obtained a high diploma in technical education from the Netherlands. Eldek’s career includes 28 years in academic, research institutes and national lab works. Before joining the Department of Electrical Engineering at Lamar University, he worked as a professor and coordinator of electrical and computer engineering in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Jackson State University. Eldek is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and American Society for Engineering Education. Along with chair of electrical engineering, Eldek is a technical reviewer for conference and funding agencies, as well as several scholarly journals. He is also a founding member of the Inclusive Engineering Consortium and serves as a program evaluator for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. He has obtained 21 grants and published more than 100 papers, including 42 journal papers in prestigious national and international journals and scientific meetings.   

“My goals as chair of the Dan F. Smith Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering include growing the undergraduate program, including more experiential learning, expanding industrial partnerships, developing unique undergraduate and graduate educational opportunities and developing cutting-edge research that serves to economically increase our standards of living,” Benson said.  

Benson received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D in chemical engineering from Mississippi State University. His dissertation centered on the conversion of lipids from bio-based resources. Since joining the faculty at Lamar University in 2009, his research has expanded into the broad area of carbon capture utilization and storage. Benson is the founder of one of the College of Engineering’s outreach programs, Lamar Intro to Engineering (L.I.T.E.), a summer camp program for middle school students that started in 2014 and is now delivering students into LU’s engineering program. 

“The The Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering faculty is committed to teaching theory and practical tools for solving complex problems. I am always excited to see the different ways students and alumni use industrial engineering tools to solve complex problems in different industries. Our department reaches a wide range of traditional and non-traditional students with our online and face-to-face programs in industrial engineering and industrial technology,” Curry said.  

Curry graduated from the University of Texas with his B.S. in mechanical engineering and his M.S. in operations research and industrial engineering his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University. Curry has been a faculty member at Lamar for 15 years. Prior to joining Lamar University, he worked for nine years in government and transportation in roles that combined software development with operations research and statistics. He is particularly interested in how statistic and optimization models can be implemented effectively in software. By lowering the software development costs, optimization and data science tools can be effectively implemented in a wider range of environments. Curry has also actively participated in developing the 2+2 online program for B.S. in industrial engineering and the online program for a B.S. in industrial technology. He cares deeply about making engineering education accessible to a wide range of students. 

“I could not be more pleased with the results of our engineering department chair searches. We would not have enjoyed this success were it not for the investment of time and energy of many who worked throughout the fall and spring to achieve these important hires,” said Dr. Dann Brown, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. “Dean Brian Craig, our engineering faculty, and members of our College of Engineering advisory boards –– which include both alumni and industry partners –– all played key roles in this result.”