Fifty years after completing his doctorate in chemical engineering at the institution he has called home since, the University of Tennessee’s John Prados is being recognized for a lifetime of achievement in his field.
Prados, a professor emeritus of chemical engineering and former UT vice president for academic affairs, has been named the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in Chemical Engineering Pedagogical Scholarship Award from the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). The award is regarded as the society’s highest honor for a chemical engineer.
He will receive the award at the ASEE conference in Honolulu at the end of the month.
The award reflects Prados’ extensive work to change the fundamentals of engineering education, making it more focused on how students apply their knowledge, rather than just the number of hours they spend in scientific and technical studies.
Beginning in the 1970s, Prados worked with the organization that accredits colleges of engineering around the country, an experience which spurred his desire to bring change to how engineers are educated.
“It became obvious to me that things needed to be fixed,” said Prados. “We were very strong in math and science, but we needed to help students put engineering in the context of economic, social and environmental realities.”
Prados’ entire career has been spent at UT except for periods of research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a three-year stint in the 1990s with the National Science Foundation through which he worked with engineering education programs across the country.
He points out that a broader focus is a critical component of engineering education.
“Math and science alone will not produce a device that is environmentally sound and aesthetically pleasing, for example,” he said. “We must help students recognize the implications of their work.”
Another element of Prados’ legacy is the impact of his time as the editor of the Journal of Engineering Education. In that position, which he held from 1995 to 2001, Prados helped bring a greater level of scholarly rigor to the field of research in engineering education. This work helped elevate the field’s stature in the larger engineering community.
By helping focus engineering education on project-based learning, Prados’ influence can be felt in engineering classrooms both at UT and across the country.
“John has provided many years of great service to us at UT, and to our colleagues in engineering education around the world,” said Way Kuo, dean of UT’s College of Engineering. “He’s been a dedicated and tireless role model for countless faculty and students.”
In spite of his official retirement in 2001, Prados continues to be active, teaching some courses at UT as well as consulting with other colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad on how best to improve their engineering education programs.
Jay Mayfield, 865-974-9409, firstname.lastname@example.org
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