Civil Engineering Educator Praised for Exemplary Teaching, Research, Service

UMass Lowell Image
Prof. Pradeep Kurup, right, confers with civil and environmental engineering graduate student Connor Sullivan in the Geotechnical Lab. Kurup is holding a prototype probe for detecting toxic heavy metals in soil and groundwater.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Prof. Pradeep Kurup of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department, a highly regarded educator and world-class researcher, has been awarded the title of University Professor, the highest accolade bestowed on a UMass Lowell faculty member.

“I feel overwhelmed and surprised by this great honor,” says Kurup. “It’s a dream come true for me.”

“Prof. Kurup has been lauded by his peers and students for his exemplary teaching, for nationally and internationally acclaimed research and for outstanding service to the university community and to his profession,” notes Provost Ahmed Abdelal. “He is superbly qualified to be honored as the next University Professor.”

In his nomination letter, department chair Prof. Clifford Bruell said, “Dr. Kurup is an enthusiastic and passionate teacher who cares deeply about student learning. He has been successful in creating and sustaining an effective environment for learning of the highest quality and in integrating research and education.”

Bruell went on to say: “The range of Dr. Kurup’s research work is impressive and its quality, outstanding. He serves as a catalyst in fostering multidisciplinary research and educational programs in the university, in which he has also involved many young assistant professors from different departments.”

In 1999, Kurup received the prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and three years later, he was awarded the CEE Department’s Teaching Excellence Award.

An expert in geotechnical engineering, Kurup’s research has earned him respect around the world. He has successfully obtained more than $3 million in funding from federal agencies. He has also published widely, with more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings.

Among his research projects funded by the NSF is the development of a novel electronic “tongue” that can detect and identify traces of toxic heavy metals — such as arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium and thallium — in soil and groundwater. The technology has attracted the attention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

He has also developed an innovative electronic “nose” that can sniff for traces of TNT and other explosives as tiny as one part per trillion, or even smaller. His invention can be applied not only in the areas of law enforcement, defense and homeland security and counterterrorism, but also in environmental monitoring, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medical diagnostics.

Kurup’s three-year term as University Professor will run from September 2014 through August 2017. Previous honorees include Susan Braunhut (Biology), 2008–11; Ken Geiser (Work Environment), 2009–12; Robert Giles (Physics), 2010–13; Regina Panasuk (Education), 2011–14; Stephen McCarthy (Plastics Engineering), 2012–15 and Laura Punnett (Work Environment), 2013–2016.

“As part of the award, the University Professor receives a salary supplement of $10,000 as well as one course reduction for each semester of his or her term,” says Vice Provost for Graduate Education Don Pierson. “The professor’s department is also compensated each year to cover the cost of replacement instructors. The award winner is also expected to deliver an annual university-wide lecture.”

A resident of Nashua, N.H., Kurup first joined the UMass Lowell faculty in 1997. He holds bachelor of technology and master of technology degrees from the University of Kerala and the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, respectively, and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, all in civil engineering.

A reception will be held in the fall to celebrate Kurup’s appointment; he will deliver the University Professor lecture in the spring.