Peter Tkacik, associate professor of mechanical engineering and engineering science, was named this year’s recipient of the Bonnie E. Cone Early-Career Professorship in Teaching.
Provost Joan Lorden announced his selection at University Convocation, Aug. 18. She stated, “It is not knowledge that makes a great teacher but rather the ability to impart that knowledge to others. Of course, imparting knowledge to students requires open communication, flexibility, creativity and patience. Peter Tkacik embodies these characteristics.”
Tkacik, who holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, was described in nominating materials as “passionate about teaching his students ‘work-life’ engineering skills, which is why he designs ambitious hands-on labs and projects that provide a deep understanding and a practical set of skills. For example, his lab assignments include fully instrumenting and testing a race car as well as operating a flow bench for cylinder head testing and optimization. Through these projects, he is able to combine theory and practice in a meaningful and effective manner.”
As a researcher, Tkacik has received more than $3 million in funding to assess and improve his innovative courses and to build on student-engaged research. An example of one of his cutting-edge courses is “Military Instrumentation and Technology,” developed to demonstrate how military skills can be used in engineering topics and how engineering topics can be used in Department of Defense applications. This class partners with companies like NavAir that actively recruit UNC Charlotte engineering students for employment, even before they graduate.
In recognizing the need to attract military veterans to the University, Tkacik implemented a veteran recruitment program that was recognized and funded by the Office of Naval Research and Development. This program not only recruits veterans to the Lee College of Engineering at UNC Charlotte but also provides tutoring and guidance to veterans pursuing STEM degrees.
In addition, Tkacik has mentored more than 170 students in senior design and in the Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates.
According to Scott Smith, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Science, “Peter’s efforts have been instrumental in helping our department grow to be one of the largest mechanical engineering departments in the United States.”
A three-year appointment, the Bonnie Cone Early-Career Professorship for Teaching recognizes a recently tenured professor who embodies Cone’s tenacious commitment to providing UNC Charlotte undergraduate and graduate students with enriching, high quality educational experiences. Cone was a dedicated educator, motivator and community leader who played an instrumental role in the vision and history of UNC Charlotte.