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Assistant Professor Akanksha Menon Selected to Receive 2023 ASME Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal

May 17, 2023
By Ashley Ritchie

Akanksha Menon, assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, has been selected to receive the 2023 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal. The award is presented for demonstrating outstanding achievement in the field of mechanical engineering, within ten years following graduation with a bachelor’s degree.

“I am very grateful to be selected for this award,” said Menon. “As an undergrad just over a decade ago, I served as the President of both the ASME and Pi Tau Sigma student chapters; to now receive this prestigious medal for contributions to the field of mechanical engineering is truly humbling – the journey has come full circle!”

Menon directs the Water–Energy Research Lab (WERL) at Georgia Tech, which focuses on applying thermal science and functional materials to develop sustainable and efficient energy and water technologies. Her research aims to unlock critical fundamental knowledge pertaining to thermally responsive materials with interactions across multiple length and time scales and to engineer them for applications ranging from desalination to thermal energy storage.

“Assistant Professor Menon is very passionate about solving the world’s energy and water problems by developing innovative engineering technologies,” said Hightower Chair in Engineering and Professor Srinivas Garimella in his nomination. “The speed at which she has instilled her passion in students is remarkable: in just 1.5 years, she has established a vibrant, independent laboratory with seven graduate students and five undergraduates.”

Earlier this year, Menon was awarded a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). She was also recently selected as a DARPA Riser by the U.S. Department of Defense for her work on solar-driven water harvesting. Her multidisciplinary scholarly work has been published in high-impact journals including Joule, Nature Materials, Advanced Energy Materials, Nature Sustainability, Science Advances, and Journal of Applied Physics, among others. Menon also serves as the faculty advisor of the Georgia Tech Nu Chapter of Pi Tau Sigma in the Woodruff School.

“As a teacher, Assistant Professor Menon excels at keeping her students engaged in the undergraduate heat transfer class by making connections between textbook concepts and real-world applications,” added Garimella. “This recently led to her selection as a Class of 1969 Teaching Fellow and earning a 'Reflective Teacher' badge for implementing evidence-based teaching practices in the classroom.”

Menon joined the Georgia Tech faculty in 2021. Prior, she was a Rosenfeld Postdoctoral Fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where she worked on hybrid membrane-thermal desalination processes using solar energy. She also contributed to the development of thermal energy storage materials for high-temperature industrial process heat. Menon completed her Ph.D. at Georgia Tech, where she developed semiconducting polymers and new device architectures for thermoelectric energy harvesting. She holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University at Qatar and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech.

The Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal award presentation to Menon, normally conducted during the ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, will be announced at a later date.

Previous Woodruff School faculty who have won the Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal include Dimos Poulikakos (1986), David L. McDowell (1987), Yves H. Berthelot (1991), Thomas R. Kurfess (1995), Kenneth A. Gall (2004), A. John Hart (2009), and Shannon K. Yee (2017).