Vice chancellor and dean and two college of engineering faculty members appointed University Distinguished Professors

Alfriend, Banks and NeedlemanThree from the Texas A&M University College of Engineering have been appointed as University Distinguished Professors. The recipients are Dr. Kyle T. Alfriend, TEES Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering; Dr. M. Katherine Banks, professor and holder of the Harold J. Haynes Dean’s Chair in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering; and Dr. Alan Needleman, TEES Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. The title, which is bestowed in perpetuity, is among the highest honors awarded to Texas A&M faculty members.

The 2017 University Distinguished Professor honorees join a select group of more than 90 current faculty members who hold the prestigious title. The designation denotes a faculty member who is pre-eminent in his or her field, has made at least one seminal contribution to the discipline, and whose work is central in any narrative of the field and is widely recognized to have changed the direction of scholarship in the field.

“University Distinguished Professors represent the highest level of achievement for our faculty,” said Dr. Karan L. Watson, provost and executive vice president. “They are recognized as pre-eminent scholars in their fields and their accomplishments are exemplified by seminal contributions to their respective disciplines. They demonstrate to the world the high quality of scholarship underway at Texas A&M University.”

Dr. Kyle T. “Terry” Alfriend 

Alfriend joined the faculty of the college of engineering in 1997. He earned his Ph.D. in engineering mechanics from Virginia Tech. Before coming to Texas A&M, Alfriend served on the faculty of Cornell University, conducted postdoctoral research at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and held positions with the Naval Research Laboratory, CIA Office of Development and Engineering and the Naval Postgraduate School.

Alfriend’s primary expertise is astrodynamics. His diverse career experience includes research, development and management in the private sector, government and academia. He is recognized for his theoretical contributions, applied research and leadership in satellite orbital mechanics and spacecraft attitude control. 

Alfriend is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and a Fellow of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). He has received the prestigious AIAA Mechanics and Control of Flight Award and AAS Dirk Brouwer Award. In 2016, he received the AIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Award that is given to one person every other year, and he received a Distinguished Achievement Award for Research from The Texas A&M Association of Former Students.

Alfriend has published one book, two book chapters and more than 280 journal and conference papers in astrodynamics. His paper “The State Transition Matrix of Relative Motion for the Perturbed Non-circular Reference Orbit” has been cited more than 200 times.

Dr. M. Katherine Banks  

Banks also serves as vice chancellor and dean of the college of engineering and director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station.

Banks received her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Duke University and joined the faculty of the Texas A&M University College of Engineering in 2012. She previously served on the faculty of the Lyles School of Engineering at Purdue University, served as head of the Department of Civil Engineering and directed two research centers and one state-supported center. 

She is a pioneer in the field of phytoremediation of organic contaminants, having published the first article assessing microbial degradation of petroleum degradation in the rhizosphere and conducted the first large-scale trial of phytoremediation of petroleum contaminants in California, Virginia, New Jersey and Texas. Banks is also recognized as a leader in phytostabilization of metal contaminants, publishing on the mobilization and uptake of heavy metals in the rhizosphere. In addition, she is a recognized leader in applied biofilm research. Her earlier work evaluated the competition of bacterial species in biofilm and more recently focused on developing tools to assess microbial activity at the nanometer scale. She created a unique biofilm water recycling system to be used by NASA in a future Mars mission.

Banks is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is a recipient of the Margaret Petersen Woman of the Year Award and the Rudolph Hering Medal, both from the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has published 107 peer-reviewed articles, 37 peer-reviewed proceedings and book chapters, has over 200 presentations and has been responsible for $24 million in research funding.

Dr. Alan Needleman

Needleman joined the faculty of the college of engineering in 2015. He earned his doctorate in engineering from Harvard University. 

Following a career spanning almost 45 years with service at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Brown University and the University of North Texas, Needleman was a member of the inaugural class of Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS) Fellows in 2013.

Needleman is a preeminent leader in the area of mathematical modeling of materials. His contributions include the development of a ductile fracture computational methodology, the development of cohesive surface methods for fracture analysis and creation of a framework that enables the use of discrete dislocation plasticity to solve general boundary value problems. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Needleman is the recipient of a number of top honors and awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Timoshenko Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Prager Medal from the Society of Engineering Science and the Drucker Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He was recognized by the Institute for Scientific Information as a Highly Cited Author in both the fields of engineering and materials science. His work has received more than 20,000 citations.

Texas A&M President Michael K. Young and the Texas A&M Foundation will host a reception on April 26 recognizing the new university distinguished professors and honoring all of the University Distinguished Professors. More information, including a complete list of University Distinguished Professors, is available online at: