Distinguished UA Engineering Professor Honored with Burnum Award

  • November 20th, 2020
Dr. Ajay Agrawal

Dr. Ajay K. Agrawal has devoted his career to offering innovative solutions through engines and combustion research while encouraging students to bring their own curiosity and perspective to tomorrow’s challenges.

For his service to The University of Alabama’s mission, Agrawal, professor and Robert F. Barfield Endowed Chair in Mechanical Engineering, is this year’s recipient of the Burnum Distinguished Faculty Award.

“During his tenure of well over a decade at UA, Ajay has established himself as an internationally-respected scholar, passionate leader, dedicated educator and a great citizen with his significant contributions to the department, UA and beyond,” said Dr. Nader Jalili, professor and head of the department of mechanical engineering. “His success in research funding, scholarly works, and classroom education and mentoring are exemplary.”

Awarded annually to recognize and promote excellence in research, scholarship and teaching, the Burnum Award recognizes distinguished careers at UA. The Burnum Award Committee, comprised of former winners, screens nominees and forwards two nominees to the president, who selects the winner.

The goal of Agrawal’s research is reducing harmful effects of fuels for sustainable energy utilization, resulting in three research thrusts of clean combustion to reduce emissions of pollutants, combustion for efficiency to reduce fuel consumption, and fuel flexible combustion to diversify the portfolio of fuels including alternative fuels derived from biomass, waste or other local resource.

He invented the “noise sponge” concept that uses strong, porous structures to reduce noise generated from gas flow in jet engines, power generating gas turbines and industrial burners without compromising the combustion process. In addition, Agrawal developed an innovative fuel injector that drastically reduces harmful emissions and allows for clean combustion of fossil and alternative liquid fuels.

A fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Agrawal has been the recipient of several research grants and is the world’s most published author on the topic of rainbow schlieren deflectometry, an optical flow diagnostics technique used to quantitatively measure properties of fluid flows. Agrawal has published nearly 250 articles or papers in technical journals and conferences.

Since joining UA in 2005, Agrawal has been the lead on more than $12 million in competitively selected grants.

At UA, Agrawal has worked to increase the amount of doctoral students in mechanical engineering with the help of three U.S. Department of Education funded Graduate Education in Areas of Need Fellowship awards. In addition, he has so far supervised 20 students in earning a doctorate and guided research for nearly scores of master’s and undergraduate students.

Along with his ASME honor, Agrawal is a member of National Academy of Inventors Hall of Fame and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. At UA, he was the recipient of the 2013 Blackmon-Moody Outstanding Professor Award.

Earning his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, India, in 1980, Agrawal obtained his master’s degree at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India, in 1983. He received his doctorate from the University of Miami in 1988. Before coming to UA, he was a professor at the University of Oklahoma.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.