Six Villanova Engineering Professors Receive 2024 Faculty Awards

Six Villanova Engineering Professors Receive 2024 Faculty Awards
From left: Dr. Bo Li, Dr. David Cereceda, Dr. Qianhong Wu, Dean Michele Marcolongo, Dr. Bridget Wadzuk, Dr. Virginia Smith and Dr. Kristin Sample-Lord at the 2024 Undergraduate Commencement.

Six professors from the College of Engineering received seven of the 11 faculty awards presented at the 2024 Undergraduate Commencement. Given by Villanova’s Office of the Provost, these awards honor faculty members who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to the University during the 2023–24 academic year.

Bridget Wadzuk, PhD, the Edward A. Daylor Chair Professor in Civil Engineering and director of the Sustainable Engineering program, was named the winner of the Lawrence C. Gallen, OSA, Faculty Service Award. The award is presented annually to a faculty member who has, over many years, contributed outstanding service to the Villanova University community.

“Service is at the core of what it is to be a Villanovan,” she said. “So many people do so much through departmental, college, and university service. Many people I admire have received this award in the past; to be recognized with this award and now among them is one of the highest honors.

“I am thankful for all those I have worked with on committees and in activities, as it is the camaraderie and unity with which we work together that inspires me to be an involved member of the Villanova community.”

Dr. Wadzuk was also named a co-recipient of the University’s Outstanding Faculty Research Award, which recognizes faculty members who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in their research, scholarship, and contributions to their field. Dr. Wadzuk shared the award with Jeremy Kees, PhD, a professor of Marketing and Business Law from the Villanova School of Business.

David Cereceda, PhD, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, received the Junior Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, which is presented to a faculty member who has developed extraordinarily effective teaching approaches while in a full-time position for less than seven years. For his classroom dedication, Dr. Cereceda also received the 2024 Villanova University Engineering Alumni Society Excellence in Teaching Award.

“The moment I decided to become a faculty member, I knew that I wanted to help students the way my former professors guided me: by setting high learning expectations but also providing inordinate learning resources,” Dr. Cereceda said. “Having the recognition and support from students and colleagues in the form of this award gives me an extra boost of motivation to keep improving as a teacher-scholar every time I interact with a new class.”

Virginia Smith, PhD, an associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, received the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Teaching Award. The award is presented annually to a full-time faculty member who has excelled at mentoring students, especially in scholarly research, at the undergraduate and/or graduate level. As a mentor, Dr. Smith strives to connect each of her students to the course material, while also connecting them with fellowships, awards and opportunities for growth; her mentees include 41 graduate students and 70 undergraduates.

“This award means so much because teaching goes well beyond the classroom,” Dr. Smith said. “As professors, we seek to aid students in their search for truth, but this is a lifelong pursuit. Because of this, my goal as a faculty member doesn’t stop with mentoring students, but to produce the next generation of mentors who will make a positive impact.”

Kristin Sample-Lord, PhD, PE, an associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was presented with the University Mid-Career Service Award, which recognizes a faculty member who has made extraordinary contributions to the welfare and functioning of their department, their college, the University, and their profession. In addition to serving on multiple committees for the College, Dr. Sample-Lord is active in numerous STEM outreach programs, served as acting department chair during the fall semester, and is the president-elect of the North American Chapter of the International Geosynthetics Society.

“This award has a deep meaning for me,” Dr Sample-Lord said. “Serving the community and profession has been one of the most rewarding and meaningful aspects of my career. It is easy to be passionate about helping with new student initiatives, organizing a conference, or doing STEM outreach when you work with amazing colleagues who share that passion to elevate knowledge and the engineering profession.”

Bo Li, PhD, an associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, received the University Mid-Career Scholar Award, which recognizes a growing body of scholarship or creative achievement made by a faculty member at the associate level with between 6 and 15 years of service at Villanova. Dr. Li was honored for his work in nanomaterials and small-scale manufacturing, including techniques that can be used to track and modulate health conditions and to create functional and protective coatings/devices for humans and equipment under different environmental conditions.

“This is truly a great honor and recognition of our efforts in developing advanced manufacturing technologies,” said Dr. Li, who is the first faculty member from the College of Engineering to receive the award. “I hope to dedicate this honor to my previous and current students who did the heavy lifting in research and my colleagues, friends, and family who kindly support me.”

Qianhong Wu, PhD, a professor of Mechanical Engineering, was named the recipient of the University Scholarly Achievement Award. The honor is presented annually in recognition of faculty excellence for published research, scholarship or creative expression over the previous three academic years. Dr. Wu was honored for his experimental models that shed light on diverse phenomena involved in concussion and traumatic brain injuries.

“It is truly a great honor for me,” Dr. Wu said. “I want to thank my research team, consisting of talented graduate and undergraduate students, whose hard work and dedication made this achievement possible. These students are diligently tackling challenging health-related problems, including brain concussions, cardiovascular engineering, biomimetics, and the development of novel biomedical devices. I especially want to thank my brilliant former Ph.D. student, Dr. Ji Lang, who helped me start the brain concussion project from scratch, and my current Ph.D. student, Qifu Wang, and undergraduate student, David Bates, who are continuing to work on this extremely important project.”

In addition to their recognition at Commencement, where they each received a medallion, the award winners will be honored at a special Faculty Scholars Dinner this fall.


Elizabeth Slocum
Director, Communication and Marketing