N. M. Tech Professor Awarded Prestigious Scientific Award, Oct. 27, 2005

Dr. Donald Weinkauf

by Valerie Kimble

SOCORRO, N.M., Oct. 27, 2005 – Dr. Donald Weinkauf, a New Mexico Tech chemical engineering professor, has been named as one of seven Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award winners for 2005.

Weinkauf was selected by the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation for the prestigious award, given annually to between five and 10 nominees from chemistry and chemical engineering departments throughout the nation.

The honor comes with a $60,000 unrestricted grant to pursue new avenues of research. Weinkauf becomes the first faculty member among research universities in New Mexico to receive this national award.

Formal announcement of Weinkauf’s achievement was made this past Tuesday at the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents meeting by Dr. Peter F. Gerity, Tech’s Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“I was delighted to have the opportunity to nominate Dr. Weinkauf to the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and am most pleased that Don was accepted as one of the seven candidates nationwide to receive this Teacher-Scholar award,” said Gerity.

“This recognition brings great honor not only to Dr. Weinkauf, but also reflects very positively on the quality of our faculty and the Institute,” Gerity said.

“This award is really a reflection of our department’s commitment to involving students in research, as well as the products of their ingenuity in my lab,” said Weinkauf. “I am grateful to my students and to the Institute for setting the tone for this work to take place.”

Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars selections are based on accomplishments in scholarly research with undergraduates, as well as a compelling commitment to teaching in the chemical sciences.

As part of his research, Weinkauf explores the deposition of thin plasma polymer film materials with applications in membranes, microsensors, and fuel cells. Current undergraduate work also involves the design of plasma reactors for the production of surface modified nanoparticles.

Weinkauf’s undergraduate students have been nationally recognized for their research under his direction. During his tenure at New Mexico Tech, he has provided over $100,000 in salary support for undergraduates through his research grants.

The National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories have funded his work. Weinkauf is involved in other collaborations including projects with researchers at the University of New Mexico.

Weinkauf joined the New Mexico Tech faculty in 1996 as the first full-time member of the Department of Chemical Engineering. He is the recipient of the Institute’s 2001 Distinguished Teaching Award, and has served as department chair for the past eight years.

Prior to joining New Mexico Tech, Weinkauf was a research engineer with Shell Chemical Company in Houston, Texas.

He is a native of Green Lake, Wis., a small town of about 1,000 residents. “I grew up in a wonderful, small community which encouraged everyone to excel,” he said. “Teachers, friends, neighbors – everyone was supportive – there was no limit on what we could or should do with our lives.”

He sees the same potential with his students.

“The one overriding characteristic I see in Tech students is a powerful independence,” he said. “In coming here, they have all made a conscientious decision to steer away from the traditional university setting with all of its trimmings and trappings which our mainstream encourages.

“Being able to express that level of independence and maturity at such a young age is truly what distinguishes a Tech student from the fold,” said Weinkauf. “When you place that type of thinker into an ambiguous or uncertain research environment, great things happen.”

He and his wife, Holly, have three children, Roan, Eli and Madeline, all of whom are happy to call Socorro home. “Like my own childhood home, Socorro is a place where our children are learning that there are no limits on what they can do with their lives.”

- NMT-