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About the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Engineering

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards were established in 2006. They are named in honor of Edith and Peter O’Donnell, who were among Texas’ most devoted advocates for excellence in scientific advancement and STEM education. The awards recognize rising star Texas researchers who are addressing the essential role that science and technology play in society and whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness.

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Engineering honors Texas engineers at academic institutions with a $25,000 honorarium, profile video and an invitation to present their research at the TAMEST Annual Conference.

Most Recent Engineering Recipient

2024 O'Donnell Award Engineering Recipient Ashok Veeraraghavan

Ashok Veeraraghavan, Ph.D., Rice University, is the 2024 recipient of the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Engineering. He was chosen for his revolutionary imaging technology that seeks to make the invisible visible.

Imagine taking a pristine picture through fog, smoke and rain. Imagine taking interior images of the human body through skin, bone and other tissue that scatter light and limit human vision. Dr. Veeraraghavan and his team at Rice work on creating imaging systems that use novel multi-dimensional image sensors along with machine learning algorithms to undo the effects of light-scattering and see-through scattering media such as fog, smoke, rain and human tissue.

Recently, with support from researchers at the University of Maryland, his team has developed a new technology dubbed NeuWS, an acronym for “neural wavefront shaping.” At its core, NeuWS is about undoing the effects of light scattering by using wavefront shaping and a novel machine-learning algorithm. Scattering is what makes light, which has a lower wavelength unusable in many scenarios. If you can undo the effects of scattering, imaging can go much further.

Capturing images through rain and fog is certainly interesting, but this technology could have lifesaving applications. Through NeuWS-like technologies, there could be a time in the future where a firefighter entering into a room filled with smoke could be equipped with goggles that allow them to have clear visibility. Automakers could be able to install car headlights that can see through a host of dangerous weather conditions. Surgeons could be able to see blood vessels through the skin tissue without making a single cut. While several further advances are needed to make any of these scenarios possible, their work has made significant progress and make all of this potentially feasible.

Learn More about Dr. Veeraraghavan and His Work >
Watch Dr. Veeraraghavan’s Award Acceptance >

Past Engineering Recipients

Jamie Padgett, Ph.D., Rice University | 2023
For her life-saving research in infrastructure sustainability and resiliency in hazard-prone regions. Dr. Padgett’s research enhances public safety and provides new methods for multi-hazard resilience modeling. Instead of looking at a single threat, like how a bridge will perform in an earthquake, her research looks at multiple hazards or multiple threats that a system might be exposed to over time.
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Jodie L. Lutkenhaus, Ph.D., Texas A&M University | 2022
For her innovation and development of redox active polymers for metal-free energy storage and smart coatings. By developing new molecular-scale characterization methods, Lutkenhaus discovered fundamental connections among polymer dynamics, properties and performance.
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Watch Dr. Lutkenhaus’ Award Acceptance >

Guihua Yu, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2021
For his revolutionary use of nanotechnology and conductive polymer-hydrogels to provide solutions to two of society’s biggest challenges: water sustainability and energy storage. Dr. Yu’s approach of looking at organic nanomaterials and understanding structures down to their smallest scale has led to the creation of new multifunctional polymeric nanostructures and hybrid organic-inorganic nanomaterials with unique physical properties that improve efficiency and function.
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Jeffrey Rimer, Ph.D., University of Houston | 2020
For his seminal breakthroughs using crystals to help treat malaria and kidney stones. His approach of utilizing non-classical pathways of crystallization has led to great strides in the design of new materials, which can be translated into commercial practices.
Learn More >
Watch Dr. Rimer’s Award Acceptance >

Hal S. Alper, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2019
For finding sustainable ways to create new molecules that can be used for plastics, drugs and other products that typically require petroleum products as a feedstock. His work has the potential to significantly reduce pollution in the chemical industry by reducing and reusing waste.
Learn More >
Watch Dr. Alper’s Award Acceptance >

Delia J. Milliron, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2018
For advancing technology that could revolutionize how windows are used in modern architecture. She has developed a new material that when applied to windows with a thin coating can dynamically control the amount of infrared light (and the heat that comes with it) that passes through.
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Watch Dr. Milliron’s Award Acceptance >

Andrew K. Dunn, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2017
For developing technology that allows us to see things we haven’t seen before in the human brain. Through his laser speckle imaging technique, we can now see blood flowing in the brain in real time, allowing us to see where clots are forming. This allows neurosurgeons to easily identify areas suffering from reduced blood flow and prevent strokes.
Learn More >
Watch Dr. Dunn’s Award Acceptance >

Andrea Alù, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2016
For his contributions including seminal work on cloaking and invisibility, pioneering advances in optical nanocircuits and nanoantennas, magnetic-free non-reciprocal devices for sound, radio-waves and light, and giant nonlinear response in optical metamaterials.
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Watch Dr. Alù’s Award Acceptance >

Haiyan Wang, Ph.D., Texas A&M University | 2015
For her innovative research at the frontier of nanostructured materials in the areas of high temperature superconductors, microelectronic and optoelectronic devices.
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Watch Dr. Wang’s Award Acceptance >

Thomas M. Truskett, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2014
For fundamental contributions in three areas—self-assembly at the nanoscale, dynamics of confined liquids and structural arrest of complex fluids—that are important for applications ranging from biomedical imaging to the delivery of therapeutic proteins.
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Watch Dr. Truskett’s Award Acceptance >

Li Shi, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2013
For his pioneering contribution to the fundamental understanding of nanoscale thermal transport and thermoelectric energy conversion processes, and for his application of the scientific discoveries to enhance thermoelectric energy conversion devices and thermal management of nanoelectronic and energy storage devices.
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Watch Dr. Shi’s Award Acceptance >

Michael W. Deem, Ph.D., Rice University | 2012
For fundamental theoretical work that brought new tools and ideas to vaccine design, mathematical biology and nanoporous materials structure.
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J.-C. (Jung-Chih) Chiao, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2011
For his pioneering achievements in RF MEMS and polymeric millimeter wave components enabling low-loss reconfigurable radar systems, and implantable telemetric micro-sensors and stimulators for clinical applications in medicine.
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Stephen W. Keckler, Ph.D. & Douglas C. Burger, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2010
For inventing and demonstrating a new class of technology-scalable computer architectures.
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Brian Korgel, Ph.D. (NAE), The University of Texas at Austin | 2009
For his invention of the use of size-selected metal nanocrystals as seeds to grow semiconductor nanowires with controlled nanoscale diameter.
National Academy of Engineering: 2018
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Jennifer L. West, Ph.D. (NAE), Rice University | 2008
For pioneering research in biomaterials engineering and advancing the fields of tissue engineering and bionanotechnology.
National Academy of Engineering: 2016
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Antonios G. Mikos, Ph.D. (NAE, NAM), Rice University | 2007
For his insightful application of chemical engineering principles to biomolecular engineering as exemplified by pioneering contributions to tissue engineering, biomaterials science and more.
National Academy of Medicine: 2012
National Academy of Engineering: 2012
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Yueh-Lin Loo, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2006
For pioneering the field of using specially-designed plastics in conducting electricity with potential applications in medicine and electronics.
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